FEMINIST CONVERSATIONS: Singer Rita Ora, Actress Saoirse Ronan & Author Erica Jong

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Are you sick of all the ways feminism is misrepresented in pop culture? Are you tired of hearing certain celebrities explain a very skewed and incorrect definition of a movement that is responsible for the liberation and equality of half the population of the world (in a number of countries anyway, not all)? Do you wish there was a website that was dedicated to sharing only the positive and real messages about feminism, rather than the bogus ones?

Well wish no more, friends, because we are starting a new mini-series called “Feminist Conversations” where we plan on sharing quotes, stories and explanations about feminism that don’t always go viral (because they aren’t controversial) but which we believe are important in order to break down stigma around the subject. In this particular installment we share from British singer Rita Ora, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, and American author Erica Jong.

In an interview with Digital Spy, Rita claims people are too afraid to call themselves a “feminist”, and it sucks that explaining why you DO stand for it has now become a trend of defending yourself, rather than actually focusing on feminist advocacy.

“The reason why I say yes to identifying myself as a feminist is because the word ‘feminist’, people get scared of”, she explains. “That’s not exactly the scariest part of being a feminist. The word sounds scary but all it is is being supportive of someone…”

Earlier in 2015 ahead of her role playing Mia in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ which has been a controversial film in terms of its sexual themes and the portrayal of a vulnerable woman being dominated by a man, Rita spoke about feminism and specifically related it to her experience being a woman in the music industry.

“I think people take the word feminist really seriously and I think people are scared to use that word,” she said, once again pointing out the fear of the word, rather than understanding the movement in its entirety.

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“In this industry, all the heads of labels are men, but every artist has to prove themselves, regardless of their sex. I have always been very vocal about the women sticking together. Without pulling the whole female card, I think it has always been harder for females in all respects. Whenever we have an opinion it always seems to be taken out of proportion. As a woman in this industry, it has always been a bit about proving yourself,” she went on to say.

She’s certainly not the only woman to talk about the sexist double standards in music toward women. Nicki Minaj, Bjork and Canadian artist Grimes have all explained how tough it can be being a female in a male-dominated industry like music.

There is this idea that in the creative field, sexism doesn’t always exist because the power structures and systems are entirely different to that of the corporate world. But unfortunately, many creative industries are dogged by sexism and misogyny because they too have traditionally been run by men, when you take a look through history (fashion, advertising, film, TV, art, music etc).

Film and TV is especially an area where women are now speaking up in droves about the rampant sexism women face in a number of different roles. Whether it be behind the camera or in front, we are hearing so many more experiences and voices of women, some very famous like Meryl Streep, who are recognizing the “power in numbers” mentality. The more women speak up, the less alone they feel and the more supported they are. And in turn, industry trends may just start to change, as we are slowly starting to see in Hollywood.

Irish Actress Saoirse Ronan spoke to Entertainment Tonight about her upcoming film ‘Brooklyn’, which is getting a lot of Oscar Buzz. This young woman is already an Oscar-nominated actress for her role in 2007’s ‘Atonement’ so clearly she has some major acting chops, and we are delighted to hear her talk about feminism with ET.

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‘Brooklyn’ is the story of an Irish immigrant living in New York City in the 1950s, and her character Eilis is a very strong woman, in a time when it certainly was not popular to be.

“To see a character like her, set in that time and not have it be solely about the men that are in her life, that’s quite feminist in itself. Actually, all the women in this film are very independent and strong,” she said about role, emphasizing how much history plays a part in why feminism is important today.

“I think feminism couldn’t flourish then as much as it does now. In a way, it’s become sort of unpopular now for us to be treated as equal citizens. Some people treat feminism as taboo–and if they shave their arm pits then they’re not feminist. To me, feminism is just that we’re equal to men,” she adds. Preach it girl!

It’s not uncommon to hear that feminism is a dirty word, which is why history is important. The more we forget about the struggles of women in the past, the easier it is to become complacent.

Saoirse believes if there was more of an understanding about the support of women in feminism, perhaps there wouldn’t be as much negativity surrounding it.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the African author who wrote ‘We Should All Be Feminists’–and Beyoncé quoted her TedTalk in ‘Flawless’–this is the thing that I hope will change–and certainly in our industry it is a bit already–that the competition between women isn’t becoming so much about men anymore. That we are trying to support each other more, that we’re trying to stick by each other instead of being against each other. It’s about thinking in a different way.”

The third woman whose views on feminism we are sharing, is author Erica Jong, who just released a new book called ‘Fear of Dying’, and is also the author of the 1973 New York Times best-selling book ‘Fear of Flying’.

The ballsy 73 year-old is an unapologetic feminist and has been for years, which means she has seen many iterations of the women’s rights movement throughout her life, and how the political scene in America has reflected these changes in the gender equality stakes. In an interview with Oregon Live, She has no problem sharing her thoughts on how the current political situation with Donald Trump and some of the other Republican candidates saying inappropriate and sexist remarks about women is an even more compelling reason to be a feminist.

“All I can tell you is I think Donald Trump is a godsend for Hillary because he’s revealing the soul of the Re-pug-nican Party. They hate women. They hate immigrants. They don’t want anybody to speak Spanish. They want them to speak American, not English but AMUR-ican. They hate poor people. They’re governed by the Koch brothers and their ilk. They sell out to everyone,” she said.

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In regard to Hillary Clinton, she doesn’t like the way the media has treated her, largely for her gender.

“I think she’s been smeared to an extent that’s ridiculous. The New York Times said there was a criminal investigation of her and there was not. There’s a lot of sexism out there, even in the so-called liberal and progressive communities. In 2008 we saw that they would rather have a man of color who was not very experienced as a politician — although a brilliant man, a lovely man — than a woman of experience,” she continued.

Having seen the way women have progressed over the years, Eric still doesn’t believe we have achieved equality in the United States today.

“We have made a third of a revolution, a half of a revolution. I really believe feminism is like democracy — when you stop fighting for it, it slips away. When you stop fighting for democracy, the fascists creep back in, whether it’s Mussolini or Pinochet, it doesn’t matter. I think that what happened was people got really scared by the Second Wave,” she said, adding that her own feminist upbringing, seeing the women in her family be treated as second class citizens by society had a profound effect on how she thought about equality.

“My grandmother was involved in the First Wave. My grandmother never went to a doctor who wasn’t female or a dentist who wasn’t female. She was a housewife and the wife of a painter but in her heart was a feminist. My mother was a feminist who was told by her art school that she wouldn’t get (a prize) because she was a woman and she would waste her gifts. I come from a long line of women who believed that women were poorly treated,” she shared.

And while not every woman may have the experiences Erica and her mother and grandmother have, there are so many ways in which women are not treated equally today that is it not a good enough excuse in our eyes to say that feminism is not needed. The world is a very big place, with lots of corrupt people in power, that you don’t need to look hard to find injustice.

“I think feminism has been up and down and up and down. I’ve often wondered why. It’s partly because mothers and daughters are naturally at odds at one point in their lives. Then when the daughters have children, they unite. Gloria Steinem said women are the only group that gets more radical as they age. It’s true. After you’ve gone through enough marriages and divorces and childbearing and grandchildren, you come to see what is needed in the world. What is needed is men and women collaborating equally,” she concluded.

If that doesn’t hit the nail on the head, we don’t know what will!

Stay tuned for our next installment of feminism conversations, featuring another group of celebrities and public personalities who share important definitions and experiences relating to why they call themselves a feminist.

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2 Comments

  1. I am pleased about all the attention feminists are getting as more people talk about it and support it. My concern as a black woman is that like with everything else, my sisters are never included as a whole but it seems only those living in Africa or those who are famous. It’s happened throughout history that only a select are included in these movements and not all of us. This is the biggest reason why black people tend to start their own causes or movements because we as a whole are never included in the general conversations about the cause. I am black with an Cherokee, European, and Caribbean heritage. Of course my family has been pigeon holed solely as black people despite our heritage. Like many other women of color I find it difficult to feel welcomed by women who are not of my culture when attempting to join in with organizations focused on feminism awareness. Do I have to be rich or a celebrity? I hope not because I am planning a huge event for women’s empowerment which will benefit all women and I pray the attitude among all the women I plan to support does not create a racial divide among womenof different cultures. That would defeat the purpose. When anti-feminists attack us, they do not care about our racial differences.

  2. Pingback: Feminist Conversations: Comedian Margaret Cho, Actor Tim Allen & Bond Girl Naomi Harris

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