Susan Sarandon Doesn’t Call Herself A Feminist, And That’s Okay

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Of all the celebrities who might answer “no” to the question “do you consider yourself a feminist?”, Susan Sarandon seems a pretty unlikely choice. Long known for her activism, Sarandon supports many progressive and human rights-related causes and organizations, from Emily’s List to Occupy Wall Street. And yet, when The Guardian asked her that old chestnut—a clumsy and tiresome question, but which nonetheless speaks to something a lot of people care about—she replied in the negative:

I think of myself as a humanist because I think it’s less alienating to people who think of feminism as being a load of strident bitches and because you want everyone to have equal pay, equal rights, education and healthcare.

It’s a bit of an old-fashioned word. It’s used more in a way to minimise you. My daughter [Eva Amurri, from Sarandon's relationship with Italian film director Franco Amurri] who is 28, doesn’t even relate to the word “feminist” and she is definitely in control of her decisions and her body.

Translation: Despite believing in the concept of equality, Susan Sarandon doesn’t call herself a feminist because she believes the word has been effectively sullied by its enemies. And guess what? I respect that, albeit a tad begrudgingly.

First, I should point out that she is bundles more coherent on the topic than most celebrities who’ve answered “no” to this question. Katy PerryLady Gaga, Taylor Swift and others have all given answers that reveal that they don’t even have a vague idea of what feminism actually is, and that’s just fucking embarrassing. Susan Sarandon, on the other hand, seems to have a firm grasp on its meaning. Her disagreement is primarily semantic.

Does everyone who refuses to adapt the label of “feminist” despite believing in, or having benefitted from, feminist ideals deserve to be roundly mocked? No, they do not. I might disagree with Susan Sarandon’s strategy here, as I think the forces of darkness are always going to find a way to demonize the concept of “fighting for equal rights,” no matter what you decide to call it. But just because she disagrees with me on this particular strategic point does not make her any less valuable an ally in the fight for, well, equal rights. And it certainly doesn’t make her stupid.

As I’ve grown more politically active, I’ll admit I’ve even struggled with this topic myself, because getting bogged down by identity politics can sometimes keep people from seeing the bigger, more universal picture. But even those who run in radical circles are not immune from society’s influence, and history has shown we need a strong feminist presence within our ranks to keep it from reproducing the same shitty hierarchies. A political conference I recently attended, for instance, had a whole bunch of feminist stuff folded into its program, and was better for it. But there was not a specific part of it marked off as “feminist issues,” because women’s issues are human issues, and should be part of the regular agenda.

Has “feminism” become such a big tent that we need to scrap it and start over with something else? Are our ideological enemies winning so hard on the semantic front that we should focus on more important fights? Do I sympathize with strippers and sex workers who don’t want to adopt the same label as say, Andrea Dworkin? These are all questions I’m pretty sure Susan Sarandon thinks about too, and that’s why I’m not ready to condemn her for rejecting a label that I, myself, still find somewhat useful.

(Via The Guardian)

Photo: WENN

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    • Cee

      I think its good that we are able to make peace with women who do not identify as feminists yet aim to do a greater good for women and people in general. I think the anger and verbal smack down I see many blogs do to any women that says she is not a feminist does not foster the dialogue for people to want to claim to be feminists.

    • Elizabeth

      I respect this, and in some ways agree. I am, for all intents and purposes, a feminist, but I haven’t found a label that seems 100% correct to me.

      I think that most people who consider themselves feminists conceptualize feminism as a gender equality issue, and I have heard the argument that it is called “feminism” (rather than “humanism” or what have you) because men are, societally, in the privileged position, and women have needed to work to raise their position. Me. Don’t need to be in the name, I’ve heard, because they already have the things that women are fighting for — they have inherent privilege. I agree with this.

      I think, however, that it has gotten much more complicated as transgendered rights have come into the public (and legal) eye recently. A transgendered man is absolutely not in the same position of privilege as a cis-gendered man, despite the fact that he identifies himself as a man. With this in mind, I find that the issue of whose-name-goes-into-the-gender-equality-title kind of fuzzy.

      I know that there are, of course, many more issues that are particular to women (reproductive rights are a glaring example, in light of recent news). I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really have any answers at all — just lots of questions — but I dont begrudge Susan Sarandon for her views.

    • MR

      On a side note, in 2008 she did back Edwards for President in the Democratic primary over Hillary and Obama but yes, she’s still very hip.