Who Should Feminists Really Hate: Kirsten Dunst or Lady Gaga?

Why are feminists so riled up over Dunst's recent interview?

Why are feminists so riled up over Dunst’s recent interview? (harpersbazaar.co.uk)

Feminists are furious with actress Kirsten Dunst. She is being trashed online as “an insufferable person”, “kind of dumb”, and other harsh, expletive-laden phrases unfit for print.

Her sin? During a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, Dunst dared to speak well of femininity, including the traditional role of a nurturing mother:

“’I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued,” she says. “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 mum created. And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armour. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s why relationships work…’”

In response, writer Ariane Sommer told Fox 411: “Being open towards being what is considered feminine at times: Yes! But regressing to a 1950s archetype of womanhood: Hell no.’”

The problem with Sommer’s response – and many others – is that Dunst never called for a return to the 1950s. Her allusion to a “knight” sounds like a desire to be treated like a lady. She also said nothing about imposing her personal preferences on anyone else.

So why are some women riled up over Dunst’s saying she prefers traditional gender roles and likes the idea of staying home with her (still theoretical) children? Is it so offensive to favor the company of gentlemen? Or to acknowledge that while professional success can be important, close relationships, especially those with one’s children, can be profoundly more meaningful? For a segment of the population, apparently it is.

Women now earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 63 percent of master’s degrees, and 53 percent of doctorates.” By extension, we have more choices than ever before, both personally and professionally. Yet, there are those who insist that there is only one right choice, and it can never include embracing motherhood as a vocation.

Interestingly, this anti-traditionalist outrage seems not to have lashed Lady Gaga, who described herself in a March radio interview as “submissive” to actor-boyfriend Taylor Kinney:

“Oh yeah, he’s [Kinney], like, totally in charge,” she responded when asked about being submissive. “When I’m home I’m, like, shoes are off, I’m making him dinner, you know? He has a job, too, and he’s really busy. I’m in charge all day long. The last thing I wanna do is tell him what to do. We’re just really good friends. It’s not good for relationships to tell men what to do, female listeners who are out there.”

Unlike Dunst, Gaga directs women to note, and potentially copy, what has worked in her romantic relationship. But the Internet hasn’t exploded with charges of negating female empowerment or betraying the sisterhood. Rather, the response has been mild. USA Today epitomized that, reporting Gaga’s words and commenting, “Oh, OK.”

Do the Dunst haters simply expect Lady Gaga to shock, even if that means acting seemingly retro? Or do they not mind her being submissive absent religious reasoning, as in the case of Candace Cameron Bure?

Is Gaga in the clear because she avoided sentimental talk about motherhood, a la Dunst? Or does Gaga get a pass because her cultural contributions include vomit-inclusive performances, so no one believes she’s truly traditional?

The whole point of the feminist movement was to expand women’s life choices. If Kirsten Dunst wants to take time off from acting to raise her future children, then that’s her choice – a choice that hurts no one.

If Dunst’s detractors can respect Lady Gaga’s voluntary submission, surely they can also find a way to accept Dunst’s aspiration to be both an entertainment professional and a mother. After all, motherhood isn’t like doing some forgettable movie; it’s a memorable and noble calling.

This article appeared in Acculturated.

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