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If Tiffany Haddish can’t get paid, Dr Biden can’t use her name, and FKA twigs doesn’t think she’ll be believed, what chance do the rest of us have?


by Lauren Heskin
14th Dec 2020

If there was ever an argument for why we still need feminism amongst the celebrity pages, this week was it, with grim tales from FKA twigs, Tiffany Haddish and Dr. Jill Biden.


Reading FKA twig’s suit against her ex-boyfriend Shia LaBeouf accusing him of emotional, mental and physical abuse, there was one line that stuck out.

“The whole time I was with him, I could have bought myself a business-flight plane ticket back to my four-story townhouse in Hackney.” But such was the extent of the abuse, she thought “the idea of leaving him and having to work myself back up just seemed impossible.”

This week seems to be depressingly rife with celebrity stories of the grim and gendered kind. Some are being criticised for using their name, others are requested to work unpaid, and another is left feeling so utterly worthless, she couldn’t see a way out of her abusive relationship.

It’s 2020, how is this still happening?

Let’s not pretend that these are not gender issues. In Ireland, women still make 14.4% less than their male counterparts and the women who do make it to the top are belittled, undermined and tokenised, while women make up the vast majority of domestic abuse victims.

Sure, those of us born above the poverty line have so much privilege we can hardly see the wood from the trees, especially if we’re white, but if some of the most influential women in the world don’t feel respected and valued, there’s little hope for the rest of us.

 

The headlines

It all started last week when actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish revealed that she had turned down the opportunity to host the three-hour-long Grammys pre-show… because the Recording Academy refused to pay her for it. Not only that, but they also rejected the idea of contributing to Haddish’s hair, make-up or wardrobe for the event. “All of that would have to come out of my pocket,” she told Variety.

Then, we get this op-ed in the Washington Post courtesy of Joseph Epstein over the weekend. He bluntly suggests that Dr. Jill Biden, wife to President-Elect Joe Biden and a teacher and educator for over forty years, should drop the “Dr.” from her name.


“’Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic,” he writes, referring to the 69-year-old, soon-to-be First Lady as “kiddo”. His issue with Dr Biden’s credentials? She has a doctorate in education and not medicine. As well as her PhD, she also holds two Master degrees.

And thirdly (yes, there’s more) singer and actress FKA twigs has brought a court case against former boyfriend Shia LeBeouf, accusing him of verbal, emotional and physical abuse.

Deciding to come forward publicly about the alleged abuse, FKA twigs details an incident when LeBeouf began driving erratically while she was in the passenger seat, removing his seatbelt and threatening to crash the car unless she said she loved him. She also alleges being woken in the middle of the night by him choking her, that he threw her against a car while screaming at her before forcing her into the vehicle, as well as locking her in a room when she tried to leave him.

 

The necessity of feminism

It doesn’t matter that FKA twigs is a global superstar who has won the Mercury Prize. She still doesn’t feel like she will be trusted or believed when it comes to her own experience. On why she didn’t come forward earlier, she said, “I just thought to myself, no one is ever going to believe me. I’m unconventional. And I’m a person of colour who is a female.”

It doesn’t matter that the piece about Dr. Biden was an op-ed and not an editorial piece, as the Post recently corrected the New York Times. It doesn’t matter that the article has been widely criticised and that the author’s reference to Dr. Biden as “kiddo” has been slammed as scornful bullying. That’s not the point.

The point is that if a grown man referred to a man of Dr Biden’s standing as “kiddo”, there would be no outrage. There’d be confusion.

“Why has he called him ‘kiddo’?” “Is this a typo?” That’s how unlikely it is to ever happen. It would appear so wildly inaccurate that would be taken as an error and not as an insult.

If these women, with money, power, fame and a huge support network around them, are made to feel so little utterly irrelevant and small; if big corporations can deem that they are expected to work for free; if they live in fear that they will not be believed about their own experience, what chance do the rest of us have?

Because let’s be honest, these things stop happening to powerful women in the public eye long before they stop happening to ordinary women. The path to gender equality is long indeed.

Featured collage via Instagram


Read more: A pioneer of feminism and radical thinker: Does Mary Wollstonecraft’s statue do any justice to her legacy?

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Read more: Kate Beckinsale’s disturbing account of verbal abuse from Harvey Weinstein