If being a feminist is about action and inclusion, the definition of feminism must be fluid. In recent years, the debate over what feminism means has become more urgent as feminism became a more visible part of the cultural conversation. Here are 13 times celebrities have absolutely nailed what it means to be a feminist, even if this definition isn't entirely fixed. There is no concrete way to define the ideology, but there are certain ideals many agree to be central to feminism, like inclusivity and equality.
Women working in the entertainment industry have a lot of visibility, and are therefore often at the forefront of major society-wide conversations. These actors, directors, and writers have been asked questions about their personal relationship often in the past couple of years, and their thoughts are often insightful. When feminism first started to move into the mainstream cultural discussion and reporters asked celebrity women whether they identified as a feminist, a few dodged the question. There was a strange taboo around the term, but this has since been broken.
Luckily, the conversation has shifted to how women's work intersects with feminism. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have amounted to a major change in Hollywood. For this reason, discussions about feminism and what it means will likely continue to evolve.
Here are some quotes from celebs that offer a sense of what feminism can mean:
"I mean, it's totally not about me. It's about all the women who may not have the opportunities that I have, all the privileges that I have," Lorde said in the above interview with 60 Minutes. "It's about trying to fight for better conditions and better treatment of all women, whether that be trans women, or women of color, or women in professions that don't get a lot of respect. That, to me, is what feminism is all about."
2. Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams told BUST magazine:
"Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. I found working on The Daily Show that as soon as you say something about feminism, some people — not all men, but certainly a lot of conservative men — clench at the idea of there being an equal existence between people. It’s infuriating to me. If those men were women, and especially women of color, who lived in a society that every single day, whether subtly or overtly, reminded them that the world is not made for them, then they would be upset, to."
3. Greta Gerwig
“In the films I’ve made and the films I hope to make, I hope that there’s a 16-year-old girl watching them, saying, ‘She’s got it all wrong, I’ve gotta make my own!’” Greta Gerwig told Dazed, speaking about artists who aren't men. She continued:
“That it sort of gives a passport to whoever the next group of artists are. I still get infuriated when I look at lists, not just of filmmakers, but of musicians, novelists, painters, and it’s just, ‘Guy, guy, guy, guy.’ I love so many of them, but I want more. I want more of my gender expressing what it means to them to be alive.”
4. Emma Watson
"When I heard myself being called a ‘white feminist’ I didn’t understand (I suppose I proved their case in point). What was the need to define me—or anyone else for that matter—as a feminist by race? What did this mean? Was I being called racist? Was the feminist movement more fractured than I had understood? I began panicking," Emma Watson wrote in a newsletter to her book club, according to W Magazine.
"It would have been more useful to spend the time asking myself questions like: What are the ways I have benefited from being white? In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist? How do my race, class and gender affect my perspective? There seemed to be many types of feminists and feminism. But instead of seeing these differences as divisive, I could have asked whether defining them was actually empowering and bringing about better understanding. But I didn’t know to ask these questions."
5. Rowan Blanchard
"My first definition of feminism was so small: Men and women should be equal. And maybe that’s how you have to learn it, so that it can be more accessible. But then I started discovering Audre Lorde and Angela Davis and all of these intricacies of feminism that were not being presented to me by these white feminist ‘icons.’ It was only then that I realized how deep it is and how it’s more about undoing these walls that we have built around marginalized people — it’s not just about women and men. It’s the fact that the walls for me are different than the walls for Amandla Sternberg,"
She also told the publication that that she now defined feminism as: "Undoing patriarchal structures against marginalized people — structures that fight against people of color, that fight against women, that fight against disabled people, that fight against LGBTQ".
6. Tracee Ellis Ross
“I think I had a sort of peripheral relationship to it,” Ross said at the Marie Claire's Power Trip conference in 2016, according to The Cut. “Everyone thought feminism was a dirty word, and I never really understood why. It means you believe in the equality for everyone. If you look back at what I believe and what I stand for, I am certainly a proud feminist."
“I put the definition of feminist in my song and on my tour, not for propaganda or to proclaim to the world that I’m a feminist, but to give clarity to the true meaning,” Beyoncé told Elle after performing in front of the word "feminist" at the VMAs. “I’m not really sure people know or understand what a feminist is, but it’s very simple. It’s someone who believes in equal rights for men and women.”
8. Maisie Williams
"I got asked in one of my first interviews: Is Arya a feminist? I didn’t even know what a feminist was. And then someone explained it to me. And I remember thinking, 'Isn’t that just like everyone?' And then I realized everyone is not a feminist, unfortunately," Maisie Williams told Entertainment Weekly in an interview about redefining feminism. "But I also feel like we should stop calling feminists 'feminists' and just start calling people who aren’t feminist 'sexist' — and then everyone else is just a human. You are either a normal person or a sexist."
9. Amandla Sternberg
Amandla Sternberg, an actress and social activist told Interview Magazine in 2016:
"I often times receive the question, 'What do you think is the most important social issue to focus on?' Or, 'What’s the most important component of identity? Is it gay rights or race or feminism?' And I’m like, 'Well, they’re all intertwined. It’s all one conversation at the end of the day. You can’t just pick one. I mean, people experience all kinds of prejudice because of all different parts of themselves."
10. Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay told Makers the following, when asked if she identified as a feminist:
"I think a feminist, really simply, is anyone--man or woman--who believes in equality of the sexes. So I am, proudly. I'm also a womanist. Which is a feminist slant from a woman of color point of view, which has different nuances and angles. I've heard of people saying, 'I don't want to be defined as a woman filmmaker,' or 'I don't want to be defined as a black filmmaker.' All good with me. But I want to be defined as a black woman filmmaker, because that's the lens through which I am working. That is my gaze. I'm proud of it. I don't feel like it's any less or limiting. I'm a black woman filmmaker and my films are just as valid as the white man filmmaker and whoever else."
11. Roxane Gay
"We’ve seen a lot of it lately, in the past two or three years. Feminism has become more popular, which I think is fantastic. We’ve even seen major celebrities embracing feminism and talking about it, which I also think is incredible. I think they are a great gateway to feminism," Roxane Gay told PBS after the election. "But some people stop at the gateway, and just say “Oh, I’m a feminist,” and just decide feminism is anything related to women. Like: “Oh, a woman has a job, oh, well she’s a feminist.” And it’s deeper than that, it’s richer than that, and we don’t talk about that a lot."
12. Yara Shahidi
"What’s so amazing is seeing young girls empowered in STEM fields because there is an overwhelming lack of a female presence. I feel like it’s so important that somebody’s love or interest in STEM isn’t squashed by this idea that, ‘Well, I’m not a man, this is not appropriate for a woman'," Yara Shahidi told the LA Times about why representation matters and her STEM initiative.
13. Amber Tamblyn
"Feminism? The word itself means exactly the same thing to me as the word God does—it's a spirituality that is deeply personal, deeply subjective, and deeply no one else's business," Amber Tamblyn said in an interview with Glamour Magazine. "You can identify the word however you want, it's just the non-exploration of it that is unacceptable to me."
Celebrities have a unique opportunity to lead the conversation about feminism, and these quotes show how their own perspectives have evolved and developed over the past few years. There may not be a catch-all definition for feminism, and that's important, but there do seem to be similar threads in the discourse. Each person will have their own definition, but intersectionality, inclusivity, equality, and action are tenants central to many peoples concept of feminism. By having these conversations, celebs can help feminism continue to evolve for the better on a personal and societal scale.