This week on Q with Jian Ghomeshi, one of the points of discussion was “Does the ‘feminist’ label matter?”
Let’s just let that sink in for a minute.
One of the CBC’s most popular programmes finally decides to even remotely mention women’s issues, and they decide to make it a 15 minute debate about semantics.
Thanks, national broadcaster.
Other than a very quick shout-out to “pay equity, reproductive freedom and overall sexism” (Wouldn’t want to accidentally focus on those things!) almost the entire discussion focused around whether we need the term and whether we should be confronting female celebrities who define themselves as “not feminist” (Re: Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Bjork, Carla Bruni, Lady Gaga, etc.).
I’m not saying that I expect a show like Q to actually have hard-hitting debates and real, informative discussions about political issues – there are other forums for that (uh… you know, like a little website with a fun and pun-filled name? That you may or may not be reading right now). I’m also definitely not saying that a discussion over the term ‘feminism’ is useless. What I am saying, is that Q missed the point, as well as an important opportunity to have an interesting debate about a serious women’s issue on national radio.
The CBC tried to pin two intelligent and informed feminist women against each other (Mary Elizabeth Williams saying that we absolutely need the term, Nona Willis Aronowitz saying that she understands that many young people just lack an education about women’s issues and don’t understand that ‘feminism’ does not mean ‘man hater’). They essentially turned what could have been a serious discussion about the oppression of half the world’s population into a quick and easy “hot-button” debate over a term they’ve deemed to be controversial.
Could there not have been a discussion over why the label of ‘feminist’ has so many negative connotations? Couldn’t they have questioned why calling someone a feminist is supposed to be an insult in the first place? Couldn’t the discussion have focused on why so many female celebrities are recently being confronted with the “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” in such a rude and condescending way in the first place? Both women seemed far more interested in these types of questions, yet Ghomeshi kept steering the conversation back towards semantics.
Instead of focusing on the lack of education around feminism in our current system, the CBC trivialized fundamental inequalities that affect half the nation’s population.
The conversation ends with Mary Elizabeth Williams and Nona Willis Aronowitz agreeing that the best step towards making people less afraid to call themselves feminists is to “normalize” the term, rather than only bringing it up in controversial tones or debates.
In other words, what needs to be done is the exact opposite of what the CBC and Jian Ghomeshi did.