Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, best known for her role as Penny on CBS’s hit show The Big Bang Theory, recently fell prey to the same trap set for many Hollywood starlets before her, such as Kirsten Dunst, Shailene Woodley, Katy Perry, and Kelly Clarkson. Along with these women, Cuoco-Sweeting’s name has now been added to the blacklist of “Women Who Don’t Identify as Feminists,” and yes, there are actual lists.
In a December interview with Redbook magazine, the fateful question, “Are you a feminist?” was asked of the 29-year-old actress. I was pretty impressed with her response:
Is it ok if I say no? . . . It’s not really something I think about. Things are different now, and I know a lot of the work that paved the way for women happened before I was around. . . . I was never that feminist girl defending equality, but maybe that’s because I’ve never really faced inequality. . . . I cook for Ryan [her husband] almost five nights a week: it makes me feel like a housewife. I love that.
Probably without meaning to, Cuoco-Sweeting summed up feminism better than any liberal journalist. Of course a young woman who makes, reportedly, $1 million per episode in a male-dominated industry doesn’t actively think about feminism. She is feminism. Feminism is a lot like racial equality — the less you talk about it, the more likely you are to actually practice it.
The first thing that self-proclaimed “feminists” manage to spit out as they gasp for breath and clutch their pearls at any semi-successful woman claiming to not be a feminist (or claiming to just not care that much about the term) is, “If it weren’t for all the feminists before you, you wouldn’t be in this position to make such a statement.” Correct. And Cuoco-Sweeting acknowledged that.
However, despite her perfectly logical comment, “feminists” took aim at the actress, calling her “talentless” and an “idiot.” Her “housewife” comment especially ticked off some Twitter-ers:
Like Kaley Cuoco saying she's not a feminist because she likes cooking for her husband or whatever. Like really
— Melanie ｡ﾟ(ﾟ´ω`ﾟ)ﾟ｡ (@PikiPwnage) January 16, 2015
Can't watch Big Bang Theory ever again, how could you say you aren't a feminist?! It scares me women like this exist. http://t.co/qo3M9azDEI
— Eleanor (@eleanor_21) January 7, 2015
So, of course, she apologized in an Instagram post, in which she reiterated that she is aware of “the strong women that have paved the way for my success.” But when you piss off the feminists, they’re out for blood.
Synced magazine published on their website an “Open Letter to Kaley Cuoco from Feminist Lucy Bellerby,” in which Bellerby claims that after reading Cuoco-Sweeting’s comments, she wanted to smash her computer. (Well, she actually demonstrated her emotions with a .gif, but her intention was clear.) To the actress’s hypothetical question, “Is it ok if I say no?” Bellerby answered, “Yes, it is bad if you say no. If you say no, it means that you don’t believe men and women should be treated equally.”
Does Bellerby really think that Cuoco-Sweeting, or anyone in mainstream American life, for that matter, still believes that men and women should not be treated equally? The purest definition of the word “feminism” is simply the belief in equal political and legal rights for women. I have stated previously that I consider myself a feminist, but perhaps I should have clarified. Practically everyone is a feminist nowadays, in the sense that I understand the word. Asking a woman or a man if they are a feminist is as outdated as asking someone if they are pro-abolition.
Bellerby continues on to discuss Cuoco-Sweeting’s affinity for cooking for her husband, professional tennis player Ryan Sweeting:
RIGHT STOP. Can we all please get rid of the idea that liking cooking makes you a non-feminist? You can like to cook and still be a ballsy, equality-loving badass. I like to cook. I cook for my boyfriend. . . . He likes it. He also likes the fact that I have my own electric drill, and that I can put up furniture and paint a room (with no help at all, Kaley! Not even from my dad!)
Can anyone blame Cuoco-Sweeting for, after hearing the word “feminist,” rushing to defend her housewife-like tendencies? Isn’t this the dialogue that the feminist Left has constructed? (For reference, read this Salon article in which the author, a self-described “feminist atheist,” is ashamed to admit that she enjoys reading Mormon-housewife cooking blogs.) Bellerby goes on to demand that Cuoco-Sweeting “READ A F***ING BOOK!” (Asterisks are mine.) How sisterly of her.
Cuoco-Sweeting originally took the feminist ire in good stride, joking about the situation when she presented the award for Best Comedic Movie Actress at the People’s Choice Awards earlier this month. After reading the nominees in the category, Josh Gad, a co-star in her most recent film, The Wedding Ringer, said, “Ooh, now Kaley, are you sure you want to do that category, given your anti-feminism stance?” “Yeah, I have to,” she quipped, “It’s part of my apology tour.”
On Friday, however, the actress cleared up her statement even more, telling People magazine, “As independent as I am — and I’ve made a career on my own without a man — I love being a wife.” She didn’t need to explain herself to most sane people; her intentions in her original comments read loud and clear to me. Maybe so-called feminists should try a little harder to listen, instead of preach, to other women.
— Christine Sisto is an editorial associate at National Review Online.