Sarah Jessica Parker is on the cover the September issue of Marie Claire magazine and, when asked about feminism, the Sex and the City star gave a contradictory answer saying, "I am not a feminist. I don't think I qualify. I believe in women and I believe in equality, but I think there is so much that needs to be done that I don't even want to separate it anymore. I'm so tired of separation. I just want people to be treated equally."
According to Gloria Steinem, a prominent leader in the feminist movement, "A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men."
By Steinem's definition, Sarah Jessica Parker is a feminist.
Sex and the City is one of my all-time favorite series and I write this with love. I've watched each episode more times than I care to admit and I am a huge fan of SJP going all the way back to when she was on the '80s TV show, Square Pegs. However when someone distances herself from a worthy movement, saying she's tired of the separation and she just want things to be equal -- especially when that someone is wealthy and powerful -- she's speaking from a place of blind privilege. It would be like Oprah saying she doesn't want to deal with the issue of racism because everyone should just be equal.
Obviously everyone should be equal, but everyone isn't equal.
The answer to achieving an equal playing field is not to simply wish things were different; the answer is recognizing there are inequalities and speaking out against them. When you're in a high-profile position of power, it is using your platform and good fortune to help those who are less fortunate by acknowledging those inequalities.
SPJ doesn't have to become an activist to convey this message, but by saying she doesn't qualify as a feminist, she diminishes the hard work of every single woman who came before her who helped pave the road that made her success possible in the first place.
It appears SJP's problem is more about semantics and not actual feminism. And maybe she feels this way because the term has been dragged through the mud by the likes of anti-feminist icons such as Phyllis Schlafly who led the "Stop ERA" movement in the '70s, and toxic radio personality Rush Limbaugh, who coined the phrase, "feminazi." She clearly believes women are equal and deserving saying, "I would like all of that nonsense to end. I would like women to get paid for the value of their contributions, not by old-fashioned ideas about gender." She acknowledged and appreciates the celebrities who are speaking out, like Jennifer Lawrence who has fought against the gender pay gap in Hollywood, and Emma Watson who has involved herself with a variety of feminist causes.
Here are some startling statistics:
If you are a young woman who has graduated from high school, you can expect to earn $700,000 less over the course of your career than the young men with whom you graduated.
If you are a young woman graduating from college, you can expect to earn $1,200,000 less over the course of your career than your male classmates.
If you are a young woman with an advanced degree such as law or medicine, you can expect to earn $2,000,000 less in your lifetime than your male colleagues.
The term "feminist" conjures up many of the negative stereotypes that have been forced down our collective throats by those who desperately want to take us back to a time when women weren't legally allowed to terminate pregnancies, attend college, vote, or receive credit without a husband's permission.
There are still people who don't want women to have power, and these people seek to appropriate feminist terminology in an effort to discredit feminism. (Think conservative radio, Fox News, and anti-feminist lawmakers who use their legislative power to create laws that adversely affect women.) This effort has helped make the recent rollbacks in women's rights possible. Money talks, and the ability to shape the dialogue depends on having the money to control the message, and the message is often controlled by money.
What is the message? It's the argument that feminism is a dirty word and should be replaced or dismissed altogether. It's a series of denying or repealing rights and it looks like this:
- Restricting or outlawing abortion.
- Gender pay inequality -- paying women less and denying women the ability to have higher paying positions or power of authority.
- Restricting or denying women the right to birth control.
- Restricting or ignoring women's place in history by not including it in school curriculums.
- Blaming women who are raped for the assault.
- Accusing rape victims of lying.
- Referring to women who believe in gender equality as "man haters."
- Making it more difficult for women to vote -- especially low-income women.
- Blaming women for ruining the traditional family dynamic.
- Painting sexist men as victims of a feminized culture.
- Using epithets to describe women who fight for equality: Feminazi, slut, whore, bitch, cunt...
Consider these two thought-provoking quotes on feminism:
"If the word 'feminist' has negative connotations, running away from the word won't fix that. Whatever new word you come up with will eventually take on the same negative connotations. Because the problem isn't with feminists; it's with those who demonize feminism."
- Rebecca Cohen, cartoonist
"I don't know why people are so reluctant to say they're feminists. Maybe some women just don't care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?"
- Ellen Page, actor
Feminism is about freedom and choice. Distancing yourself from the term only serves those who seek to keep women down and plays right into the anti-feminist agenda.