Feminism existed in 2014 as well as in other years!

‘Tis the season for annual roundups!

In case you hadn’t noticed, some feminism happened in 2014 and also in some other years. Here are a list of some of the things that happened this year specifically, as opposed to in years that were not 2014.

1) Canada criminalized johns

In all seriousness, this is a huge achievement for feminism. Abolitionists in Canada and beyond worked incredibly hard to change the conversation around prostitution, to get the Nordic model, as an option, into public discourse, to get politicians to understand prostitution not as simply a crime, but as an issue of race, class, and gender (in)equality and as constituting violence against women.

The passage of Bill C-36 represents a cultural shift wherein we are (I hope) beginning to understand that men are not entitled to sex or to the bodies of women and children.

2) Remarkable coverage of rape culture and sexual assault in the media

Students at Columbia University protest sexual assault.
Students at Columbia University protest sexual assault.

There is a lot to be said about the imperfect-to-crappy way the media has often covered violence against women, but in the past year, rape, domestic abuse, and sexual assault have been at the forefront of the public conversation.

Between Ray Rice, Woody Allen, Jian Ghomeshi, the Rotherham child abuse scandal, Bill Cosby, Oscar Pistorius, Terry Richardson, the widespread sexual assault problem on campuses across North America, and the rising count of missing and murdered Indigenous women (and the ongoing fight for justice and a national inquiry), it’s been a banner year for male violence against women.

As dark as that reality is, discussions of domestic abuse, rape culture, misogyny, and violence against women have been in the media constantly throughout 2014 — and they are doing better than ever before in terms of these discussions, using language like “victim-blaming” and “rape culture,” and discussing the problem as systemic, rather than as isolated incidences. It’s tragic that the issue is ever-present, but it is a reality we need to be talking about. Every night I watch the news (well the CBC, to be specific, which, in my opinion, does better coverage of women’s issues than many other broadcasters) there is coverage of or a conversation about the ongoing violence suffered by women worldwide, at the hands of men, and while it is horrid to witness, I am grateful that the issue is being taken seriously by the media.

It is feminists and the feminist movement that has forced and shaped this conversation.

3) Feminists smash pickup artist’s dreams, career aspirations

Rampant misogynist and “dating coach,” Julien Blanc was banned from Australia, the UK, and Singapore after feminist activists petitioned a number of “boot camps” and seminars he had planned. Blanc was known for, as Laura McNally wrote, “teaching men ‘pickup artistry’… and violent and emotionally abusive techniques in their approach to women.”  Some of Blanc’s specific techniques include choking women and pushing their faces into his crotch.

Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, dickbag.

Julien Blanc
Julien Blanc

4) Hashtags continued to exist and be part of the feminist conversation online

My criticisms of #twitterfeminism aside, there were some notable and effective conversations that happened (in part) online under hashtags such as #YesAllWomen, #BeenRapedNeverReported, and #WhyIStayed.

I found #YesAllWomen, which began in response to Elliot Rodger’s shooting spree, his hatred of women, and the subsequent, defensive response, #NotAllMen, to be particularly effective in terms of explaining that, while every single individual man might not directly be a perpetrator of violence against women, all women are negatively impacted by sexism, misogyny, rape culture, and patriarchy.

In the wake of the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, the hashtag, #BeenRapedNeverReported, highlighted the various, complex, and systemic reasons that women don’t report sexual harassment, sexual abuse and rape.

After the video showing Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancee Janay Palmer was leaked in September, people (typically) questioned why she stayed with her abuser and then married him the day after he was indicted for aggravated assault. Women responded (myself included) under the hashtag, #WhyIStayed, demonstrating the complexities and dynamics of abusive relationships and explaining why it isn’t as simple as “just leaving.”

5) Celebrities say things about feminism; something something Beyoncé

A number of celebrities said the word, “feminism,” this year, including Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Emma Watson, Pharrell, Amy Poehler, Miley Cyrus, Mindy Kaling, Jenny Slate, Kelis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Aziz Ansari, and, of course, Beyoncé.

Some highlights:

Taylor Swift wasn’t into feminism but then changed her mind because Lena Dunham.

Lena Dunham has never really shied away from speaking about feminism and you can see it in her work. Dunham also does a ton of work for reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood. Love her or hate her, she’s in.

Emma Watson gave a big ol’ speech about feminism at the U.N. as part of the “He For She” campaign launch, which “aims to conscript men and boys around the world into the battle to end the inequality against women and girls.” She says, in her speech:

When at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of their beloved sports teams, because they didn’t want to appear muscle-y, when at 18, my male friends were unable to express their feelings, I decided that I was a feminist.

Pharrell first said he couldn’t be a feminist, as a man, but was then pressured to change his mind by liberal feminists so now he is all “yeah, sure” about it. Also he really “love[s] women and often admires their eyes, lips and other features of their bodies in a sometimes suggestive way.” I know. Powerful stuff.

Kelis responded to an interviewer asking, “Songs like ‘Milkshake,’ ‘Trick Me,’ and ‘Bossy’ made you this empowered female figure to a generation for women. Would you consider yourself a feminist?” by saying a bunch of things that make no sense:

I’ve always shied away from the word “feminism,” only because I think to truly be feminist I think it’s a word that’s unnecessary… So am I a feminist? I don’t know. Call it what you want. I am extraordinarily happy to be a woman. I would not change it for the world. I think men should run the world because if not there would be no balance… If we ran the entire world also, we would annihilate. There would be no balance whatsoever. So I’m fine with that. If men want to run the world, great… But I don’t care. There are so many more important things to think about…. All these titles are just so useless.

I’ll admit I’m partial towards Joseph Gordon-Levitt because he has sparkly eyes made a movie called Don Jon last year, which, in my opinion, provided a decent critique of porn, as far as reaching-the-masses-of-bros goes.

Gordon-Levitt says he is a feminist and, despite my personal views on men identifying as feminists, I respect his comment here:

… if you look at history, women are an oppressed category of people. There’s a long, long history of women suffering abuse, injustice, and not having the same opportunities as men, and I think that’s been very detrimental to the human race as a whole.

He also told Ellen DeGeneres that his mom taught him understand and push back against the objectification of women.

I still have no idea who Shailene Woodley is but, apparently, like most celebrities, she doesn’t know what a “feminism” is. Anyway, Woodley says she isn’t one because she loves men and thinks “the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”

Finally, someone named “Beyoncé” put the word “FEMINIST” up in lights as her backdrop at the MTV Video Music Awards this year. Her feminism is pretty “lite,” as Annie Lennox said, and problematic in other ways summed up quite well by bell hooks, who pointed out that Bey’s image wasn’t exactly “liberatory” and that “it’s a fantasy that we can recoup the violating image and use it…”

Let’s take the image of this super rich, very powerful black female, and let’s use it in the service of imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy,” hooks said. “You are not going to destroy this imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy by creating your own version of it — even if it serves you to make lots and lots of money.

While many wanted to hail Beyoncé as our new feminist leader, her feminism and what she represents is fairly contradictory and, as I wrote for the Vancouver Observer, conveys a more conventional message about female sexuality than a radical one.

Generally, “celebrity feminism” is either extremely simplistic and watered-down, or hilarious in its absurdity (“But I like men and balance and boobs!”). I like that feminism is at the forefront of public discourse, but I don’t really think that celebrities are ever going to lead or define the movement so let’s maybe try to maintain some perspective in that regard.

In conclusion, some other things related to feminism also happened over the past year which I left out of this roundup so that you all can get back to your holiday eating and boozing (I hope you are all still eating and boozing?) asap, but not to worry — more feminist-type things will happen next year too.

That is, after all, how movements work. We keep on moving.



Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • “Celebrities say things about feminism; something something Beyoncé”

    I LOVE your wit, Meghan!

    Thank you so much for this round up and for the incredible gift of your writing. You make a difference to me and many others and I know that, most days, you get more shit than adulation for it. You are a shining ray of light. My deepest gratitude for it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you lizor! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your contributions and insight here. I am grateful. Happiest of New Years to you (and sorry for my slow response — I’ve had the flu).

      • Oh, I’m sorry you’ve been down with the flu in this so-called “Festive Season”. Hope you’re on the mend.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I’m getting there, but still kinda off and on. I’m pretty annoyed about the whole being bedridden for days thing. Ha.

  • C.K. Egbert

    Just wanted to say “thank you” for this blog and the work you do. Best of wishes for 2015!

  • Naida

    Great summary. I was about to give up on feminism when I stumbled upon this page, true story. I’ve always been in some kind of dilemma for having radical feminist viewpoints, but at the same time being a passionate socialist. At least in Germany, this is completely incompatible in terms of prostitution, pornography and everything that will get you called out as prude, conservative, whorephobic (lulz, but I’d accept “john/pimpphobic”) etc. So please keep up this extraordinary work, it’s absolutely unique in a world where 1000 other feminist blogs are worshipping Nicki Minaj’s ass more than de Beauvoir’s written work. All the best for you and your loved ones in 2015!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you Naida! All the best to you and yours in the New Year.

    • Naida, I’m sure you’ll find socialist feminists in Germany who are deeply critical of what the prostitution industry has become in that country; I’ve certainly read such opinions when in the neighbouring Netherlands. Not only do those “sex industries” commodify and exploit women as women, the huge brothels in Germany are horrific sweatshops with no labour rights. Moreover, antiracists who have become so important in democratic Germany as a reaction to fascism should be targeting their reduction of Eastern European women and women of colour from the global South to virtual slavery. I’ll certainly either post here or send a PM to Meghan if I turn up anything from or about Germany.

    • Sabine

      “So please keep up this extraordinary work, it’s absolutely unique in a world where 1000 other feminist blogs are worshipping Nicki Minaj’s ass more than de Beauvoir’s written work.”

      I am so with you on this Naida!

      Thank you, thank you, thank you to Meghan and to so the remarkable, right-on regular commenters here on Feminist Current. I am so looking forward to more in 2015! Happy New Year everyone. 🙂

      • Meghan Murphy

        Oh thanks, Sabine! Your contributions to the discussion here are much appreciated. Happy New Year, sisters!

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