Michelle Phan is the living image of a modern woman. She’s a savvy hardworking entrepreneur who has turned herself from a face and a voice into a global brand with major sponsorships and a cosmetics line under her belt. Recently she travelled to Japan with First Lady Michelle Obama to help kick off an initiative aimed at ensuring education for young women and girls around the world. All things considered Michelle Phan is living exactly the kind of empowered and equality driven life that feminism would wish for a young woman in the digital millennium. Maybe that’s why the internet was so surprised to learn that the beauty guru superstar doesn’t identify as a feminist.
In a recent interview with Cosmopolitan magazine Phan was asked “the question.” The one that even interviewer Jenna Marotta notes is in poor taste these days. Nonetheless, presumably in the name of outrage clicks, Marotta asks Phan if she considers herself a feminist. As it turns out, she does not. Like a number of celebrities who’ve answered the question in recent years, Phan’s reasoning is a little convoluted and seems to rely on a definition of feminism that isn’t exactly standard. According to Phan, “When you read about the real history of where feminism comes from, it came from a very political point of view. I don’t believe in bringing any politics to an idea like feminism. I love the idea that women should be celebrated, but I also believe men should be too. We need both — yin and yang.”
Interestingly, in 2014 Phan posted an update to her personal blog expressing a very different opinion on feminism. Phan featured a quote from feminist icon Gloria Steinem: “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” Phan goes on to talk about the “bad rap” feminism often gets and encourages her readers to open a dialogue with people who are opposed to the term to help them better understand it. Overtime Phan’s opinion appears to have changed. In fact, her response to the Cosmopolitan interviewer echoes some of the counterarguments that she shot down in her earlier post.
Phan is far from the first celebrity to agree with the spirit of feminism but reject the word due to complicated or inaccurate notions of what it means. Of course Michelle Phan is also a role model who has built a business empire on her talent for influencing young women, so her position on feminism drew a strong reaction Twitter. While many fans applauded Michelle’s decision not to identify with what they see as a divisive philosophy, others feel like the beauty guru is turning her back on the message of female empowerment that has become her trademark.
Some fans backed Phan’s decision not to actively declare herself a feminist
Why are people complaining that Michelle Phan is not a feminist? There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with that.
— nice! (@sadboyism) June 9, 2015
YouTuber Rikki Poynter Engaged in a productive dialogue with the beauty star on the subject
.@MichellePhan Of course feminism came with a very political view. We needed feminism because politics keeps stripping things from us.
— RIKKI POYNTER (@rikkipoynter) June 8, 2015
Overall reaction to the news among Phan’s fans has been mixed, with many wondering why the seemingly sudden change of heart. While Michelle may not identify herself as a feminist she’s certainly still a role model for the way empowered women can change the world around them and that’s not something we should easily overlook.
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