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The Kerfuffle Over Beyonce Posing as Rosie the Riveter Shows We Need to Stop This Feminist Infighting

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I'm a feminist - no surprise there. But I believe in feminism in the purest sense of the word: equality, equality, equality.

In the last year, I have watched as we have moved further and further away from the sisterhood and have somehow got distracted by petty issues.

Instead of focussing on women in Saudi Arabia who aren't allowed to vote, young girls the world over undergoing FGM or being pushed forcibly into doing things from marriage to sexual acts, we're worrying about offensive t-shirts and what your bikini line says about you.

The latest issue to stoke the feminist fire is Beyonce's latest Instagram post posing as Rosie the Riveter - you know the one: a woman with an exposed bicep curling with 'We Can Do It!" emblazoned in the background.

While the photo got 1.17 million likes (and counting), Rebecca Winson, blogging for the Guardian, decided that it was more important to nitpick about whether this really is a true feminist icon.

Seriously.

Rebecca said that Rosie, who embodies the World War Two ethic of working women is actually "a cynically whitewashed view of this, and her feminist credentials wear thin when you look into the history of her creation, and the background of those she was supposed to portray."

So far, so Wikipedia.

While the image may never have intended to be a feminist icon, it was harnessed as such and no re-telling of its origins story is going to change that.

It's like saying the Suffragettes didn't have anything to do with women winning the vote (it was granted due to the tireless contribution of women during the war) when they had so much to do with empowering women to even ask for the vote in the first place.

The fact is that for the average 10-year-old girl, Rosie the Riveter means diddly squat. Talking to them about World War II is like us trying to grapple with Henry the VIII's dissolution of the church.

But Beyonce re-purposing such an instantly recognisable feminist icon regardless of the 'real story' behind it straddles the world of existing feminists and opens it up to a new generation.

I bet the man who came up with Rosie's picture never thought it would still be used some 70 years later. Even less that he'd imagine the most powerful woman in world - an icon not just for her gender but also for the black community - to tie a handkerchief around her head to recreate it.

The fact that such an image can unite 80-year-old white women and an eight-year-old black girl surely is something that should be celebrated, applauded and appreciated that we live in such an inclusive world where one image can say so much.

Agonising about what it 'really' stands for does us no favours, and makes other feminists scared to say anything in case they get it wrong. If anything, it reminds us of the subtle exclusion girls face at school because they've worn the wrong shoes or don't like the right sort of music.

And right now the biggest thing that will make feminism fly, that will really make it something young women want to be a part of is inclusion.

Around the Web

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