Written by Jen Offord

Voices

Flawless feminism

Marion Cotillard seems a bit confused as to what feminism actually is. All she needs to do is listen to Beyoncé, says Jen Offord, who would like you to bow down, bitches.

BeyonceIt would be easy to hate on Marion Cotillard for her attention-seeking comments to Porter magazine, last week, that there was no place for feminism in film-making. “For me it doesn’t create equality – it creates separation. I mean I don’t qualify myself as a feminist,” said the actress, currently treading the cinematic boards as Lady Macbeth.

The French actress agreed that “We need to fight for women’s rights” but she didn’t want to “separate women from men” by wanging on about issues such as a lack of parity in representation of women in the film industry, or paying leading ladies a comparable wage to their male counterparts. That’s the problem with feminism, she reckoned: “Sometimes in the word feminism, there’s too much separation.”

But us ladies are always hating on each other and getting hated on: that’s where all this separation gets us, after all, and we know Cotillard is against this. Also, it’s not her fault that no one ever referred her to Flawless by Beyoncé Knowles, which is what I would do, and have frequently done, to both men and women who don’t understand the concept of feminism.

I’ll be honest, there was a time when I cared far less for Beyoncé; I’d go so far as to say I found her a little dead behind the eyes. That was until my brother – my brother – sat me down and made me watch the video for If I Were a Boy (he also introduced me to Sandcastle Disco by her sister, Solange, which you should listen to RIGHT NOW if you haven’t already. You’ve got to feel bad for Solange; she didn’t even get an accent over her e and she’s totally underrated).

“I would like to kiss more men’s faces – I’d just like them to be the faces of people who don’t deride my requests for very basic things like equal healthcare and pay, and trousers with some fucking pockets.”

Five, frankly unimaginable minutes later, I was hooked and I’ve never looked back. I even named my bicycle after her, the great symbol of female empowerment that she was. Beyoncé was exactly the kind of feminist I wanted to be: one whose boyfriend gives her earrings that look like crisps but who can also apprehend criminals.

There can be something of a sniffiness about the notion of ‘Yoncé as a feminist icon. Like about how she’s hell bent on showing us her pants when she’s dancing, for example. And it’s true, I also wish she’d cover her arse up a bit more – but it is a lovely arse. And her Instagram feed reliably informs me that she does coexist peacefully with trousers, in her free time.

She’s also smoking hot, and this does not align with the creeping assumption that a desire to be sexually attractive to men is incompatible with feminism. A feminist is too busy hating men to want to kiss their faces, right? This, I can attest, is not the case. I would like to kiss more men’s faces – I’d just like them to be the faces of people who don’t deride my requests for very basic things like equal healthcare and pay, and trousers with some fucking pockets.

They’re not even Beyoncé’s words on Flawless: they’re Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s from her brilliant and famous TED talk about feminism, in which she quite simply lays down what this shit actually means: “Feminism: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. ” There’s a bit more to it than that: she wangs on for a while about the myriad ways in which we are separate, as Cotillard so rightly points out – the ways in which men and women are treated differently.

So Beyoncé, you smoking hot, trouserless word stealer, this is just a cunning ploy to make us think you give two shits about women’s rights, isn’t it? An attempt to make women like you and buy your records, right? OK, look, I’ve never actually spoken to Beyoncé, so I can’t really form a conclusive opinion one way or the other about whether or not it is all just a PR stunt. But here’s the thing – I don’t even care if it is. They may not be her words, she may not even mean them, but she’s endorsing them and ensuring millions more people hear them and millions more people understand what feminism means. And it’s quite hard to argue with feminism as a concept when it’s put like that, isn’t it?

“Let’s not forget that gender inequality works against men too. It is quite literally killing us.”

There are a lot of people, not just Marion Cotillard, who don’t understand the concept of feminism. Like female friends who don’t identify with the image of a furious dungaree-waver, dividing and conquering with her angry rants. Like men I’ve dated who have launched into diatribes about how women have it easy because family law tends to favour them in custody battles, not that he was bitter or anything. Congratulations – you’ve just identified an inequality and in fact made a case for feminism.

I am not a man-hater. Far from it. Neither’s Beyoncé: she’s married to Jay Z, remember (and yes, I also agree they were both pushing their luck when they brought Ike Turner into the equation). And it’s at least in part because I’m not a man-hater that I give two shits about feminism. Let’s not forget that gender inequality works against men too. It is quite literally killing us. Women are making themselves ill because of pressure to look a certain way or because they’ve risked their health through some dodgy backstreet abortion. Men aren’t reporting symptoms of illness because of the feminisation of the healthcare system, or are committing suicide because of the social unacceptability of talking about their mental and emotional health.

Society separates us when it encourages, as Adichie (and ‘Yoncé) points out, men and women to desire completely incompatible relationships. It divides us when it asserts that all women are mothers, but also when it won’t acknowledge a father’s right to spend time with his kids. Society pits us against each other every day when it tells us women are hysterical and over-emotional, but a man cannot talk about his feelings. Men and women are separated all the time, and only equality – feminism – will bridge that gap. But Marion Cotillard would know that already if she’d listened to Flawless.

@inspireajen

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Written by Jen Offord

Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen