Feminism is a word that is thrown around a lot in this day in age. As recently as the end of last year controversial pop star Miley Cyrus told BBC Radio 1: “I feel like I’m the biggest feminists in the world.”
The statement sparked many debates online about the validity of her comment. Are pop stars really feminist icons or are their notions misguided?
Dr Shelley Budgeon of the University of Birmingham said: “There often is a mistaking for the rights to do whatever you want with a feminist notion of autonomy and choice. I don’t think that feminism is about rampant libertarianism. It is more about the issue of social justice.”
This seems to be the case with Miley as many other celebrities (Sinead O’Connor in particular) have lashed out by saying that she is delusional.
Dr Budgeon is a senior lecturer of Sociology who specialises in gender and feminist studies and focuses her research on equality. She says:
“If individuals behave in a certain way that might then impact on or feed into existing social structures where certain norms exist around sexualisation, then certain women become vulnerable and then all women are made subject to sexualisation. There is a disjuncture clearly with saying ‘well I should be able to do what I want,’ as though it has no impact because everything we do already exists in a register of social norms and meanings.
“This strong orientated kind of feminism has much more to do with neo-liberalism than it does with feminism. But neo-liberalism has co-opted a lot of feminist values and made them seem to appear as though they are about women’s rights when actually they are about other things.”
Feminism has changed drastically since the WSPU first began campaigning for women’s suffrage. Dr Budgeon said:
“The general understanding in literature is that feminism was based on a liberal democratic model which was about giving women equal citizen rights.
“There were more radical elements that were present and there have always been different dimensions, some of them are about equality but there has always been another movement which is saying we want more than that, we want to change the system.
“This comes more to the fore front in the second wave with Marxist radical feminists. There has never been one kind of feminist movement or one kind of feminism, and that often is over looked.”
The beauty of feminism is that it is subjective. There is no one form.
This article was originally produced for Gen Y Times.