The Feminists

[Content Note: Policing.]

In the last week, both Miley Cyrus and Courtney Stodden, two young white women who have been widely criticized for many of their choices and means of expressing their sexuality, have said that they are feminists.

And there has been lots of pushback on those assertions.

First, let me say very clearly that I believe the feminist and womanist critiques of, as a keenly relevant example, Miley Cyrus' racist appropriation is both valid and necessary. There is a distinction, and one that I don't personally find all that difficult to make, between critiques of expressions of privilege and policing women's personal choices. And I think there's a lot of deliberate blurring of that distinction that is used to discredit women of color who engage in critiques of privilege.

Secondly, let me say that I'm not in the business of auditing other women's feminism. If a woman says she's a feminist, it isn't my place to tell her that she isn't. And I don't think there are any women who have the freedom to live undilutedly feminist lives, who never have to compromise on their ideals in order to survive or avoid harm. If a failure to perfectly exemplify and embody feminism at all times is a disqualifying act, then none of us are feminists.

Thus, if Miley Cyrus and Courtney Stodden say they're feminists, then it isn't my business to say otherwise.

So this post is not about whether I think Miley Cyrus and Courtney Stodden are feminists. It's about the fact that I find it really interesting, and really rather hopeful, that these young women are openly identifying as feminists.

Certainly, their vision of feminism is different than mine (and my vision of feminism is also different than what it was when I was 20 years old), but the women who are most likely to come to a broad, inclusive, empowered vision of feminism are the ones who first identify as feminists.

There are a lot of young girls who follow every move these young women make. And they will hear that their idols say that they are feminists. And maybe that will make them seek out feminism, and the feminists and womanists who can give them something substantial that will make them see the world in a new way, that will exhort them to examine their privileges, that will value their humanity.

Not everyone agrees with me that it is not feminists' job to publicly audit declarations of feminism. In which case, I hope the auditors will not admonish Miley Cyrus and Courtney Stodden to stop calling themselves feminists, but instead to urge them to robustly embrace more and ever more feminism.

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