The light was dim, the piano played a familiar tune and a shapely, iconic woman in a multi-coloured bodysuit appeared in the centre of the stage. It was Mrs. Knowles-Carter, better known as Beyonce, just beginning a 16-minute medley of her recently released album.
Having played her self-titled album countless times since its surprise release last winter, it’s a no-brainer that I and every other self-proclaimed Sasha Fierce (Beyonce’s tough alter ego) had my eyes glued to the screen for the entire performance.
She sang Mine, Blow, Haunted and Drunk in Love to name a few. But it wasn’t until she finished with Flawless and stood before a larger-than-life sized sign that read “Feminist,” that I knew 2014 was going to get a little crazy.
That was in February of last year. In 2014, a surprising number of people came out as “feminist.” Whether because of Beyoncé’s performance or Emma Watson’s uplifting speech launching the United Nations Movement for Gender Equality campaign or Malalah Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize – a new trend was born, or at least re-introduced.
All of a sudden girls who were too cool to care, became all enlightened and appalled by sexism and felt obligated to list “feminist” in their online profiles. Every other listicle on Buzzfeed and Thought Catalog featured the word in their headline. Girls all over the world made videos walking around their neighbourhoods to post on YouTube the misogynistic cat-calling that has been going on for years.
This newfound activism was kind of cool to see; it was inspiring and uplifting. It was like we were all one great, big sisterhood. And what was even cooler was that select prominent men were declaring themselves as feminists, too.
But with every trend come the hype-beasts and the hipsters. The hipsters are so determined to let you know that they’ve been feminists all along, while the hype-beasts are only dedicated feminists until you talk about not shaving your arm pits or consent.
With all this supposed progress, so many of these hype-beast women are still more concerned with being cool and like one of the guys, while remaining hot. It’s hot to rebel, but not so much that you’re not attractive to the opposite sex. I know too many who are like this.
It always comes back to the men.
I thought – I hoped – this feminist movement would be a good thing, an eye-opener. Yet the majority of those overnight activists base their decisions around the approval of men. And it’s not just the young girls to blame.
Society is built around strong, macho men. As young girls, we’re raised to look to men for validation, for approval, for guidance. It’s a vicious cycle and we can point fingers at the media, at world leaders, at our older female relatives or we can start the conversation ourselves — but not as a mere trend, as a change of perspective.
“You still see supposedly motivational quotes that say things like ‘act like a lady, think like a man’ because to think like a woman isn’t anything to aspire to,” said my friend Arielle Sugarman, a passionate feminist and former Humber student.
With female-empowerment ads like Always feminine hygiene firm’s Like a Girl campaign or the Chevrolet Throw Like a Girl ad, we’re totally on to something — but how do we empower the other girls who don’t see themselves in those ads?
How do we inspire the seemingly “comfortable” girl? How do we say, “f*** what he thinks and just do whatever you want”?
How do we teach girls that self-love is most important and actually convince them of that? How do we un-teach this misconception that nothing really matters unless He likes it?
Last year’s feminist movement was cool, but kind of offensive because while it made headlines, it wasn’t whole-hearted. Everyone was a feminist to be a feminist, but there wasn’t much change in behaviour or thought process.
Taylor Swift continues to sing about boys and breakups. And Beyonce’s medley – which was a sped-up version of her album about her marriage – comes to an end and she exits the stage hand in hand with Jay-Z.
And nothing changes.