I have a good news for all of you: the He For She campaign turns one-year-old on September 20. Emma Watson has proved – after Angelina Jolie and others – that a film star can do incredible things using their fame as power. The 25-yeard-old UN ambassador launched a campaign for gender equality by referring to her personal experiences and why feminism matters to her.
“And, having seen what I’ve seen, and given the chance, I feel it is my responsibility to say something”‒ said Watson with a genuine passion in her eyes.
These words are stuck in my head ever since. And the question that I’ve been asking myself lately, finally, formulated: Do successful women have to stand up for feminism?
Here is my attempt to answer this; and let this be my honor to Women’s Equality Day!
Not just a star
Many celebrities and female leaders made a long way until they became the women we know well from the media. I’m grateful for these ladies for not forgetting where they’ve come from or how much influence they have to (actively) create a better world. Some of them use the agenda-setting function of the (social) media cleverly. They realized its power and how to use it as a platform for introducing such topics to a wider audience such as poverty, racism, feminism.
As a careerist, a feminist and a huge Harry Potter fan, I felt relief and certainty when I heard the UN speech of Emma Watson. I thought she was one of us. She has the drive and passion for a change and that she wants to do something for gender equality. But she is not alone; checking in the mainstream media, luckily, we can find many other motivating feminist women.
Feminist by birth, hard-core by choice
I guess, we all know that with power, one’s responsibilities and expectations grow presumably bigger. That’s one of the reasons why I expect and urge women in a higher position to stand up for other women and other sensitive social issues.
However, today, feminism is not only useful but also sexy. No wonder it became one of the favorite topics of the mainstream media or that celebrities are frequently asked about it.
Smaller and bigger successes shape today’s feminism. And we should be really proud of the women who dare to speak up, express their views regardless of their actual job, age and circumstances. From the feminist anthem (Flawless) by Beyoncé through Oprah Winfrey’s moving life story til Malala Yousafzai‘s world-changing stand-up, we are surrounded by strong and fearless women.
I collected some of these examples to show how representation, fame and image matters. And why is this important? Because I consider the biggest question of today’s feminism is about individuality vs. togetherness. Is there such thing as sisterhood? Or would postmodern feminism be all about our individual fighting for recognition and for being treated the same way as a man?
Who does the job?
Only in the US Fewer Women Run Big Companies Than Men Named John, as written in a recent New York Times piece. So just imagine that you have made it; you broke the glass (ceiling), and you are in a position in your career that only a few women could achieve. Would you feel lucky, or would you think you earned this place? We simply cannot deny gender inequality that still exist, and not just women, but men suffer from it, too. Where am I heading with this? If you have the career that you wanted, great. But I urge women on the top, not to forget about the steps they have made and stand up for other – we carry on those things with us which matters to us.
Dare to speak up
If, in today’ media, we have to name one woman who doesn’t fear honesty and any topic for that matter it would be clearly Amy Schumer, the stand-up comedy star and actor. Amy’s TV show, which runs on Comedy Central, with its plane humour and taboo topics, made her the queen of feminist shows. Her stand-up comedies might be full of fun, but she also touches the delicate topics such as body shaming – which she clearly dealt a lot with – and gendered sexual behaviour. She makes hard-core issues acceptable (or digestible) for a broad audience.
The world of business is not always fun and business as usual for women. However, thanks to The Forbes Magazine, each year we get a list of women, who made it. The number one on this year’s list of The Most Powerful Women is Sheryl Sandberg. Sherly works for Facebook as its COO and has released a bestseller book, Lean In, in 2013, which created a new philosophy in the business field. She argues against the word “bossy” that is widely used for women and against the general attitude towards female leaders in the corporate spheres. Though her success is unquestionable, she is often criticised by many feminists, who argue that Sherly’s “new” philosophy won’t help the situation of women in lower positions.
Sometimes you don’t’ even have to be rich or popular to stand up for a cause. Sometimes your passion is enough to prove. One of my most beloved women is Kiran Gandhi. You might be familiar with her name; a menstruating girl running the marathon surely grabs the media’s attention. The 26-yeard-old Kiran is studying at Harvard, and as an enthusiastic runner, she did the marathon in London. However, she ran the whole length with blood between her legs. “I wanted to run in a way that was most comfortable – I was about to run a marathon,” said Kiran in an interview – “Society is more than happy to talk about our breasts, but then they don’t want to talk about things that are not for their social consumption.” Kiran also mentioned that she did this for a cause. She wanted to raise awareness about all the women who don’t have access for pads and tampons. Can sisterhood be any greater?
JK Rowling always knows what she is talking about when it comes to social injustice. The rough life that she went through (poverty, depression, being a single mother) taught her never to believe that she was going to be rich in her life. Today, she is free to be sassy, and she is truly one when it gets to social issues. She sends inspiring messages to her fans. Just recently she tweeted to Jo who wants to be a writer but her parents don’t think it is worthy. She also defended LGBTQ rights, helped someone who considered suicide. And she has been actively speaking out loud her political views. And let’s not forget that her books are full of powerful women as well. A way to go JK!
Now, after all this, what’s stopping you from stating that you are a feminist? Right, nothing! Because somehow, we all are!