If there’s one point I want to make today it’s that I’m sick of celebrity idealization. You know, the whole Beyonce is a feminist queen superhero thing. I don’t quite get it myself, partially because I’m not sure what’s so super about her brand of feminism, and partially because it seems like women always have a problem with her.
The same goes for other celebrities. Lena Dunham and Jennifer Lawrence are two of popular culture’s biggest feminist icons, and they too are slammed by feminist media for not adhering to certain rules. I think it’s wonderful that Dunham’s work challenges issues like body-shaming – her work should be celebrated. But to turn around and criticize her when she makes a choice we don’t like? Silly.
It’s great to see spunky and intelligent celebrities claim feminism as one of their goals. It’s enlightening to think that Dunham has pushed so many boundaries through Girls. But it’s not helpful to expect too much from them.
Nothing epitomizes this more than Beyonce’s following. She is idealized, loved, worshipped, yet constantly under fire for acts that don’t adhere to the ‘icon’ status she’s been forced into. Yes, Beyonce is a feminist. But if we’re going to have an existential crises every time she’s accused of photoshopping herself is she really the leader we’ve been looking for?
I’ve read similar remarks about J-LAW: a celebrity who tries to break through the rigid boundaries of what is considered attractive in popular culture. Lawrence refused to lose weight for her role in The Hunger Games. She wanted her character to look strong and healthy, not merely thin, and this won her huge respect from women around the world.
But does this act mean she’s an icon? That we should invest in her emotionally, and become disappointed when she lets us down?
Jamila Rizvi, editor-in-chief at Mamamia, recently wrote about her disappointment in Amal Alamuddin for taking George Clooney’s last name. Rizvi obviously looks up to Alamuddin, and no wonder. The woman is a lawyer, human rights advocate and international refugee. However, Rizvi was saddened to think that Alamuddin would allow herself ‘to be defined by her husband and his name.’
Now, whether or not taking your partner’s name is defining yourself through them is a completely different issue. In fact, it’s so entirely subjective it’s ridiculous. But Rizvi seemed to think that as a fellow justice fighter, Alamuddin should subscribe to the very same strain of feminism as she does.
It’s the same as J-LAW’s nude photo leak (which I covered here) and the plethora of issues the public has had with Beyonce. We raise them up – inspired by a sense of comradeship – only to tear them down for a decision we don’t agree with.
The fact is these women aren’t going to meet all our expectations. Yes, they embrace feminism and work towards a higher goal, but we can’t continue investing all our hopes and dreams in them. Feminism, justice, ethics – it’s all subjective once it gets to a certain level. Alamuddin obviously felt differently to Rizvi about changing her last name, and that’s totally okay.
I’d really like to stop seeing articles about outraged and disappointed fans. I mean, really, these women didn’t ask for expectations they may not be able to – or want to – meet. By all means bask in the wonderment of a great feminist celebrity, just accept that they’re not you, and your beliefs most likely aren’t going to be completely aligned. We all have our own brand of feminism – perfectly tweaked for ourselves – and that’s totally okay.