A little over a year ago, I wrote a piece about Megan Fox and the treatment she got from Hollywood, highlighting the fact that she was maligned for things that, in today’s society, would have been treated more sympathetically. Over the past week, there has been another mini Megan Fox renaissance, with two articles out that revisit her—one on Jennifer’s Body by Louis Peitzman for Buzzfeed, and an interview with Fox herself for The New York Times, in which she was asked about the piece I wrote.
The sympathy I have for Megan Fox is layered. I feel for her as a young woman who was sexualized at an early age and dismissed as having no intellectual value as a result, and for the way that people toss aside women who are seen as having no value to “the cause.” Some people have taken umbrage at Fox mentioning that part of the reason she hasn’t spoken out about her #MeToo experiences is because she felt like people, and feminists, would not see her as a sympathetic figure:
“I mean, that’s a lovely sentiment, and I appreciate that. [Long pause] I don’t know that I want to feel anything about it because my words were taken and used against me in a way that was — at that time in my life, at that age and dealing with that level of fame — really painful. I don’t want to say this about myself, but let’s say that I was ahead of my time and so people weren’t able to understand. Instead, I was rejected because of qualities that are now being praised in other women coming forward. And because of my experience, I feel it’s likely that I will always be just out of the collective understanding. I don’t know if there will ever be a time where I’m considered normal or relatable or likable.
“Even with the #MeToo movement, and everyone coming out with stories—and one could assume that I probably have quite a few stories, and I do—I didn’t speak out for many reasons. I just didn’t think based on how I’d been received by people, and by feminists, that I would be a sympathetic victim. And I thought if ever there were a time where the world would agree that it’s appropriate to victim-shame someone, it would be when I come forward with my story.”
People find her callout of feminism to be divisive, but honestly, feminism is imperfect because of issues like classism, racism, and homophobia. While early 2007 doesn’t seem too far away, it’s important to recognize that a lot of the language we have around slut-shaming and victim-blaming was not in the mainstream, and there was little consideration for women whose sexuality was a part of their marketed appeal.
If you looked back to 2011 at comments talking about Fox and her break from Michael Bay, you’d still see people saying she was making herself into a victim because “she could have just said no.”
Feminism was still a dirty word back then, and it’s really easy to lump everyone together or dismiss Fox’s criticisms, but the fact remains that there are a lot of women who legitimately feel excluded from feminism. It’s also true that feminists today, who grew up embracing feminism and developing new ways to have discourse around it, have heralded this appreciation for Fox as a bisexual feminist icon who did make mistakes, but was also not given the space to learn.
People still have a lot of biases about which kinds of women they view as victims. During the Bill Cosby trial, I would hear so many people slam Janice Dickinson, not believing her as a victim because of her persona, ignoring that during the time of her alleged rape, she was one of the biggest models on Earth.
Who she was became more important than what she said happened to her. That’s the kind of internalized bias that keeps women who should be feminists from feeling like the movement makes space for them. Women of color, queer women, women with disabilities, sex workers, trans women, etc.
I’m glad that society is taking a second look at Fox and Jennifer’s Body, with the realization that we allowed marketing and advertisements to reduce her to an object while only listening to her mistakes and not the meaningful things she said. Was she perfect? Absolutely not, but unlike many men in Hollywood, she didn’t abuse, harass, or go out of her way to harm anyone—but that didn’t stop her from being blacklisted and demonized.
I think that Fox’s comments shouldn’t be viewed as an attack on feminists; it should be a moment for all feminists, who have had to do battle with their own internalized misogyny, to come to terms with how they still, at times, project that onto other women. We have come a long way, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t have a long way to go.
Thankfully, our generation can change that by being inclusive and not being afraid to call out the system when it fails to include everyone. Feminism doesn’t ever have to mean being complacent or silent in the face of the movement’s flaws, especially when it does harm to other women and uplifts problematic women.
(featured image: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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