Actress Natalie Dormer Says Female Empowerment Shouldn’t Only Be About Sexuality

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We already know her as the the most manipulative and cunning women in a corset, playing Margaery Tyrell in ‘Game of Thrones’ as well as the badass Cressida in both ‘Mockingjay’ installments of ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise. Actress Natalie Dormer is also an outspoken believer in feminism and has no problem talking about why it is important to her.

In a recent interview with the Guardian to promote ‘Mockingjay Part 2’, the British babe spoke about playing a string of female characters in corset (the aforementioned Margaery Tyrell in GOT, Anne Boleyn on ‘The Tudors’ and Lady Seymour Worsley in BBC2 drama ‘The Scandalous Lady W’) and why female empowerment on screen should be about more than just sexuality.

It is a contentious statement to make, as female sexuality and the sexualization and objectification of women on screen has been a well-discussed topic for eons. In the 2012 documentary ‘Miss Representation’ numerous media and academic experts talk about how girls continually seeing only sexualized portrayals of women in pop culture sends a very narrow message about a woman’s body. But on the other hand, we have a very real-problem of slut-shaming in the media and in society where we feel it is OK to judge a woman harshly for the clothes she wears and her choice to have sex.

The powerful ‘Unslut’ documentary examines this epidemic in detail, and is part of a larger movement to eliminate the sexual stigma surrounding the choices women make in regard to their bodies. The Free The Nipple movement, Amber Rose’s Slutwalk and many female celebrities have been very outspoken about the fact that when women decide to control how they want to portray themselves (as opposed to decades and decades of being controlled by patriarchal systems and institutions) they should not be judged and shamed.

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It is an issue that is still in its early phase where each of us is learning to dismantle negative messages while trying to balance what the right type of empowerment is for us. This is something Natalie talks about in her interview, specifically in the portrayal of female empowerment on screen. Do all empowered characters have to be sexualized in order to be fully free? It is a question asked of her because in many of her roles there has been some aspect of nudity.

“Female empowerment shouldn’t be exclusively about sexuality. And you meet a fair fraction of male writers and directors who want to wave the equality flag and believe that they’re making you a kick-ass female assassin, and they’re empowering you. Whereas true empowerment would be…you know, not a stylized, hyper sexualisation,” she said.

There has been a lot of talk about the one-dimensional aspect of what a “strong female” character looks like and the need to include flaws, emotions, complexities and everything that could possibly and does in fact represent strength. Sexuality is definitely part of this, but Natalie makes a great point that it shouldn’t be the only focus, otherwise how are these portrayals any different from the way they were constructed from the male point of view?

Like many feminists in film who believe in seeing an increased amount of women on screen who are more complex, nuanced and interesting, Natalie welcomed the chance to play Cressida in ‘Mockingjay’ simply because the character’s motivation didn’t depend on any sort of romance.

“It’s so refreshing to play a woman who’s not defined by the love of a man. I was getting a little tired of sitting around in a silk skirt. It was a good antidote to put on a pair of army boots and run around in the mud for nine months,” she said.

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At 33 years old, she says her view on being a woman in the film industry is at a far better place than when she was in her 20s, and alludes to her ‘Mockingjay’ co-star Jennifer Lawrence who has had a massive amount of attention put on her for her body, as well as her boldness to speak up about not being paid the same as some of her male co-stars.

“I’m really glad now that I didn’t pop earlier, because in my 20s, I wasn’t ready. To get your identity as a woman sorted before you’re questioned about it constantly, and asked in the public sphere to qualify who and what you are… I think most 33 year old women would say: ‘I wouldn’t do my 20s again for love nor money’,” she said.

The sad truth is, no matter what age a woman is, there is always going to be scrutiny about her. Whether that be her looks, her career choice, her identity, or her sexuality. We believe there needs to be a continuum of the sexually empowered conversations happening amongst women as this will go a long way in breaking down shame and negative stigma. We also think there needs to be a balance about how female sexuality is included in characters on screen, as Natalie expressed.

The more female filmmakers push for their stories, their points of view and their authentic characterizations, this will happen. It is a tricky topic of balance, one that has divided many because each of us has our own opinion, but that fact that we are even able to have these conversations openly is going to go a long way.

As for Natalie, we can’t wait to see her raise hell again in the next season of ‘Game Of Thrones’ in 2016.

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