The star of “The Fault in Our Stars” and the Divergent franchise spoke to Time, answering the question “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” with “No because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”
The quote went on, but we can leave it there.
There are two takeaways from what we can — but should not — start referring to as “No Because I Love Men”-gate. First, this is why we need to stop getting our opinions from celebrities. That does not even work for fragrances.
Second, nope, Shailene, I am pretty sure you are still a feminist.
Feminists, you see, are not defined by trying to “take the men away from the power” and disrupt the balance of the Force. They do not, contrary to popular belief, go flying around on silent wings, trailing underarm hair, emitting ominous caws and snatching up bras from window displays in order to burn them in large ritual fires. Sorry. If you show up to see today’s Feminists expecting some sort of hairy, wild-eyed, man-hating monster, you will be gravely disappointed.
To quote that TED Talk from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie embedded in the Beyonce track “Flawless” (hey, fight celebrity statements on feminism with celebrity statements on feminism!) “Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”
To be frank, I thought we were past this. Man-hating feminists are one of those mythic monsters from the unmarked edges of the map. I thought we outgrew them years ago, once Beyonce joined the team. These days, not calling yourself a feminist feels like the exception rather than the rule. So much peer pressure — at least in large swaths of the Internet — tends the other way. Then again, perhaps the Internet, with its numerous feminist spaces, has lulled me into a false sense of security. Everyone’s a feminist now. It’s hip to be feminist. Scratch a Beyonce record, hear a feminist mantra over and over again.
The trouble is that, in the Venn Diagram of feminism and celebrity, the circles tend to overlap like this:
This is the trouble with celebrity feminism. “Because [Name] says so” is never a great reason to believe something, even if that thing happens to have merit.
Really, this is less a commentary on feminism than it is a reminder that, while many celebrities have interesting and valid things to say, simply because someone appears in Popular Entertainments does not mean that she or he deserves your ear. Second-hand clothes can be delightful. Second-hand opinions from celebrities are generally disappointing. Celebrities can, of course, also be people with interesting, well-informed outlooks on the world. But those two things do not necessarily go hand in hand. Far from it, in fact. It is our own fault for expecting our stars to have something Deep and Insightful to say about feminism. Or even something Vaguely Coherent.
As is so often the case, this is one of those things that looks easy when Beyonce does it and is much harder for anyone else.