When it comes to feminist activism, it can be daunting to know where to start. There are so many different voices and approaches out there that it can feel like entering a busy party full of echoing voices vying for attention. Whilst resources such as are a great starting point, it can help to anchor your understanding through familiar voices. Here are a few celebrity names whose voices are worth finding in the crowd to help gain a better understanding of key feminist issues from people who are living these experiences and have a platform to discuss them.
Laverne Cox is an eloquent, intelligent and empathetic speaker on a variety of issues. As someone who lives at the intersection of multiple oppressions as a trans woman of colour, she is perfectly placed to provide insight and understanding that many of us lack, and the key to feminism is listening to these voices and then working to effect the changes that are asked for and needed. From her groundbreaking character Sophia Burset in Orange is the New Black, her recent re-interpretation of Frank N Furter, the documentary on trans issues she produced and narrated and the many awards she has won for advocacy on LGBTQ issues, Laverne’s voice has been one of the loudest and most sensitive on this subject. Understanding and empathy is always the first step in changing the way people think about issues they don’t experience personally, which is how things actually start to change, and Laverne Cox’s rising star is a major spearhead for the visibility of trans women of colour.
Start with: Laverne Cox Times Talk
There is an oversaturation of mature voices in almost every important subject area. Whereas experience is important, it is detrimental to ignore young voices. Often they can offer that fresh perspective, free of years of learned behaviour and prejudices, and not ready to accept the world as irredeemable. Actress, filmmaker and activist Amanda’s strength lies in one thing; the desire and strength to live authentically. That might not sound like much, but so many of us, especially as teenagers, carry around a lot of self hatred, doubt and fear which in turn is what we share with the world. Not only is Amandla talented, creative, beautiful and intelligent, but she gives off an enviable glow of self confidence. Not many star-studded teens use their fame as a platform to make the world a better place, but Amandla is doing that and so much more.
Although Rebecca Sugar doesn’t engage with activism in the same way the others on this list do, it’s important to recognise that activism can come in different guises. Her particular brand of compassionate feminism is communicated through her creative work, in Adventure Time and most importantly in Steven Universe. It is important to acknowledge how significant it is that the first woman to be a solo showrunner/creator of a show on Cartoon Network is the bisexual Sugar, with a show that is empowering and successful. The all ages cartoon Steven Universe isn’t a show that plays it safe, or tries to fly under the radar; it is boldly forging a path for characters of different sexualities, gender identities and presentations, with stories for children that discuss topics including consent, grief, war and PTSD with sensitivity and humour. A recent episode, a fairytale-like story about the blossoming of queer love across boundaries, was nominated for an Emmy, and has been adapted into a children’s book. This is activism at its most beautiful and life-affirming.
Obviously this is no where near being a definitive list, and loads of activists do amazing work without the benefit of a celebrity status, but it certainly helps! Which celebrities inspire you?
Words: Heidi Teague