Intersectionality in pop culture: Why are Taylor Swift and Lenah Dunham so hateable?

I was chatting with a friend the other day, who was expressing her disdain for Lena Dunham’s tell-all autobiography that I had leant her earlier that year.  Dunham’s book “Not That Kind of Girl” had resonated with me in a time of confusion surrounding my own mental health issues (anxiety, depression, OCD), and provided me with a strong female voice in the form of a digestible, pleasure read.  A rare combination, indeed.  I’d never had a problem with Dunham, but I was interested to hear my friend’s criticisms.  She was fired up.  What came next was an hour and half-long conversation about white feminism, capitalism, and the hollywood machine. To be fair, we were at the beach with my parents and on our third gin & tonic, but the exchange sure got me thinking.

Since then, my Facebook feed has been inundated with articles like these , which criticize Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham for historically making “tone deaf comments concerning race and rape”.  Dunham, Schumer, and Taylor Swift have long been criticized for profiting off of feminist ideals and imagery while ignoring the complexities intersectional feminism.  Examples of this behavior surface through Amy Schumer’s tweets and stand-up, Lena Dunham’s white-wash casting of her hit show Girls, and Taylor Swift’s monochrome squad and Grammys speech. These criticisms are often coupled with accusations of “White Feminism”, another term I had to look up after by seaside conversation.

I learned that White feminism is feminism that ignores intersectionality by excluding the experiences of women of color and women who aren’t straight.  White feminism assumes the way that white women experience misogyny is the way that all women experience misogyny, and fails to give women of color a platform to discuss how racial inequality relates to gender inequality.  White feminists are privileged in ways that feminists of color are not.  Systematic prejudices such as poor benefits, low-wage jobs with no upward mobility, and police brutality are ignored. White feminism ignores the role that whiteness plays in beauty standards, and that white women are most often the faces of feminism.  I learned that White feminism is dangerous as hell.

I’m certainly guilty of being a bad intersectional feminist. I had to do quite a bit of reading to even understand what intersectional feminism is before writing this blog entry. I’m trying to become a better one, because I believe it’s my responsibility as a self-proclaimed modern feminist. This research lead me to some very direct strategies one can take to be a more inclusive feminist. If you think you’re guilty too, here are some things you can do:  If you are a woman of privilege, shut up and listen.  If you are not in a marginalized group, it is your responsibility to create space for more diverse voices to be heard.  You do not need to insert your opinion, or defend yourself.  If you are white, the best thing you can do is listen to the experiences of women of different races, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses and recognize that these women experience gender inequality differently.

I also learned that it’s okay that I’m still learning.  If any of this rings true for you, too, give yourself a break. I still watched all of Girls, and maintain that the last season was super strong. I don’t think Swift, Dunham, and Schumer are bad people, but it is clear that they also have a lot to learn. The good news is, actively working towards inclusive feminism is the ultimate goal, and there are tangible steps you can take!  Here  is an appropriately/hilariously titled Buzzfeed article with some really great book recommendations on intersectionality to get you rolling. Please comment below with your thoughts and I promise I’ll LISTEN!

Stay woke, gals!



One comment

  1. […] “But all the dude did was give you a compliment.  What’s the big deal?  You should just get over it.”  I suppose.  However, that was the moment that I realized that, at this job, my gender never comes into play.  That was the first time in almost 6 months of working here that I felt my femininity at work – and in the past 6 months I have felt a level of rejuvenation and productivity that I have never before experienced.  That was the first time I realized that I hadn’t been distracted, thinking about my appearance or whether I came across as bitchy rather than assertive.  Because, where I work, those comments aren’t tolerated and they’re simply not done.  That’s also when I realized how much that shit played into my overall mental health before I graduated and left.  I finally saw just how often those comments made me feel worthless – carrying that weight with me throughout my entire career would be unsustainable.  Who cares if someone likes my appearance?  I am a scientist.  I’m not here to model chest waders and muck boots – I’m here to get them dirty in a black spruce swamp.  I don’t want to think about my looks at work.  I don’t want to constantly think about the thin line between showing leadership and being “bossy”.  I don’t want to add words to sentences to soften them when they don’t need to be softened.  I just want to be who I am and let that be enough.  So when this man made this comment I instantly remembered every comment that has ever been made about me – and it made me exhausted.  It is mentally and emotionally exhausting to be a woman in a place that isn’t accepting of women – and I imagine this goes for all other minority and marginalized groups, especially when we start talking about intersectionality. […]


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