A major theme of this article is sexual assault, which may be triggering to some readers.
An article published yesterday by Vanity Fair caught my eye. In it, the author gives a variety of examples demonstrating Kelly’s support of sexual assault victims, from her most recent clash with Newt Gingrich, to her defense of and participation in Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against the former Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes.
In a world where the discrediting and dismissal of women’s claims of rape, violence and sexual assault runs rampant, defending and supporting victims in their allegations speaks volumes. An entire topic all its own, the support, or at least simple abstinence from condemnation one way or another, of women who go public with allegations is one of the core tenets of feminism.
I first heard of Megyn Kelly when a video of her claiming Santa Claus and Jesus Christ should only be depicted as white men went viral. Since, she has made many other claims that others feel to be racist, such as her views on the death of Sandra Bland, when she called Michelle Obama a “whiner” and when she said it was normal to receive racist emails in the workplace. She has also done much to discredit sexual assault victims, has said consent is ridiculous, defended the fake Planned Parenthood videos, says that abortion should not be considered feminist, claimed the gender pay gap does not exist and has mocked transgender people a myriad of times. She often uses the term “feminist” in a derisive manner.
To understand my questioning of Kelly as a “feminist icon,” let’s first examine why some may feel she can be argued as such. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Perhaps the most basic challenge that feminists have posed to traditional views of rape lies in the recognition of rape as a crime against the victim herself. For much of recorded history…rape was regarded as a property crime against a woman’s husband or father (Burgess-Jackson 1996, 44-49). A raped woman or girl was less valuable as property… the property status of enslaved African-American women was also thought to entitle their owners to the women’s unrestricted sexual use. Given this entrenched historical and cultural legacy, feminists’ redefinition of ‘rape’ as a crime against the woman herself is nothing short of revolutionary.
As such, no matter what strain of feminism one adheres to, the acknowledgement of rape being a widespread phenomenon is a feminist act.
Many female celebrities, in the wake of feminism as a new trend, label themselves feminist, only to support male abusers in their personal or professional lives. Actress Cate Blanchett was hailed at the 2014 Oscars for her quip about giving women more lead roles in film, proclaiming “the world is round, people!” to a cheering audience.
However, Blanchett won the award for her role in the film “Blue Jasmine,” a film produced by Woody Allen, an actor and producer who was accused of sexual assault by his daughter. A two-minute “feminist” soundbite does nothing when Blanchett worked with a man who embodies what feminism fights against. Thus is an instance of women disregarding the basic tenets of feminism to advance their own careers, choosing not to become embroiled in an act that is feminist at its root. To actively disregard women in favor of being politically or professionally advantageous is most anti-feminist.
As stated in a previous blog post, one cannot be a feminist if not fighting against systemic racism. Kelly shows time and again through her conservative rhetoric that she does not hold the interest of racial minorities at heart. Mocking the idea of consent and challenging Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights as a whole shows she is again at odds with another feminist concept: bodily autonomy. Blatant disrespect for LGBT people is completely at odds with feminism’s goal to be inclusive of sexual minorities.
While Kelly herself has stood up against the issue of sexual assault in a few instances, even with it being harder in her position as a conservative woman on a conservative network, she builds her television persona and markets herself on issues that fundamentally disagree with the main goals of feminism. The overall goal of her career is not to advance a feminist agenda, it is simply to advance her career. While she may do one or two arguably feminist things, it does not negate all of the anti-feminist views she has fought for. Thus holds true for all women whose lives and careers do not center around the advancement of safety, liberation and representation for all women in every way. Feminism calls for a devotion to the advancement of women, and no woman is deserving of the title “feminist” if proposing blatantly racist, anti-woman and anti-LGBT views.