Girl Power: Self-Proclaimed Celebrity Feminists
The word “feminist” may conjure up images of women refusing to shave their armpits or burning bras but these stars are redefining the meaning. These celebrities are proud to use their star power to draw attention to gender equality and issues that specifically affect women.
Beyonce sang about girls ruling the world. Calling herself a modern-day feminist, the “Flawless” singer penned an essay for Maria Shriver’s “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink” and addressed financial inequities between the two sexes. “Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes,” she wrote in her piece titled “Gender Equality is a Myth!” And at this year’s MTV VMAs, Bey performed in front of a backdrop with a giant rendering of the word “feminist” on it.
While most of us call it twerking, Miley Cyrus believes that when she’s on stage scantily dressed and gyrating on costumed dancers, she’s being a feminist. The “Wrecking Ball” singer says the confidence she has in herself is an example to other young women. “I feel like I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women to not be scared of anything,” Cyrus said in an interview with BBC 1 Radio. “I’m a feminist in the way that I’m really empowering to women.”
If John Legend had his way, all men would be feminists. The “All of Me” singer expressed his feelings when he announced he would be a part of The Sound of Change Live concert last year. Proceeds from the event, which also featured Beyonce and Florence & the Machine, went to Chime for Change, a charity which raises funds to improve the lives of women worldwide. “All men should be feminists. If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place,” said Legend. “We are better off when women are empowered — it leads to a better society.”
It took a while for Taylor Swift to embrace the word “feminist.” It took some help from her friend “Girls” creator Lena Dunham before the “Shake It Off” singer started humming a different tune. “What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men,” Swift said in the “Guardian.” And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means. For so long it’s been made to seem like something where you’d picket against the opposite sex, whereas it’s not about that at all.”
Lena Dunham is a proud feminist and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out why she was able to change Taylor Swift’s opinion so easily. “Do you believe that women should be paid the same for doing the same jobs,” the “Girls” creator asked in an interview with the U.K.’s “Metro.” “Do you believe that women should be allowed to leave the house? Do you think that women and men both deserve equal rights? Great, then you’re a feminist.”
Gabrielle Union has lent her star power to numerous causes but few have been near and dear to her heart as the work Planned Parenthood does for young women. She lent her support to the group after the organization was under backlash and in danger of having funding slashed. “The way people are focusing now on Planned Parenthood is like they are taking one piece and deciding that the whole thing is bad,” the “Being Mary Jane” star said. “One in five women will visit a Planned Parenthood. We cannot eliminate the funding. It doesn’t make good business sense, it doesn’t make moral sense or health sense.”
Amy Poehler gets why a lot of people may have a problem embracing the word “feminism” but she hasn’t let it stop her from empowering females. The “Parks & Recreations” star created the web series “Smart Girls at the Party.” The show broadcasts interviews with young women who are changing the world by being themselves. Poehler also created a website of the same name that offers online help to those looking to cultivate their true selves.
In no way, shape or form is Nicki Minaj the stereotypical feminist but the Young Money rapper has been vocal about female empowerment. She addressed the symbolism featured in her “Anaconda” video with “GQ” magazine. “I’m chopping up the banana,” she explained. “Did you realize that? At first I’m being sexual with the banana, and then it’s like, ‘Ha-ha, no.’ That was important for us to show in the kitchen scene, because it’s always about the female taking back the power. If you want to be flirty and funny that’s fine, but always keeping the power and the control in everything.”
At just nine years old, Emma Watson won the role of Hermoine Granger in the blockbuster “Harry Potter” franchise and turned into an international star overnight. Since growing up and becoming a woman, the English born actress has used her fame to fight for gender equality. This past September, Watson spoke at United Nations and unveiled the campaign HeForShe, which aims to recruit men to become advocated for gender equality.
Jennifer Aniston has accomplished a lot in her career but she’s always asked about when she’ll have children. Aniston is adamant on not having her worth as a woman measured by motherhood. “I’d talked to [Steinem] personally about this for a while, just because it is such an issue of, like, ‘Are you married yet? Are you going to have your babies yet?'” Aniston said to “Today.” “I don’t have this sort of checklist of things that have to be done, and… if they’re not checked, then I’ve failed some part of my feminism or my being a woman or my worth and my value as a woman because I haven’t birthed a child. I’ve birthed a lot of things, and I feel like I’ve mothered many things. And I don’t feel like it’s fair to put that pressure on people.”
Ellen Page’s big break came when she starred in the independent coming of age film “Juno.” The Canadian actress had her own coming of age experience when she stood in front of Time to THRIVE, a conference to promote the welfare of LGBT young people, and announced she was gay earlier this year. Page is a proud feminist and does not shirk away from the strong feelings the word elicits. “But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word,” she asked. “Feminism always gets associated with being a radical movement – good. It should be. A lot of what the radical feminists [in the 1970s] were saying, I don’t disagree with it.”
The film “Thelma & Louise” had an affect on a lot of people, none more than the star of the movie Geena Davis herself. A lot of people were up in arms watching two women strapped with guns ride off into the sunset with each other even though it was over a cliff. Davis was inspired to become a feminist and after noticing that children’s programming starred a majority of male characters, she vowed to change that. In 2007 she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2004, which works collaboratively with the entertainment industry to dramatically increase the presence of female characters in media aimed at children and to reduce stereotyping of females by the male-dominated industry.
Not all proud card-carry feminists are women. Joseph Gordon-Levitt spoke up about why he’s in favor of gender equality shortly after Ellen Page unveiled the HeForShe campaign. The “3rd Rock From The Sun” star talked about the myth of men and women being equal in today’s society: “I’m no expert, but I think the facts are pretty contrary to this, and I think that if you actually look at the evidence of, like, salaries for women versus salaries for men, at least in the United States, there’s still a definite disparity and that’s just one of many examples.”