Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

Guardian’s 10 Best: Feminist Racism at its Finest

The problem with celebrity feminism II: International Women’s Day Edition

This month, Angelina Jolie is on the cover of Ms. Magazine. Today, she’s also named as one of The Guardian’s 10 best feminists. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she’s decided to use her platform to support causes that address the subjugation of women and girls. But let’s be clear what The Guardian has done here. Many of those who made the list are celebrities. Their lives are made up of intense bursts of work with plenty of time and resources in between to engage in charity projects. And they have cameras following them around all the time, not based on the quality of their activism, but based on the magnitude of the celebrity they earned in other ways. I don’t measure them with the same yardstick as those whose activism is based in deep commitment and personal sacrifice for justice.

As Aura Bogado so starkly pointed out: “The @Guardian says 80% of best feminist are white, 40% of best feminists are dead, and 10% of best feminists are men.”

The list was compiled by Helen Lewis of the New Statesman. The actual text of the article talks about “inspirational feminists” and only the title calls them the “best.” I am hoping that what began as Helen Lewis’ list of 10 inspirational feminists that happened to be on her mind these days, got the unfortunate title of “10 Best” in the editorial process.

However, from the “best” perspective, the following is the oddest move: The Guardian included a single man, Actor Patrick Stewart (captain Picard from Start Trek), whose feminist activism seems to consist of him telling his personal story in a video for Amnesty International on Domestic Violence and supporting various charities. Again, all praiseworthy efforts, but I’m really unclear as to how that would put him in the top 10 of international feminists of all time. Telling your personal story and supporting charities with some of your abundant wealth doesn’t really qualify as the level of sacrifice and commitment that I would want to see. Is the bar really that low for white men? Certainly if there were a man from the West to be considered, we might include Dr. George Tiller, who was shot to death for performing abortions in Kansas.

And speaking of being shot, as Bogado pointed out, there were only two women of color included, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Malala Yousafzai. Adichie, who certainly deserves to be on the list, is Nigerian, but is educated in the West. Yousafzai is the only one whose activism is fully grounded in the Global South. So let’s get this straight: the sole woman of color from the Global South had to survive getting shot in the head and become the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The one white man had to tell his story in a video and do charity activities. Happy International Women’s Day, indeed.

PS: not a single Latina or Indigenous woman from the Americas? Ouch!

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This entry was posted on March 8, 2015 by in Uncategorized.

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