FEMINIST CONVERSATIONS: Janelle Monae, Adrian Grenier, And Tatiana Maslany

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Welcome to another edition of “Feminist Conversations”, the series we began to share the many different definitions of feminism from various celebrities and well-known public figures in an attempt to break down negativity and myth around the movement. While feminism is about advocating for the social, political and economic equality of all genders, it is often lived and defined differently among individuals.

This is where our Feminist Conversation series comes in. We get to explore some of these definitions while also using our digital space to dismantle the idea that feminism is not needed or somehow bad. In this edition, we’ll start off with musician and six-time Grammy award nominee Janelle Monae whose latest work is a bit of a departure from her music.

She will be seen in the upcoming movie ‘Hidden Figures’ based on the true story of a group of black female astronauts who worked at NASA and calculated the flight trajectory for the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. She also appears in the indie film ‘Moonlight’, which is a a love story like we have not seen in mainstream film before. It follows the story of a man during three periods of his life where he struggles with his identity being black, gay, yet faithful to his family traditions.

In an interview with Now Toronto to promote the film, Janelle says this film is going to challenge existing norms around black masculinity and challenge the toxicity so often associated with it. The question was asked in juxtaposition to ‘Birth Of A Nation’ filmmaker and star Nate Parker who made a comment in 2014 to BET that he would never play a gay role in a bid to “preserve the Black man”. We struggle to take Nate’s comments too seriously, however, since rape allegations involving him and a male friend have recently surfaced. He continues to deny he raped a young woman, who ended up committing suicide. It makes you wonder exactly which “black man” archetype he is trying to preserve…

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Nevertheless, Janelle’s perspective on why this needs to change is important.

“I think it’s so sad when that definition is limited. When it exes out embracing the things that make you unique – even if it makes others uncomfortable – I really get sad and cry for our boys who fall victim to that, who are living up to the stereotype of what it means to be masculine,” she said.

If there is an artist who knows how to challenge societal norms around gender, it is Janelle Monae, whose signature look is a black and white suit, an homage to her working class family. She also believes it helps dismantle the stereotypes around what a black woman should look like, and how femininity is defined.

“As women, there’s this whole notion of what it is to be a feminist or be effeminate; what it means to ‘dress like a girl.’ I wanted to change what a young African-American woman could look like, sound like, speak like, walk like, act like. We’re not monolithic. We’re not all meant to be the same. We may experience some of the same things, but at the end of the day we have to decide whether to embrace the things that make us unique or not. I decided to choose me,” she said.

Her perspectives on black masculinity and how feminism does not come in a one-size-fits-all package are important help further the movement. Speaking of masculinity, a celebrity who is best known for his on-screen representation of a movie start who thrives on sexual conquests is Adrian Grenier, aka Vincent Chase from ‘Entourage’.

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Off-screen, Adrian could not be more different from Vinnie. He is a passionate environmentalist, artist and also a feminist. In an interview with NY Mag’s The Cut, he talks about how he is voting for Hillary Clinton, and why he isn’t afraid to share that he identifies as a feminist. In fact, his reason for speaking out show just how woke he is.

“I would consider myself a feminist. But women don’t need my permission to take what is rightfully theirs after all these years, so I don’t even need to declare my feminism as a righteous thing. I just am, because I recognize that it’s happening, it’s right. And I’m just in awe of it and excited about the prospect,” he said, speaking to the delicate and sometimes difficult balance of men’s voices in the current feminist conversation.

He too believes we need to see a dismantling of toxic masculinity which traps men into thinking they have to act a certain way to truly be a “man”.

“Maybe our saving grace is if we can balance the male energy, which tends to be short-term thinking, overly aggressive, often indelicate, with the feminine energy, which is more careful study and frankly more sophisticated, we might actually be able to build a world that would be in balance,” he said. Here here!

Another on-screen celebrity whose work is all about challenging stereotypical ideas around gender is Tatiana Maslany. The Canadian actress is best known for her role on ‘Orphan Black’ as, well, 47 characters in the Sci-Fi clone series. She recently won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series which has been a long time coming, and says the show’s massive worldwide success is thanks in part to feminism.

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“People are kind of fed up with the way things have been…It’s something I’ve discovered through experience,” she said, alluding to the many women in Hollywood who are speaking out against sexist treatment and discriminatory behavior which sees them being paid less and being offered less leading roles than men.

It’s one of the reasons Tatiana believes she has to use her celebrity status to raise her voice also.

“The more that I’ve been thrust into this space of being a leader on set and being a voice on set and having more say or wanting more say in the kind of work I do, the sort of stories I’m telling, it’s become an important thing to me…it’s in fashion right now to be politically active in our industry,” she said.

She also thinks it is important to have an array of definitions of feminism, not just one. It is exactly why we are passionate about intersectionality. Our varied experiences mean we all have a ability to reach different groups of people. Tatiana uses the example of Beyonce.

“Beyoncé talks about feminism now and that empowers a bunch of women. whether her feminism is something I ascribe to or not, it’s at least getting that dialogue happening,” she said. And that in a nutshell is why our Feminist Conversations series exists: to keep the dialog moving!

Hear more about Tatiana’s views on feminism and women in Hollywood below:


 

 

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  1. Pingback: Janelle Monae, Aja Naomi King & More Share Powerful Messages In Marie Claire's "Fresh Faces" Issue - GirlTalkHQ

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