BY: TIFFANY NEMAN | FEBRUARY 16, 2014
“I feel like I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women to not be scared of anything.”
Miley Cyrus, 2013
Social commentators have taken to their platforms to discuss these women and the roles they play in presenting feminism—a social movement and ideology advocating for gender equality in terms of political, economic, and social rights—to a fairly uneducated public. You can find many of these articles here, here, and here.
So, is Miley Cyrus, along with her feminist counterparts, progressing or stifling the fight for women’s rights and liberation?
Cyrus’ detractors argue the latter. Most of the public hasn’t taken their fair share of gender studies classes, nor read the works of Audre Lorde, Peggy McIntosh, Emma Perez, or Naomi Wolfe, among other seminal feminists. Instead, they are being introduced to feminism, for the first time, through mainstream pop-culture—through twerking and sexual objectification. Feminism in this sense becomes synonymous with hypersexualization. As PolicyMic contributor Michelle Juergen writes,
“Madonna, Cher, even Britney Spears did it all before. There's no substance or message behind the new generation of thongs other than the standard "Look at me, I love sex." These things all perpetuate this mainstream, normalized type of "sexy," which is one that does nothing more than let women objectify themselves and each other.”
As the public discourse on this topic continues to clog our news websites—and it certainly will— it’s important to recognize what’s being left unsaid in the meantime. Regardless of how the Rihannas and Katy Perrys of the world market this seemingly new brand of feminism, dramatic, undeserved gender disparities continue to exist.
When Forbes published its 2013 list of Hollywood's Highest-Paid Actors, the company had to create two separate lists: one for actors, and the other for actresses. On face value, this gesture seems innocent enough. Once you delve deeper into the details, however, you learn that Forbes had to create two separate lists in order to include women at all. The wage gap between female and male actors is really that bad.
To put it differently, the highest-paid actor on the list was Robert Downey, Jr., who earned a whopping $75 million in 2013 alone. The highest-paid actress, Angelina Jolie, earned $30 million that same year, $2 million less than the lowest paid actor on the list, Liam Neeson, who earned $32 million in 2013.
So the next time you’re faced with sensationalist pieces on the nuances of sexual behavior in pop culture, keep in mind the much harsher, economic realities that hide behind the scene. Though feminists may, as a collective, remain divided over what counts as and discounts feminism, it is important to remember what ultimately unites us all: disbanding existing gender inequalities.
Special thanks to Monica Lancaster, SUA’s former Alumni Relations Coordinator, for bringing my attention to the Forbes’ articles.