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#HeforShe at The Party

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This year at the Oscars, despite the lack of racial and gender diversity in the Best Director category, the #AskHerMore hashtag influenced discourse on the red carpet, with journalists being prompted to ask female nominees not just about the designer dresses they wore but more about their artistic craft, and their process as professionals in bringing characters to life on the screen.

Prompted in part by key hashtags and viral GIFs like Cate Blanchett’s response to the tilt-up roving camera at the 2014 SAG awards red carpet ceremony, “Do you do that to the guys?” the Interwebs have been generating dynamic global conversations about the ways gender plays out in pop culture, politics, education and language.
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Emma Watson, millennial icon of the Harry Potter series, and now Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, has taken her #HeforShe campaign to expansive forums with a huge positivity response online that includes vocal support from President Obama, Actor/Activist Matt Damon and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.

Watson’s #HeforShe address at United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 20, 2014 has garnered over 1.5 million views on YouTube:

Her January 2015 update on the success of the campaign at Davos revealed some mind-blowing results… “the #HeforShe conference was watched over 11 million times, sparking 1.2 billion social media conversations and the #HeforShe hashtag becoming so popular Twitter painted it on the walls of its headquarters…” indicating the global readiness for an cross-gendered conversation about equality for women and girls, and proving how influential key celebrities can be to the success of campaigns for social change, especially when their involvement resonates with integrity.

Watson has received criticism about her position of privilege as a white wealthy feminist, which has been levied toward feminists since the 70s Second Wave, calling for a much-needed discussions of diversity and the ways gender inequality affects individuals and communities along racial lines. She has used her social media channels to promote dialogue with her characteristic thoughtfulness.

While it’s clear that these and other well-known and admired women are using their influence to take a stand on these issues, the difference in the recent discourse is that men are willingly joining in and aligning themselves with the cause of feminism, including comedians as diverse as Aziz Ansari, W. Kamau Bell and Louis CK.
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As Rebecca Solnit pointed out recently in Huffington Post,

The arrival of the guys signifies a sea change, part of an extraordinary year for feminism, in which the conversation has been transformed, as have some crucial laws, while new voices and constituencies joined in. There have always been men who agreed on the importance of those women’s issues, and some who spoke up, but never in such numbers or with such effect. And we need them. So consider this a watershed year for feminism.

In an era of #Gamergate death threats for feminists like Anita Saarkesian, who took on the violence towards women embedded in gaming culture through her Feminist Frequency web series; Boko Haram raids on schoolgirls in Nigeria (#BringBackOurGirls), and gang rape in India, the alliance is crucial to a necessary global evolutionary shift in consciousness. Equality is key to the survival of our species.
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Some have used unusually creative ways to amplify awareness about previously buried issues like campus rape by putting themselves into the public eye and leaping over enculturated shame to do so. Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University who asserts she was assaulted on campus by a fellow student, is protesting the outcome of a trial where charges were dropped, by carry­ing a mattress around campus until her assailant is expelled. Her performance art which went viral, has spurred the debate about administrative cover-ups and inspired solidarity support by men and women around the world, including those who have volunteered for “collective carries” to assist with her burden which she plans to carry until she graduates this year.

As a result of these and other impact stories, the Obama administration recently launched a campaign to get bystanders, particularly men, to reach out to protect potential victims of sexual assault under the rubric “It’s On Us” with videos featuring “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm; Kerry Washington of “Scandal,” “Nashville”’s Connie Britton and NBA player Kevin Love.

All kinds of celebrities have been aligning themselves with Feminism of late: from Beyoncé’s light show at the 2014 VMAs,
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to the #RealMenDontBuyGirls campaign spearheaded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore:
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to big-name supporters of Planned Parenthood and NARAL:
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to entire Tumblr blogs devoted to Feminist Men like “Hey Girl“‘s homage to Ryan Gosling:
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What have you seen in the shift in the conversation about gender equality? Has it impacted recent party conversation and spurred breakthrough awareness and activism? Do you see hope for cultural evolution through these kinds of celebrity collaborations and story-sharing online?

(#HeforShe photo @simonpegg)




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  1. Peta Mni

    I was raised by strong feminists, mother+grandmother+sister, who even though they didn’t use the F word to describe themselves still lived and embodied the ideals of equality. In turn my value of and appreciation for women has always been high. My father also, has always referred to himself as a Feminist, and crafted his vocation in direct support to women’s success. So for me the current campaigns of #HeForShe etc are more of a “finally!” then a revelation, but no matter. I’m thrilled it’s happening. I followed closely the shift towards a renewed Feminist movement over the last year and took part in the #YesAllWomen campaign. I began utilizing the hashtag amongst friends and saw it being used more widely within my networks. Definitely there were incredible conversations and insights shared about the experiences of women in everyday life. I learned a lot and argued a lot too with people I thought we ready to evolve on the issue. All in all though I’d say that I learned far more by being an ally and companion for my female friends on nights out in NYC. The amount of harassment my friends were subjected to and identified as “typical” really incised me. It’s far worse than I imagined. Going forward I believe we need to start teaching concepts of equity to the young and most impressionable if we are ever going to see significant change. As such I work with youth to address issues related to rape culture and discrimination. For adults just starting this work, regardless of gender identity, I suggest their taking part in an Empowered Bystander training and begin practicing daily. Lastly, I encourage women to run for public office and take leadership roles whenever possible as we need their voices, abilities and guidance to succeed in our addressing 21st Century challenges.

  2. R.Stauffer

    I confess: I’ve been waiting for this week’s topic since I first saw it on the syllabus. Looking forward to an interesting discussion!

    I knew there had been a fantastic wave of feminism, and even more importantly, equality movements lately, but I didn’t realize quite how huge it’s been until I saw it condensed together in this post. The greatest shift I have seen amongst my peers is that it is, by and large, a positive thing to speak up for equality, whereas before, it was seen as unladylike, unimportant, and as Emma Watson points out, unattractive.

    Her speech, in particular, presented feminism in a light I don’t think many people around my age (not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m twenty-one) hadn’t previously considered: It isn’t a woman’s issue. It is a solidarity movement that, ideally, would benefit both genders. It has nothing to do with man-hating or even woman-domination. A friend of mine said to me recently: “I want to fall in love and wear cute clothes AND be a boss at my job.” I think approaching it this way offers opportunity for both genders to decide fully who and what they want to be without the limitations of stereotyping. It gives us the power of choice over our own identities. Aside from just ethically and morally being a good human being, there is no “right” way to be a girl, and no “right” way to be a guy.

    #AskMeMore was something I was really curious to see play out at the Oscars—I love the premise, and I absolutely believe we need to ask women about their work. But I also had to explain to my fourteen-year-old sister that you can be excited to wear a gorgeous gown AND want to talk about your craft. I love seeing actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Emma Stone challenge simple questions—because they can handle complex ones.

    I wish something like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party had existed when I was younger. There are so many good points about stereotyped marketing. I used to teach pre-ballet, and one of my fondest memories is when a little girl (probably around age five) came into class in her tiny pink ballet outfit…and a black Batman cape. This child was absolutely baffled when another kid pointed out that Batman was “a boy costume.” To her, it was just a costume that she liked—not an issue of gender. Come to find out, this girl’s mother frequently bought her Barbies and Legos.

    Given a celebrity’s impact on our culture, I certainly hope they continue to be outspoken regarding gender equality…whether it is right or wrong, celebrities play a monumental role in cultural trends and examples, so by continuing to share stories (and frankly, making hashtags like #HeForShe and #AskHerMore cool to use) they broaden the dialogue. It’s amazing—and comforting—to watch people realize that equality is probably one of the keys to overall human happiness.

    What about “Like a Girl?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs#t=118

  3. Kathleen Sweeney

    Great examples #YesAllWomen and #LikeAGirl! It’s inspiring me to write a Part Two post! Because the examples really are cascading! And I’d have to include “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” a PSA made for Hollaback! on street harassment (and produced by a man, Rob Bliss). It has been viewed on YouTube over 39 million times. It brought an empathy quotient to a situation well-known to women. Many men were unaware of just how often it happens. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1XGPvbWn0A

  4. Adrienne S

    These type of stories bring joy to me. I love that these women and men are comfortable talking about this issue. One of the big things about celbrities speaking out about gender equality is the large fanbase that will be made aware of the issues at hand. However, one of the most concerning things is the backlash that often follows these high profile women who identify as feminists. For example, Annie Lennox referred to Beyoncé as “feminist lite”, citing her twerking as something that does not fit in with the image of feminism. (http://bust.com/annie-lennox-calls-beyonce-feminist-lite-and-why-we-should-all-support-each-other.html) What part of the feminist rule book outlawed twerking? The idea of feminism is that all women should be treated equal, yet some find the need to clarify what makes someone a “true feminist”.

    One of the more ignorant movements has been titled the “meninist” movement, where men attempt to gain equality that they already have. The hashtag “notallmen” emerged from this movement, trying to distinguish the “nice guys” from those who oppress women, while using sexist language.

    Overall, I don’t think these people cancel out the good that the movement is doing. I have seen young girls bloom with confidence because their idols told them that they mattered. I don’t think ignorance can stop this movement.

    • Roderic David

      Because all things come back to Beyonce, I actually wrote a blog post about being somewhat of a closet feminist after shortly after she released her surprise album.
      http://rodericdavid.com/post/84847969342/what-beyonce-taught-me-about-feminism

      A lot of people have slammed Beyonce and other similar celebrities for not fitting in with feminist images, and I completely agree with your point that there is no one things that make someone a feminist. But in a way, I’m glad this happens because it opens up a great opportunity for people to discuss what feminism really is about and not the antiquated imagery of feminism.

      Similarly, I’ve come across a lot of criticism on social media of the #HeForShe movement, one tweet in particular is here: https://twitter.com/kaireortiz/status/575297806505742337

      I do think that there is some validity to her points, and that current discussion on feminism doesn’t always seem to include women of all ethnicities and sock-econmic backgrounds. However, I don’t think HeForShe is driven purely for commercial gain. I think we’ve reached a point in society where have men who not only genuinely support the rights of women, but are willing to speak up for them and I think that it’s absolutely a great sight to see.

      • Jacqueline

        I’m in agreement here. My sister is studying Human Rights in grad school and she slams Beyonce constantly for not being a ‘real’ feminist. I can’t say I agree or disagree, but to your last point, I think that anyone who speaks up for the ideals of feminism is taking a step in the right direction. Even if you can’t agree that the person embodies feminism 100 percent, I still think that it’s important to appreciate the gesture.

  5. bill ritter

    i love emma watson!
    i was lucky enough to come of age not just during the anti-vietnam war movement, but during the birth of the women’s movement. the college where i spent 4 years, san diego state university, was home to the first-in-the-nation women’s studies program, and i was involved – educationally and personally – with many of the students and teachers who were on the front lines of this fledgling program. i bring this up because i felt i was given a gift, growing into adulthood by walking hand in hand with strong feminists. at the time the debate and the challenge was far different than the thrust of what emma watson says in her two video clips we see above.

    instead, the conundrum was whether politically radical women (feminists) could even work with men to achieve social justice. it was not just a rhetorical debate. there were many women who absolutely believed that the only path to justice was a singular gender focus, that women had to separate from men – politically, socially, personally, romantically and sexually. many a friendship and many a marriage broke up over this divisive issue

    for most of guys (and i too was raised with incredibly strong women – and men – as role models), we completely understood the separatist line of thinking. but we embraced the he-for-she approach, although we didn’t call it that back then. (in fact, i think we would have been called sexist pigs for even using that mantra, because purists would have said something to the effect, “hey, we don’t need you men to help us become liberated. we need to get that on our own, otherwise it isn’t really liberation.”)
    flash forward 45 years and much has changed indeed. but not everything. much media still denigrates and objectifies women, and as the dad to 2 daughters, i’m very much tuned in to the sexist images they (and my son) are exposed to. (i think, adrienne, that’s what annie lennox was referring to when she criticized beyonce, although i agree with you there’s really no feminist rulebook.) and the wage disparity for the same work issue is still obscene and wrong. the gap is closing, yes, but it’s still a gap. and there’s no good reason for there to be any gap.

    but it won’t close on its own. so good for emma watson. and now i understand why so many people are politically smitten with her. she, like sheryl sandberg, is breaking the mold of her class, and speaking out on something she certainly could stay silent about. or could she? clearly, she can’t.
    really inspiring.

  6. Kathleen Sweeney

    These conversations are breaking some of the taboos that had developed around identity alignments with the word “feminist.” Truthfully, I thought that the millennial era would morph up a new term and we’d witness it fading away like “suffragette” (except for Bowie)…but this re-framing process has been intriguing. And for men who have been closeted feminists for a long time but unable to find a place in the movement except in their own families and relationships (which has been an important locus of gender evolution), the emergence of the inclusive umbrella is welcome, and means that public policy can go deeper. What Emma Watson and others have realized is that it cannot be a women’s liberation movement without men being involved to address privilege and acknowledge disparities where they exist at the institutional level. And that is definitely happening. (though not without backlash…hello de-funding Planned Parenthood…)

    And it is really inspiring. The issue of “hardcore” or “lite” feminism goes back to discussions of “clicktivism” or armchair social change: there will always be those who go the ninth mile with levels of dedication and those who play it differently, but contribute also to mainstreaming long-term change. All are welcome in the conversation. Who are we to judge Beyoncé’s feminism when she also brings in voices like the incredible Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche? Check out her Tedx “We Should All Be Feminists” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg3umXU_qWc. Power to Queen Bey for introducing her audience to this type of discourse.

  7. Rachel Weidinger

    Such an interesting discussion this week! I think the #HeForShe campaign was very powerful and initially raised a driving international awareness among society. I think it’s particularly interesting when Emma Watson mentions that society knows that the “ground is fertile” – meaning that there is a great understanding that women need to be equal to men. We need to not only target women to stand up, but to galvanize men for change. I think there is too large of a preconceived notion of feminists being too aggressive. I think it’s important to realize that you don’t have to be aggressive to promote feminism – meaning, that you don’t have to get into people’s faces and bring about angry or negative emotions in order to persuade others to hear you. It’s about putting forth effort to make this social change well known and encouraging others, as well as yourself, to change current mindsets.

    Social media channels have made it incredibly easy for individuals to connect with each other and have discussions through a simple hashtag or two. Like a student said earlier, I also didn’t realize the level of severity regarding this issue. I think painting a picture of the issue as well as transferring it on social media is what really makes a difference. This ongoing feminist conversation has really worked to alter discussions and identifications in society. Nowadays, people are more cautious by checking in with their actions and words to make sure that they are being equal to both genders, regardless of current biases.

    One PSA centering on Domestic Violence recently caught my attention. I thought this was a brilliant ad in terms of changing the perspectives of an ongoing viral conversation of the dress; black and blue or white and gold? They used the colors to help the viewers visualize the rising abuse of domestic violence. They brought these colors to life in the ad, making the situation appear all the more realistic and serious. The hashtag associated with this conversation, #TheDress, has been transferred through several different channels, making it a global conversation. I think this is key to build international awareness and engagements of serious issues, only taking seconds to initiate the discussion through a hashtag.

  8. Jacqueline

    Absolutely there has been a shift in the way we look at gender equality, especially in the last few years, I’d say. I think one of the most powerful things about the internet as we know it is the ability to express your opinion and have it become widely known. This is ten times more true when it comes to celebrities speaking out f or causes they care about, and I think that the issues with gender equality have come to the forefront so much lately. What’s most interesting about this, as the article points out, is the diversity of celebrities that have taken a stance to promote feminism. There is so much less stigma these days about feminism–it used to be thought that feminists were women who didn’t wear bras and hated men–while this certainly still exists, celebrity involvement is proof that feminism is so much more than that.

    Even I’m not sure I completely understand what feminism IS all the time, since the definition seems to be evolving. This is a good thing. As times change, issues change, and the way we tackle topics needs to as well. I think it’s good to have these definitions shift as time goes on since we need to adjust to the world we live in constantly. The same goes for related topics like human rights, civil rights, labor laws, etc.

  9. Zoe Taraz

    This is a subject that is has long been taboo and been swept under the rug. A key issue is that the word feminism has gotten a bad rap. Many people associate the word with hating on/disliking men. They might be embarrassed to be associated with it and still associate images of burning their bras with the word. Thats why I feel it is even more important that Emma Watson and Sheryl Sandberg have brought the conversation to the forefront and within a new light. Both celebrated and respected figures they are reimagining the conversation and reframing it in the lense of equality and rights. In addition, I think it is crucial that every one get on board and not make it a issue that divides but rather one that unites. This makes the Obama Administration’s “It’s On US” campaign especially crucial. Equality is a issue that everyone can get behind and I feel once old notions and stereotypes are shed it will be a issue everyone can progress forward.

    An issue that has become in the limelight recently is sexual harassment and rape on campuses. The numbers are astonishing and the processes to report injustices are longwinded and painful for victims. The way that administrations and other organizations sweep this issues under the rug dissuade many from receiving due justice. The way that Columbia Student Emma Sulkowicz protested by creating a visually explicit statement, brought the conversation to the forefront when traditional methods were simply not working. I feel as more people bring awareness and attention to the issues, the conversation will keep on growing and the inequality gap will continue to decrease.

  10. bill ritter

    zoe’s “bad rap” mention got me thinking. i wonder, appropros of the discussion of the dissing of the term/concept “feminism” – whether the definition has really changed as much as the public perception has. and i think it’s because the far right has been allowed to redefine and reframe the concept of feminism. and i don’t think the right is to blame; i think it’s those who believe in gender equality who are to blame. they have let the conservatives redefine the term/concept, just as conservatives have been allowed to redefine and reframe “liberal” as a 4-letter word. emma watson paraphrased edmond burke to make the same point i think: all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

    • Kathleen Sweeney

      You raise a great point about reacting to conservative spin. Outlets like FoxNews excel at inciting progressive/liberal buzz online which has often given their outrageous stories more heft and trending weight than would have been necessary had they ignored them. It’s a tricky terrain. Do you click and share or do you wait? This is where taking an in-breath before reacting and passing on a link can sometimes allow something that’s just plain craziness to die out. Would Sarah Palin have had a career without liberal response to her? (And this includes the incredibly parodies by Tina Fey on SNL which hilariously helped offset angst about her potential as a Vice Presidential candidate, but die raise Palin’s profile even further. And made Fey more famous at the same time!)

      This holds true for some of the more insane attacks on women’s reproductive freedom (read: Planned Parenthood) which somehow was defined as an “abortion clinic” by conservatives who managed to taint their mission, which is to provide health care services: (cancer screenings, counseling/education and birth control) to underserved women, especially young women without insurance. And that is what the majority of their funds provides. So much energy and resources of women’s rights non-profits has gone into fighting these mind games that continue to focus solely on abortion rights. What would happen if they channeled all of their resources into transforming policy in some out of the box innovative way, beyond reacting to the constant threat of sliver of the pie funding being eliminated? This may be another way to Lean In by leaning away from the manipulations of conservative threat.

  11. Jennifer Chien

    There has definitely been a huge shift in the conversations regarding gender equality. I have seen numerous celebrities getting more involved with feminism and taking action their own way in order to get the message across to the public. As well, jobs are showing that females are more likely to take the head role now over men and this shows a huge impact of how strongly gender equality is overcoming the challenges that was once seen impossible.

    I love the fact that #AskMeMore was implemented at the Oscars and really seeing a change in how the questions were asked towards women. It was always the generic questions regarding to fashion labels and possibly what routine regime they used in order to prep for the event but getting to really understand their work is a new theme that would make me more interested in seeing the pre-show for events if this keeps up!

  12. bill ritter

    i think the #askmemore was a great addition to the oscars. but to me it raised another issue – and geez i don’t want to sound like the “get off my lawn” guy – but if these beautiful actresses were so interested in on-air questioners asking them about something other than their appearance, then why do they spend so much time on their appearance? why not break the mold a bit and not be so glammed up? there is sometimes, it seems to me, a slight contradiction with people who are so concerned about their appearance (and yes i know they can argue it’s the industry’s pressure to look young and beautiful) insisting they want to also be known for something other than their appearance. this is just a side-avenue argument, and doesn’t diminish the thrust of the #askmemore campaign. but for me at least it’s something i think about it.

  13. Kathleen Sweeney

    Did you see Buzzfeed’s hilarious interviews with male stars like Kevin Spacey? They asked him about his hair, his manicure and if he was wearing Spanx: http://www.buzzfeed.com/erinlarosa/kevin-spacey-hilariously-answers-questions-that-fe#.iovLpl7GB
    And here’s the Elizabeth Moss reaction to E! entertainment’s “Mani-cam”: http://www.buzzfeed.com/whitneyjefferson/watch-elizabeth-moss-flip-off-es-mani-cam#.gjqy8ardg
    The point is the guys go glam too but the journalists focus on their work, their artistry much less than their appearance. Everybody gets dressed up for the ball…

    • bill ritter

      exactly my point… it sounds ridiculous when asking kevin spacey.. and yes the guys are dressed…(and he was hilarious) but not at the same level of glam as the women. i’m not trying to judge fashion one way or the other, my point was that it does in fact present a conundrum, especially for women. now, i know there is an argument that the looks shouldn’t matter and only the craft should be acknowledged. but we live in a screwed up society that values looks and so when some celebrities play to that, and become celebrities based on that, it’s a seeming contradiction to all of a sudden expect people to ignore the superficial and focus only on the substance. believe me i wish we lived in a society where that were the norm. but it’s not

  14. Michelle Quach

    I agree with everyone that noted the increasing shift within feminism and gender equality today. It’s a huge issue that is finally being confronted and I love that celebrities are taking a stand. Especially Emma Watson, she is such an inspiration! Everything she has done as well as being named an ambassador for the UN is incredible. The other day, I was watching an interview of her and she responded to one question saying that if you support gender equality, you are a feminist. I agree with her statement but wanted to point out her confidence in every thing she says especially when she knows it can be misinterpreted or controversial. Some celebrities hold back on things just so it doesn’t affect their publicity but with Watson, she is more concerned with her message.

    The fact that many celebrities are supporting either Watson’s HeForShe, Its on Us, or any other campaign is very important because we are influenced by them. In a world where teenagers mimic their favorite celebrity, it is a great way to steer them in the right direction in their earlier development stages. This way they are confidence in themselves to be who they want to be.

    The AskForMore questionnaire with Kevin Spacey was awesome and entertaining. I love the idea of asking men the same questions they would normally ask women at an awards shows. It was funny to see Spacey’s reactions to these gender bias questions.

  15. Karlin ready

    I believe celebrity endorsement has played a huge impact on gender equality. When Emma Watson spoke in front of the UN and brought the #heforshe speech to our awareness was epic. During this time I was in a cultures studies class and we spoke about it the whole class period. It’s somewhat sad to say that a celebrity influences what some of us watch but the fact that these influences are using their powers to raise social issues such as these is tremendously amazing. I believe if celebrities took the time out to raise these kind of awarenesses then the world would be. Better place. These celebrities are targeting the younger demographic who are the voices of the future. Their targeted demographic is key because they are the ones that control the future. I like Amy Pohlers quote about being yourself as well because sometimes the idea of equality can make one think woman have to act a certain way to be taken seriously but that’s not the case. Take Amy Pohler for instance she is a comedian who constantly makes fun of her by also calls herself a comedian.

  16. bill ritter

    karlin… i say right on to celebrities who use their fame – and good fortune – to speak out for something that’s beyond them as individuals. they get criticized for stepping out of their designated roles as entertainers, but if they can have an impact – whatever their politics – then i’m all for it. better people look up to them – or down, depending on their politics! – for what they believe in than for simply acting or singing, right? my “i-celebrity” i’m following this year is peter yarrow… and right now he is in the middle east, singing and performing to palestinians and israelis.. the man who has been singing at rallies and marches for more than half a century as a member of peter paul and mary, is still doing it and trying to change the world. he’s now 76 years old! and, my project this year for our new school class on i-celebrities is peter – and introducing him to boosting his social media. and he’s doing it! he’s chronicling his travels — this week to the middle east, last week to selma for the 50th anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. he’s posted pictures and narratives. all very exciting! and he’s bringing his work and his message of peace and ending bullying of all stripes to many more people than who attend his performances. he’s discovering the power of social media. #nevertoooldtolearn

  17. Sara Maldonado

    One of the greatest shifts that I have seen recently in the gender equality conversation is the attitude toward the word “feminist.” Not too long ago, no one wanted to be called a feminist. It was connected to the idea of a man-hating, hairy, tree-hugger, vegan girl. Incredibly stereotypical. However, now many have come out saying they are a feminist. Even celebrities who scorned the word like Salma Hayek. About five years ago she said in an interview that she is not a feminist. Recently in an interview she said she is a feminist. The word feminist is finally gaining traction for its true meaning.

  18. Sean Thompson

    I find it very interesting that celebrities are taking a step forward and voicing the injustices that they face in their respective industries. I think long gone are the days of having a smile permanently plastered on one’s face, and is moving towards a different direction. It is refreshing that stars such as Cate Blanchett, Emma Watson, Jesse Williams, and others are taking advantage of social media and the real time results that it produces. If we were to rewind six-seven years ago, a message could get lost in translation (if it would be shown at all) but a lot of people are becoming critical of what they want celebrities to say. I think that speaks to the psyche of how people (regardless of how rich or otherwise) feel when they voice concerns that matter to them.

  19. Sean Thompson

    I also forgot to mention how Beyonce has introduced feminist perspectives through her music. On her track “Flawless” from her last album, she introduced (if you were unfamiliar) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to the world, and a part of her speech was placed into the song. Here are the words below:

    “We teach girls to shrink themselves
    To make themselves smaller
    We say to girls,
    “You can have ambition
    But not too much
    You should aim to be successful
    But not too successful
    Otherwise you will threaten the man.”
    Because I am female
    I am expected to aspire to marriage
    I am expected to make my life choices
    Always keeping in mind that
    Marriage is the most important
    Now marriage can be a source of
    Joy and love and mutual support
    But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
    And we don’t teach boys the same?
    We raise girls to see each other as competitors
    Not for jobs or for accomplishments
    Which I think can be a good thing
    But for the attention of men
    We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
    In the way that boys are
    Feminist: the person who believes in the social
    Political, and economic equality of the sexes”

    • Denni Elias

      One one side I agree with you Sean on how this lyrics may serve as encouragement to women and men alike to feel that change is possible and we can move towards a more ‘equal’ situation but at the same time who are the people that have access to Beyonce’s lyrics? According to recent surveys, almost 50% of the population live with under 2.50$ per day. This people are just trying to make it through the day so they can survive and wouldn’t pay attention or have the means to listen to this message. So I wonder what can we do to try to reach the ones who need it the most?
      Good answer though!

  20. Denni Elias

    Last fall I had the pleasure to take the Intro to feminist studies course where not only I challenged myself into being more open about my feminist views at the time but also I learned to listen to the real messages in media, or at least be critical about them and try to challenge the real problems.
    I believe 2014 was a tipping point of change for what I would call social media feminism. As we saw in this article, from Beyonce to Emma Watson’s UN speech, men and women from all around the world were able to join and be part of a larger conversation. This is a great start, but is it enough to create real change?
    I remember writing about the great activist Bell Hooks saying how in her talk Are you still a slave? liberating the black female body at The New School last year, she discussed the position of Beyonce as a ‘pro-feminist’ woman. She argued wether she is colluding or reclaiming that status of a black strong women being portrayed as a girl in a sexualized way. ‘She says: “You are not gonna destroy this Imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy by creating your own version of it, even if it serve you to make lost and lots of money” . It’s interesting when she mentions how wealth is even more important than the body in our current society values. She discuss the desire for fame and money where people are lusting and craving this and where celebrities are good representations of this model.’

    I particularly remember this two quotes from Hooks saying that “Many women active in feminist are interested in reform as an end to itself, not as a stage in progression towards revolutionary transformation” as well as “Awareness doesn’t bring change but rather take action”. This is a woman who has challenged the status quo since prior the 2nd wave of feminism and is still going, shaping the way for everyone to have a more equal world.

    Having said all this, I believe these celebrity actions are not to be diminished but rather encouraged to take them to the next level where we can see internal change in the social structure and revolutionize mindsets to only move forward.

  21. Hsien Yun

    I think the one major shit about gender equality happened when Disney came out with their new animated movie, Frozen. For the first time, the princess was not waiting for the prince to rescue her from her never-ending sleep, her death, her horrible family, etc. Disney for the first time, created characters that did not a prince to rescue them and that women can have equal or even more power than men. I think we all see a change in society where powerful and strong women is becoming the roll model of our culture. We also see an increase of career women that are leading some of the largest corporations in the nation, for example: Mary T Barra the CEO of GM, Marissa Mayer the CEO of Yahoo, and more. I think in the future, many of the stereotype and cultural norms we once assume of female will fade away as gender equality becomes a key of our society.


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