Of course, we aren’t suggesting that the status quo in America is hunky-dory, or that celebrities are pioneering figures of gender positivity and female empowerment. There is much to talk about and a long ways to go (andlots of people working brilliantly to get there), and the images on our screen are often more harmful than good. Yet, we’re seeing a strong group of female celebrities speaking out now, more than ever. Which is important for two reasons: 1.) Mass-produced culture is providing a forum to discuss women’s rights and 2.) An unprecedented number of people are joining the conversation.
Ahead, we take a look at ten definitive moments in 2013 that prove that girl power is back — and all grown up.
Ellen Shames Abercrombie’s Body-Shaming CEO
Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO Mike Jeffries has been saying some wildly bizarro things for quite some time now, but the controversial retailer made news this spring when an old, oft-quoted interview made the rounds yet again. For those looking to cringe: “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.” (To this, we say, ORLY?) Ellen, a solid voice of reason, took Jeffries to the task in a video titled, “Fitch Please.” A mere two days after Ellen spoke, A&F issued an apology — and since then, Jeffries has been in hot water. As for the company? Well, it appears to have changed its tune.
Ladies Proclaimed Themselves The F-Word
While we are still a long way from removing the “man-hating” or “overly judgmental” stigma from the word “feminist,” having totally awesome ladies proudly proclaim themselves as one is a really great start — especially after notables like Marissa Meyer, Bjork, and Lady Gaga have distanced themselves from the word. It’s important to realize that feminism is beyond a definition; it stretches over seven continents and numerous cultures, and means different things to different people. But, having ladies like Claire Danes, Mindy Kaling, and Toni Colette identify themselves as feminists demonstrates that there are many faces in the game.
The Rise Of The Women-Led Show
Having a strong female lead is exciting, and it’s happened before (remember Murphy Brown?). But, this year, we saw an increase of programming that had women running the show on screen…and off. Orange Is the New Black, Scandal, and Masters of Sex were all notable, not just because they were hits, but because their showrunners were females. In the male-dominated world of TV, it’s great to see some of our favorite shows being spearheaded by ladies.
The Stand Heard Round The World
Thanks to Twitter and Instagram, our news is delivered to us by our friends’ responses and retweets. So, when Wendy Davis took a stand against legislation that limited where a woman could receive an abortion in Texas, it was heartening to see so many of our friends — and the celebs we follow — #StandWithWendy. Sarah Silverman, Lena Dunham, Kristen Bell, and Sophia Bush were just a few of the gals who let Davis know that she was supported by ladies everywhere.
“Blurred Lines” Wasn’t So Black & White
Yes, “Blurred Lines” was the song of the summer. But, a lot of viewers became concerned when Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell were called out for seriously objectifying the scantily-clad girls on screen. While the director was a woman and very vocal about her choices, there were plenty of questionable moments (smacking butts, pouring drinks) that raised many an eyebrow. The criticism was strong — and the video ripe for parody. Truth be told, in the history of music videos, this one isn’t the most sexist and offensive videos of all time, but it proves that, in 2013, if you are going to make a video that is based on objectification, you better be prepared for the backlash. Unfortunately for Thicke, he was not.
Melissa McCarthy Starts A Big Conversation
For their “Women In Hollywood” issue, Elle photographed Shailene Woodley, Marion Cotillard, Reese Witherspoon, and Melissa McCarthy. The first three were in body-hugging and/or revealing outfits, while McCarthy was covered up in a (glamorous) trench. Many suggested that the magazine was hiding her curvy body. Eventually, McCarthy put in her two cents, saying, “I had a great little black dress on, and on the way out [of the dressing room] I was like, ‘I can’t wait for fall, I’m so sick of the hot weather.’ I was like, ‘Oooh, is that cashmere?’ and I pulled it off and ran upstairs, and then Jacket Gate started.”
The discussion involved tokenism, body shame, and magazines treating women differently depending on their respective size. In the end, however, Elle and McCarthy agreed: No one should feel pressure to cover up — or be exposed — on a magazine issue. Kudos to Elle for addressing the conversation.
Lorde Is The Most Refreshing Pop Star In Ages
We are constantly told that sex sells, and while that is certainly true, this year, Lorde proved that catchy hooks, a mysterious stage presence, and a brilliant voice can also top charts, too. And, while the media tried to start a catfight between Lorde, Taylor Swift, and Miley (which was clearly fabricated), Lorde presented herself as a 17-year-old with her feet planted firmly on the ground. She believes, like a true feminist, that it’s best to “just be you.”
Miley Cyrus, Miley Cyrus, Miley Cyrus
Ah, yes: The not-so-subtle elephant in the room. Miley Cyrus was at the center of the Internet in 2013, with myriad articles being penned on her outfits, her conduct, her videos, and, um, thatperformance. But, one thing is clear: Despite what Sinéad O’Connor suggested, Miley was in control of her own game. As the pop star said, “No one cares about the man behind the booty. You only care about the one that is shaking it. Double standards.” (In fact, Miley was the one that pointed out that she got considerably more flack for “Wrecking Ball,” when “Blurred Lines” was ostensibly more misogynistic.)
Later this year, she proclaimed herself one of the greatest feminists in the world, and has strongly maintained that no one is in control of her career but herself. Of course, this is a part of a larger conversation — that many of our readers have actively participated in — but the fact that we are having it is important. (Also, her liberal picking and choosing of subcultural signifiers is a whole other barrel of fish, but that doesn’t negate that when we are talking about Miley, it’s because Miley wants us to.)
We Remember R. Kelly
We’ve laughed at Trapped in the Closet and caught his set at Pitchfork. We giggled over Black Panties. But, we also read the incredible piece written by Jessica Hopper at The Village Voiceabout Jim DeRogatis, the reporter who uncovered R. Kelly’s sexual assault of minors years ago. The acts detailed are nauseating, and the fact of the matter is: R. Kelly was acquitted for the urination video tape, while other lawsuits were settled out of court — but as DeRogatis points out, there were so many. (“Dozens of videotapes,” he says.)
This is not a feminist triumph. What is heartening, however, is that the conversation has been reignited and that people (us included) are beginning to rethink what sort of implications there are in being fans of R. Kelly. This isn’t a victory, but it is a step in the right direction.
And then, there is Queen B. Ever since she released her album last week, a discussion has been raging about whether or not she is feminist. The answer, of course, is nuanced, textured, and complex. She starts out the very beginning of the album by saying that her main goal in life is to be happy, and then she goes to reveal the things that make her happy: good sex; pride; love; creativity; and her family — and she doesn’t apologize or equivocate about any of these things.
Kara Brown at Noisey makes a great point: “Let’s pause for a minute to recognize her lyrics are braggadocious because she’s understands, like so many women, that if she doesn’t hype herself up, no one else will.” Beyoncé is an ode to herself, in all of her “bootylicious,” unapologetic glory. It’s an ode to her flaws, her sensuality, and her feelings. And that, to us, feels pretty damn feminist.
Designed by Caitlin Owens
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