FEMINIST CONVERSATIONS: Activist Amber Rose & ‘Jessica Jones’ Actress Rachael Taylor

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By now many of us are familiar with activist and media personality Amber Rose’s passion for feminism. She has admitted in recent times how her experience being shamed for her body and her relationships by the media and the public has pushed her to recognize the much bigger problem women face when it comes to being degraded for their choices.

Just recently she staged the first of her Slut Walks, in Los Angeles, which is essentially a peaceful but powerful protest against the shaming of women for being sexual. It was a march for equality and a demand for a shift in the status quo, where men are praised for their sexual conquests and women are thought of as “used goods” if they choose to have sex. In this edition of our Feminist Conversations series, we want to share some insightful things Amber shared with the Guardian about how her personal experiences have shaped her definition and need for feminism, as well as Australian actress Rachael Taylor, seen in the new Netflix series ‘Jessica Jones’ talking about the need for more feminism in the female characters we see on screen.

On a promotional tour for her book ‘How To Be A Bad Bitch‘ Amber admits she only recently became a feminist but clearly sees how it can be a powerful tool to challenge narrow-mindedness toward women and sexuality.

“I used to call women sluts and whores all the time. Because that’s what society taught me: that that was OK and that it was what I was supposed to be doing. But I grew up, and I have seen these issues, and I have become very passionate about it. I am a former slut shamer and a newfound feminist,” she said, explaining why standing against slut-shaming is a big deal to her.

One of the aspects she also wants to advocate within her feminist stance is women supporting each other more, and allowing them to be defined by something other than a relationship with a man.

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“I see that with women around me. Powerful women. Not necessarily famous women. But women that are powerful in their own right but also have powerful boyfriends or husbands who have a good job. It always seems like the men get the upper hand. Like – ‘oh, that’s so and so’s girlfriend’ when they get introduced to someone. Women usually don’t get the shine that they deserve if they weren’t as successful as their boyfriends or husbands initially,” she said, in reference to how she has been labeled in the past as Wiz Khalifa or Kanye West’s ex-girlfriend.

Her passion for the slut-walk partly came about thanks to comments Kanye made about his relationship with Amber, and subsequently moving on to current wife Kim Kardashian. He said he had to take “30 showers” after being with Amber, comments that really upset her and made Amber realize what a damaging message slut-shaming can send in society.

“I’ve been called a slut while I was still a virgin. I have been called a slut while I was in a committed relationship with my husband. So it really doesn’t matter what you do in life, people can call you that name because they are uncomfortable with your sexuality. That’s all it is,” she explained.

And just to be clear, Amber is NOT promoting sexual promiscuity, like some may think. Her message seeks to eliminate the shame and condemnation from the choices women make about sexuality.

“I think the misconception is that I promote promiscuity and to have as many one night stands as possible. But at the same time, women are usually unfulfilled in their sex lives because they feel as though they can’t do certain things that they want to do because a man is going to look at them differently. We are all adults, we are all capable of making our own decisions in life. The bottom line is men don’t get judged for that but women do,” she said.

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She is certainly not alone in this feeling, we have seen the pervasive and dangerous way slut-shaming is weaved into the fabric of every-day society. From abstinence-only programs teaching women they akin to “chewed gum” or “dirty shoes” if they choose to have sex (as opposed to giving them helpful, un-biased information about sexual health), right up to the political fight to stamp on women’s reproductive rights simply because they want to make personal choices about their bodies, slut-shaming takes on many forms and is wielded as a weapon by many different areas of society.

Amber also believes feminism needs to be taught to men just as much as women because if we all have a common goal of equality, then we all need to be involved in the fight.

“Being a feminist is not just talking to women, it’s talking to guys too. That’s extremely important. It starts with us embracing each other and being role models for each other, and bringing that awareness to our sons and the men around us. I just want my son to be a male feminist and that means he believes in equality. That’s it,” she concluded.

We’ve heard of fathers who don’t fully come to an understanding of the need for feminism and gender equality until they have daughters and see the issues they are up against in the world, and it’s awesome to see a mom like Amber have the foresight to want her son to grow up treating women as equal. One aspect that could help parents teach their kids about equality is seeing better representations of women on screen.

Which brings us to actress Rachael Taylor. Best known by American audiences from her role as an intelligence analyst in the first ‘Transformers’ movie, she is about to burst onto our screen again in the new Netflix series ‘Jessica Jones’ based on the popular Marvel comics, starring Kristen Ritter as the title superhero.

In an interview with Huffpost Australia, Rachael talks about how the on-screen pairing of Trish Walker, played by the Aussie actress, an ex-child star turned radio host who becomes Jessica Jones’ BFF, is one of the most unlikely yet welcome female relationships she has been part of in her career.

“This is not the perfect version of how females are friends. It’s so not ‘we love each other forever, we’re BFFs’ — it’s a nuanced version of female friendship…t’s a very real and fully realized picture of a relationship, be it a female relationship or otherwise,” she said.

Subtly alluding to the standards of the Bechdel Test, Rachael says the dynamic between the two female characters sets them apart from other stereotypical women on screen.

“You’ll never see us on-screen talking about shoes and boyfriends, which is really cool. Because the implication there is astonishing, isn’t it? That women are usually seen on screen talking about a boyfriend or a man, which communicates to the audience that women alone aren’t interesting enough to carry a drama, and it’s just not true,” she said.

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Echoing the thoughts of many women in Hollywood, both on camera and behind the scenes, who are crying out for more interesting representations of females in story lines, Rachael believes ‘Jessica Jones’ is a show that can offer some of that.

“Women have a bunch of things to offer. We are lots of things to lots of people and not just ourselves. It’s not about wanting to get a man or please a man. There are lots of different things we want to be and see and do, things we think about. We have flaws, we make mistakes. Immediately, when I heard all this [from showrunner and executive producer Melissa Rosenberg who sold Rachael on the idea of the show after pitching the relationship between Jessica and Trish as sisterly], I thought ‘I just have to be involved in this show.’ It’s so refreshing and cool,” she said.

In the interview Rachael describes her self as a “feminist with a capital F” and it’s not hard to see that given that she talks about the diversity of female characters with such passion. Her affinity for feminism also includes advocating for the prevention of domestic violence and abuse, after personally enduring an abusive relationship with Australian actor Matthew Newton which was well-documented in the media.

“I care about gender equality, I care about violence against women,” she said.

We are glad Rachael isn’t afraid to speak up about her experiences as there are many victims caught in abusive situations who don’t have the voice to do the same. And on the topic of ‘Jessica Jones’, we hope shows like this will increase and expand the representation of women in film, TV and the media in general so that the younger generation of men and women will grow up in a world where gender equality isn’t such a far-fetched idea, but something that exists around them because they believe in it.

Check out the dark and badass Netflix trailer for ‘Jessica Jones’ featuring Rachael Taylor below:


 

 

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