Why Feminist Outrage About Kirsten Dunst Makes No Sense

This Sunday morning started out just like any other: a shower, some coffee, and the Facebook login. Upon logging in, though, it  became blatantly clear that this morning was not like any other. My ENTIRE news feed—that’s every damn space available—was filled with the backlash of feminist outrage directed at comments Kirsten Dunst had uttered during an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK.

Apparently all the rage-filled controversy was sparked by the hollywood star’s praise for traditional femininity and motherhood. She expressed:

“I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued,” she told the magazine. “We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking—it’s a valuable thing my mom created.” 

Let’s be clear about something: If a man had said this, he would have been crucified, his career would have ended immediately, and he would have had to complete a campaign of cross-country podium apologies, etc. It would have been easy to dismiss a man’s comment as the rhetoric folly of someone disconnected from the female experience. But, that’s not the case here. Kirsten Dunst, last time I checked, is very much qualified to speak on behalf of the female experience, because, well, she IS a female—and that’s pretty much the requirement for understanding female experiences.

Anyone who says to the contrary, who snidely remarks that Kirsten Dunst is simply “too dumb” or simply “not qualified” to accurately speak on behalf of the female experience, is emulating the exact form of elitism that pigeonholed female gender roles in the first place. The historic marginalization of women by men is being repeated today in an assault that targets men AND women. A feminist elitism which asserts that only “certified professional feminists” need speak on the behalf of all female desires, is one that no longer serves to liberate women as it once did, but now, only continues to silence any desires which deviate from the neo-feminist agenda. One feminist writer, Erin Gloria Ryan remarked, “Kirsten Dunst is not paid to write gender theory so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that she’s kind of dumb about it.”

Dumb about it? Dumb about what exactly? That she PREFERS traditional roles? Not paid to write on gender theory? Does that also imply that the incentive of money alone properly equips one with the “right” intelligence to speak well on female desires? And while we’re at it, doesn’t the word “theory” imply there’s a chance that someone got it totally wrong?

It seems absurdly convenient that neo-feminism backs any woman whose message is congruent with its agenda, but stands to shame one that expresses a desire that contradicts that campaign. Feminism loves women when they aspire to destroy the power of men, but falls short on its claims to further the freedom of its own members’ desires—those desires being that of traditional roles. The minute a member of the camp stands up for herself, and therefore expresses the true meaning of feminism by choosing ideals against the grain, the house of cards collapses. Suddenly, feminism seems less about the freedom of women to choose, and more about the priority of neo-feminism to censor any choice that disagrees with the movement—even if that choice represents the very freedoms for which feminist purports to stand.

Ironically, the hard-lined ideology and rhetoric of neo-feminism mirrors that of the political right they so adamantly condemn. The same dogmatic debate brought on by right-wings who insist on, heterosexual marriage, banning birth-control pills, and that women SHOULD continue traditional gender roles, is being played out by feminists who strike out against other women who simply PREFER traditional gender roles.

When you break it down folks, feminism is about CHOICE—the power of women to CHOOSE their destiny, their roles, and with whom they wish to be. Women are no longer FORCED to marry some dude that treats her like crap simply because she can’t support herself. A woman is now free to pursue a career-driven lifestyle absent of children, husband, and any other domestic roles once assigned to her long ago by a regime of men who would never let her shine. These liberations are good for both women and men. These liberations have made our society stronger and better and are among the most important since the emancipation of slaves.

But, in the extreme feminist rhetoric that has launched public backlash against Kirsten Dunst, the freedom for women to CHOOSE what roles they wish to live out seems to only go one way. Effectively what’s taken hold is a campaign which sits on the extreme left of the right-wing agenda, a one-way street for women where non-traditional gender roles are ALWAYS RIGHT and traditional gender roles are ALWAYS WRONG.

This is the question that neo-feminists have to answer:

Is your goal to have women be able to live the lives THEY want?

Or

Is your goal to have women live the lives mandated by YOUR agenda?

Because one of those goals is not true feminism (I’ll give you a hint: it’s the second one). That’s dogamtic elitism.

Women should not be punished by men OR by other women for their choices—this includes the choice to live traditionally. It is undoubtably the case that some women don’t feel the desire to be mothers or wives. Feminism has helped create a better society which allows such women to prosper and pursue happiness in those lifestyle choices. That being said, the same is true of women who prefer traditional roles. Undoubtably, there are women who feel a strong desire to be mothers and nurturers. And yet, extreme feminism denies them THIS choice by shaming them and marginalizing THEIR desires as some misguided mistake of a naive woman. This is the same marginalization once used by men to force women into a life they do not desire on their own.

Kirsten Dunst did not start a movement. She did not create a political fund or organize a march for traditional roles. She simply expressed her own personal desires as a woman. Calm the hell down.  

Matthew Rosario

American / Writer / Musician