While many of the world's most powerful women are careful to tiptoe around the ‘F’ word, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is proud to call himself a feminist.
Shailene Woodley stated that she is not a feminist in an interview:
“I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance … And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance. My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism. I don’t know how we as women expect men to respect us because we don’t even seem to respect each other.”
Don't get me wrong, other terms such as "sisterhood" and "humanism" are equally important, but theses types of labels do not need to be mutually exclusive. Power is not a zero-sum game. A powerful woman in no way takes away any power from a man. Just because you care about women's rights doesn't mean you suddenly stop caring about everyone else's rights. It's all about equality and having equal chances at opportunities! Furthermore, Shailene, women should respect other women, but a man's respect should not be contingent on that fact.
There is an undeniable disparity, largely in the work force and public policy, when it comes to men and women. For example, we still haven't passed The Paycheck Fairness Act, which aims to narrow the income gap between men and women. Furthermore, women still make up just 18.5% of the 535 seats in the Congress, 20% of the 100 seats in the Senate, and only 18.2% of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
Well, those are just a bunch of statistics. But JGL is much better at putting those numbers into words and a call to action.
In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, JGL was shocked to hear that people had been coming out against the "feminism" label and defined what the term means to him:
"Coming out against the label? Wow. I guess I’m not aware of that. What [feminism] means to me is that you don’t let your gender define who you are—you can be who you want to be, whether you’re a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, whatever. However you want to define yourself, you can do that and should be able to do that, and no category ever really describes a person because every person is unique. That, to me, is what “feminism” means."
JGL credits his mother with encouraging him while growing up to be aware of how society has a tendency to objectify women. At the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, he said in an interview:
"My mom brought me up to be a feminist. She was active in the movement in the '60s and '70s. The Hollywood movie industry has come a long way since its past. It certainly has a bad history of sexism, but it ain't all the way yet."
He went on to describe why equality is so important:
"If you look at history, women are an oppressed category of people. There’s a long, long history of women suffering abuse, injustice and not having the same opportunities as men, and I think that’s been very detrimental to the human race as a whole. I’m a believer that if everyone has a fair chance to be what they want to be and do what they want to do, it’s better for everyone. It benefits society as a whole."
JGL is not the only man standing up as feminist. Here are quotes from other male feminists:
"All men should be feminists. If men care about women's rights the world will be a better place ... We are better off when women are empowered – it leads to a better society."
"When you work with the sort of really strong women that I work with, the idea that anyone would want to make decisions for them is hard to wrap your head around."
"I was raised by my mom, I have a little sister, and I'm constantly annoyed [by] how terribly written most females are in most everything — and especially in comedy. Their anatomy seems to be the only defining aspect of their character, and I just find that untruthful and it straight-up offends me. A lot of the strongest people I know are chicks. And as a viewer, I get a kick out of watching real characters. So I take it upon myself to clean that shit up and write actual women."
All in all, this really shouldn't even be in the news! Ideally, we can get to a point where a male celebrity talking about the rights of women won't make headlines, because we won't need a man standing up for us. But until then, we should all take note from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and be a less afraid of calling ourselves feminists.