11 celebrities that spoke out for gender equality in 2014

I decided I was a feminist in college. I wouldn’t necessarily have said I wasn’t one before that, but I made my active choice when somehow losing my school uniform meant that the world now thought it knew me, knew what was best for me, owned me. Because apparently it’s fine for random men to comment on my body, call me anorexic or tell me to ‘cheer up’. It’s fine to isolate the female minority in Physics class by making sexist jokes and defending it as ‘banter’ (oh you Privileged White Boys, you’re so edgy!). It’s fine that the media feeds us all this idea of how men and women should look and act. It shouldn’t be.

So the fact that so many big names have gone against the grain this year and spoken out against the damage of sexism is awesome. Here are a few of my favourites. (I’m not ranking, because ranking by who believes men and women are equal the most seems weird and kind of arbitrary.)

Emma Watson

“We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.

If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.

Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.”

The HeForShe Campaign Launch, UN Headquarters

In many ways, Emma has been the ripple that caused a wave. Standing up on such a public platform to reach out to men everywhere was incredibly brave, enough to make Feminism a trending topic on Facebook and to encourage guys to show that they are with us.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt

“A lot of people who don’t identify with that word feel like that word is somehow against motherhood. Personally, I don’t take it that way. For me as a feminist, it should be up to the woman to decide if she wants to be a mom … if that’s what she wants to do full time, that’s awesome, that’s what my mom did. But if she wants to go out and have a career apart from being a mom, then she should be able to do that as well, and that’s to the benefit of everybody.”

The HitRECord Youtube Channel

This will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen his directoral debut, Don Jon. JGL has spoken out this year about his feminist upbringing, proving once again that respect and empathy are very attractive traits.

 

Beyoncé

“We have a lot of work to do, but we can get there if we work together. Women are more than 50 percent of the population and more than 50 percent of voters. We must demand that we all receive 100 percent of the opportunities.”

The Shriver Report

A lot of people have criticised Beyonce for giving off mixed messages by proudly coming out as a feminist and then doing pop queen stuff (dancing provocatively, degrading lyrics etc). I feel the same way about this as I do about Disney’s Mulan: it may not be anyone’s idea of ‘ideal feminism’, but it’s a big step in the right direction. It’s a lot of pressure to hold one person up to such high standards, especially as everybody defines the word differently. Plus it has to be said that there are racial double standards when Madonna doing raunch is ‘liberating’ but Beyonce doing the same is ‘degrading’.

 

Malala Yousafzai

“I always loved learning and discovering new things. I remember when my friends and I would decorate our hands with henna on special occasions. And instead of drawing flowers and patterns we would paint our hands with mathematical formulas and equations.

We had a thirst for education, we had a thirst for education because our future was right there in that classroom. We would sit and learn and read together. We loved to wear neat and tidy school uniforms and we would sit there with big dreams in our eyes. We wanted to make our parents proud and prove that we could also excel in our studies and achieve those goals, which some people think only boys can.”

Nobel Prize Lecture

Really, you should just read her Nobel Peace Prize speech in its entirety.

 

Mindy Kaling

“As [Kaling] stood by the banquettes, a tipsy man in his 80s cornered her and showered her with compliments, apparently mistaking her for Malala Yousafzai. “Congratulations on your Nobel Prize,” he said, before expressing wonder at how well she had recovered from Taliban gunshots.

Ms. Kaling was speechless. “Did he really think I’m Malala?” she said when he was safely out of sight. “And that if I were, I’d be at the Boom Boom Room?”

The New York Times

Mindy Kaling has always used her most powerful tool to tackle sexism and racism in the film industry: humour. The Mindy Project has entered its third season and Kaling continues to dazzle, winning Glamour‘s Woman of the Year and gracing the cover of Elle for its annual Women in TV issue.

 

Aziz Ansari

“If you do believe that mean and women have equal rights, if someone asks if you’re a feminist you have to say yes. Because that is how words work. You can’t be like ‘Oh yeah, I’m a doctor that primarily does diseases of the skin.’ ‘Oh so you’re a dermatologist?’ ‘Oh no that’s way too aggressive a word, no not at all.'”

The Late Show with David Letterman

So Aziz Ansari came out on Letterman as a feminist this year. And he has a point.

 

Amy Poehler

“[Autobiography title Yes Please] came out of my improvisational training; when someone offers you something onstage, you say yes to it. Saying yes to things got me pretty much everything I have. Saying yes is the reason I am where I am.”

Good Housekeeping

This year Amy released an autobiography, begun winding down her award-winning comedy series Parks and Recreation and co-hosted the Golden Globes with her old SNL castmate Tina Fey for the second year in a row (and will be back again for a final time in 2015). And if that’s not enough, she’s been dropping cracking interviews all over the shop.

 

Anna Kendrick

“[Feminism] is a very female-centric word. I understand that the implication is that “I’m a woman who supports women” and not “I’m a person who supports gender equality.” I feel like the word can be appropriated by the wrong people for that reason and misinterpreted by those people, but you just have to fight back and own that word. It’s practically become a curse word. Somebody says, “Oh, you’re being such a feminist,” and you’re supposed to be like, “No I’m not.” Why are we afraid of that word? It exists and we can’t get rid of it, so let’s fight for it and embrace it. That is truly a bummer.”

The Daily Beast

Though the UK will have to wait until 2015 to see Disney’s adaptation of Into the Woods, we can bide time by enjoying discussion of Anna Kendrick’s portrayal of a, shall we say, less Prince-reliant Cinderella. Picking up the Sondheim musical was a risky move from a studio that made its millions on happy endings, but not so for Kendrick, whose star power is increasing by the minute.

 

Daniel Radcliffe

[On whether he sought out scripts with rounded roles across the cast] “Well, on more than one film I’ve persuaded people to build up the female roles.

There are certainly more female writers now than there were but the fact remains, most female parts are written by men. At least there are so many more female directors, producers and directors of photography [DOP] now.

I worked with an amazing DOP last year, Reed Morano, who did Kill Your Darlings, and what she did for that film was amazing. I think – I hope – the film industry is becoming a lot more balanced.”

Stylist Magazine

Daniel Radcliffe has been on a roll this year! And not just for stretching himself across two completely different genres including romantic comedy (What If) and fantasy horror (Horns). When interviewed he gives the impression of being a very pensive, observant guy, and he certainly hasn’t been afraid to discuss Hollywood’s problem with women.

 

Jennifer Lawrence

“It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting.”

Vanity Fair

Who were the victims of the apple cloud attack? Women. Because for a man to be pictured naked is not a story, but for a woman to be pictured naked is apparently shameful. We already had Jennifer’s heart and soul captured on film for the world to see but still we demanded her body. Those that viewed the pictures attempted to excuse themselves by placing the blame at her feet and insisting she should have known better than to send those photos anyway. They should be ashamed of themselves for resorting to victim-blaming to cover their asses. The only small consolation to emerge from this attack has been the conversation it has provoked and Lawrence’s powerful riposte.

 

Ellen Page

“The other day a website ran an article with a picture of me wearing sweatpants on the way to the gym. And the writer asked ‘Why does this petite beauty insist upon dressing like a massive man?’. Because I like to be comfortable. There are pervasive stereotypes about masculinity and femininity that define how we’re all supposed to act, dress and speak and they serve no-one. Anyone who defies these so-called ‘norms’ is worthy of comment and scrutiny, and the LGBT community knows this all too well.”

Human Rights Campaign’s Time to THRIVE conference

Though we celebrated the first gay marriages in the UK this year, seeing Ellen Page stand nervously at that platform and declare her sexuality to the world was a welcome reminder that we still have so far to go before we reach universal LGBT acceptance. She came out to give courage to others that feel unable to do so, and to those that suffer because of their sexual orientation. And in doing so, we take one more small step into what is hopefully a more tolerant and open-minded world.

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On why Summer is no Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

(500) Days of Summer is my favourite film. I get a lot of stick when I tell people that. Old-school romantics hate (500) for its assertion that we can grow as people through our relationships, even if they aren’t made to last; feminist bloggers just hate our protagonist Tom’s unrequited love interest Summer.

I want to stick up for Summer, because I don’t think she is the product of lazy writing. With a screenplay as smart as this, no line that drops from a character’s mouth is accidental. So why is it that, aside from the small hints dropped that betray a deeper, more conflicted Summer (her dream confession to Tom, her distress on watching the ending of The Graduate), there seems to be so little to her beyond her general kookiness?

One word: perspective. This particular story happens to be told from the perspective of Tom. A male protagonist in the world of romantic comedies is still a relatively rare occurance, and so provides a contrasting POV to your standard run-of-the-mill Katherine Heigl flick. So, let’s analyse Tom as a character.

Tom believes in true love. He believes that when he meets ‘the one’, his life will be given purpose and therefore he will be complete. He works for Clark Gregg as a greetings card writer (hello, novelty movie job!) though his real passions lie elsewhere, in architecture. Tom also happens to be pretty selfish, though you might not have noticed. I’ll let Joseph Gordon-Levitt explain:

“I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character to watch it again and examine how selfish he is. He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies. He thinks she’ll give his life meaning because he doesn’t care about much else going on in his life… That’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person, not the actual person.”

Is it any surprise that Summer wouldn’t want to be with a guy that treats her as an accessory with which to complete himself? A guy that seems to display no interest in her own life plans? A guy that talks about her as a set of pretty features and quirks?

“I’m in love with Summer. I love her smile. I love her hair. I love her knees.”

That’s very sweet Tom, but is there anything beyond the superficial that-

“I love this heart-shaped mark she has on her neck.I love the way she sometimes licks her lips before she talks.  I love the sound of her laugh. I love the way she looks when she’s sleeping.”

I guess not.

Over the course of the movie, Tom comes to two realisations: A) He can’t put his happiness in the hands of anyone else; he needs to take control and find it himself, and B) His fantasy woman does not exist. While he starts the film believing that Summer will swoop in and save him, ultimately she doesn’t. She gets on with her own life. Does her rejection then give him the motivation needed to pick himself back up and set out on the right path? Yes. And that’s how life works: shit happens and we try to learn from it.

So stop calling Summer a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Summer doesn’t fit the MPDG mould. She breaks it.