This morning, I woke up to the news that during the past two days, Ariana Grande, a 21 year old pop star had issued a feminist manifesto. I’m not a fan of Ariana’s music, as my own tastes run a little more rock/alternative, but I am aware of who she is as her name has been brought up in vegan circles as an example of a celebrity who follows a largely plant based diet. [I’ve not seen anything that states she is a vegan or vegetarian and do not want to make assumptions] Due to not following her, I’m a little late to the party.
When I read her statement it made me really really happy. I’m not happy because it is clear on some level this 21 year old woman has suffered from sexism, misogyny and defamation of character due to persistent rumours of who/whom she dates or associates with. That is her business and nobody else’s.
Her manifesto made me happy because it gave me hope. Hope that somebody like Ariana will use their platform to educate her fans about valuing themselves instead of letting society (especially men in society) decide their value for them. That her fans will look at her manifesto and start asking questions; like who is Gloria Steinem? How can I empower myself? What can I do to stop myself being treated like property or possession? Why are female activists important?
Once Ariana’s fans start asking these questions of and for themselves, I hope that it will have a great snowball effect and the generation below me eg 15 – 21yrs, of which make up Ariana’s fans and peers, will join the 4th wave (sometimes associated with ‘tumblr feminism’). This would have a wonderful impact in helping make the world a better place. It’s too late for certain species of animals that have become extinct within my lifetime, it is too late for those who have died because of the oppression of women (both white and woc’s) but it is not too late for those of us who are still here, who want to make that power shift happen for ourselves and for those who follow us.
A copy of Ariana’s manifesto can be read here: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/celebrity/ariana-grande-posts-feminist-rampage-essay-on-instagram-20150608-ghity9.html and notes on the statements contained here: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jun/08/ariana-grande-essay-sexism-media-split-big-sean I’m linking both in case one is taken down.
Given how social media has come on in leaps and bounds in the past few years, in some ways I am grateful that it wasn’t as strong as it is now as it was back when I was 21 myself. I remember how it was my first year of university, I was single having ended an 18 month relationship and having a great time, enjoying being single, and spending time with whomever I pleased, and yes that did include other men of similar age to myself. I recall being told there were rumours of me behaving like a predator, apparently I would lock boys in my room and not let them out unless we had sex ?! Hello?! Is that not the sort of behaviour that would be expected of a man? That he would behave in that manner? I later realised that this rumour was in effect, a punishment, a defamation of my character, that because I was seen as behaving like a man (when I know exactly how many people I kissed or was intimate with that year, and it was a tiny tiny figure… not that it is anybody’s business but my own). But due to being seen as behaving like a man, I was being tarred with that brush of either being called a whore, or the male equivalent.
Except that men don’t get called whores, they are either studs or predators. These rumours were spread by other male and female students alike. Some of the other female students were in truth, engaging in what could easily be taken as risky behaviour, yet instead of taking my side, the side of equality, the view point of women being able to do what they like, on their terms, they chose to join the side of sexism, to turn the light away from themselves and to shine it negatively onto me. Had social media been stronger back then, I have no doubt that people would have been discussing me / the rumours about me behind my back online, which would have given way to cyber bullying, rather than verbally. For this I am grateful, because a verbal word can be taken back, but a statement issued online never truly goes away. There is always some archive, some screen grab, a page history to show it existed at some point.
My own story simply highlights the fact that women are not taught to support each other, we are taught to hate, to defame each other’s characters instead of supporting each other. This is why Ariana’s manifesto gives me hope, as her piece has echoes of supporting and highlighting the work of women who came before her, like her aunt Judy, for example.
Ariana’s piece isn’t about tearing down the value of women, but instead elevating them to be above the value that our sexist society places on them. She gives me hope.
Ariana, you’ve just gained yourself a new supporter. I look forward to seeing what you do next to support yourself and your fans.