Sarah Jessica Parker (Photo: Rex)

OPINION

The problem with Sarah Jessica Parker saying she isn't a feminist 

I've spent all morning trying to understand. I can't

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By Marisa Bate on

In an interview in this month's American Marie Claire, Sarah Jessica Parker said the following: 

“I am not a feminist. I don’t think I qualify. I believe in women and I believe in equality, but I think there is so much that needs to be done that I don’t even want to separate it anymore. I’m so tired of separation. I just want people to be treated equally.”

Since reading those words at around 9am this morning, I've been having a bit of bother. And I've really, really tried to understand. 

In fact, I have just deleted 700 words on trying to understand how Sarah Jessica Parker can reject the word “feminist”. Seven hundred words considering that perhaps feminism has been watered down by its recent transformation into a commodity to shift shower gel, and maybe lost some of its meaning; 700 words considering why we shouldn’t identify with labels created decades ago if they feel inappropriate or outdated; 700 words considering that Parker is a proud Democrat who speaks out on gay marriage,  immigration and the rights of working people, so maybe it doesn’t matter if she won’t use the word "feminist" because, hey, at least she behaves like one. 

But I’m sorry –  to my editor for wasting time; to all the people out there who identify as humanists; and to everyone who, like me, carries Carrie Bradshaw around in their back pocket, the adult equivalent of a comfort blanket. Because nope, I just cannot. I cannot understand why Sarah Jessica Parker doesn’t identify as a feminist. 

Sarah, tell me, how can you call for an end to these things without using the word that denotes the movement trying to stop all of this? 

I get what being a humanist means and I hugely respect that she believes the struggle is about us all. Speaking in US Glamour last year, she made it obvious that she believes in a movement that brings all different people under one umbrella of understanding and love. God, doesn’t that sound good? And nice? And hopeful? Nobody likes a label, but "humanist" sounds cool, right? 

And I get that women's rights have moved on from the 1970s and we can work, and have bank accounts, and our husbands can be prosecuted if they rape us, and we might even have the first female president, and so we should look beyond ourselves and see the struggles of others: the gay community, the transgender community, men and women of colour. 

And I get that today’s manifestation of feminism has got a bit “cool”, a bit drinking-a-flat-white-at-an-Obama-rally. And it’s got a bit self-indulgent (like most things on the internet). Suzanne Moore recently wrote that’s today feminism has become “gluten-free” and “requires one only to look after oneself, while regularly announcing to the world how this is working out”. And this type of feminism is shit, quite frankly. 

But I don’t think these are the reasons why Parker is rejecting it.

I think Parker is almost suggesting we are living in a world where feminism is no longer relevant – where the word divides, without conquering. Parker is still suggesting the word is bit problematic, a bit tricky. Maybe we need something *safer*, more inclusive to men? And this is what I'm struggling with. 

Because the suggestion that the word "feminism" is somehow defunct and irrelevant suggests the moment behind it is, too. Of course, all communities need fair representation and, of course, there are fractions within the feminist movement. And, of course, I want men to be down with feminism – like Obama is.

But as a political, educated woman, how can she not recognise how urgently feminism, specifically –  the movement that promotes the rights of women – is needed? And especially in America, where women are so vulnerable to the total lack of workers' protection on issues such as maternity pay; and where women’s bodies are still controlled by the state as abortion clinics continue to shut down; and where the possible next president has a massive misogyny issue; and where transgender women of colour are being murdered. Sarah, tell me, how can you call for an end to these things without using the word that denotes the movement trying to stop all of this? I just don't get it. 

And so this is my other 700 words. I tried to be understanding – I really, really tried. But Carrie Bradshaw won’t call herself a feminist and I don’t know about you, but I feel like the world needs feminism – the word and the movement – more than ever. 

@marisajbate

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Sarah Jessica Parker (Photo: Rex)
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