FEMINIST CONVERSATIONS: Jennifer Lawrence And Queen Bey(once) Don’t Hold Back!

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We know you’ve missed our Feminist Conversations, and although it’s been a while since our latest installment, we are excited for this particular one! Featuring feminist superstars Queen Beyonce and Jennifer Lawrence, who you probably already knew were not-so-secret feminists.

After all, ending her 2014 MTV VMA’s performance standing in front of a lit up “FEMINIST” sign wasn’t exactly discreet now…

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So let’s start with Beyonce, whose most recent zeitgeist-exploding release was her hour long visual album Lemonade which was shown on HBO. The film caused a huge controversy and plenty of lively discussion about the lyrics discussing female empowerment distinctly from a black woman’s point of view, and the candid discussion around sexuality, infidelity and race.

But 2016 so far has been a home-run for the bootylicious chart topper starting with the release of her video for ‘Formation’ the night before the Super Bowl, which touched on issues of racism, police brutality while simultaneously unapologetically offering an insight into Beyonce’s embrace of African American culture without feeling the need to quantify or qualify it in any way to the dominant Caucasian standard. If that wasn’t head-spinning enough (watch politically-minded rap star Killer Mike brilliantly tell white people that the video “wasn’t about you”) she performed that very song at the Super Bowl the next day and all of a sudden “broke the internet” had new meaning (sorry Kim Kardashian…).

A couple of months later there was talk about her active wear line Ivy Park, featuring an inclusive line up of models such as Jillian Mercado, a woman who has muscular dystrophy, has modeled for Diesel campaigns and been featured in New York Fashion Week runway shows.

In a rare interview for Elle Magazine, Beyonce spoke about the lead up to her ‘Formation’ world tour and how she balances family and the beyhive business. There is no distinctive “feminist” aspect to her life, as it is part of everything she does, as she explained to the fashion industry publication. Beyonce says the decision to put the world feminist front and center on stage was less about causing controversy, and more to start an honest conversation.

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“I put the definition of feminist in my song [“Flawless”] and on my tour, not for propaganda or to proclaim to the world that I’m a feminist, but to give clarity to the true meaning. I’m not really sure people know or understand what a feminist is, but it’s very simple. It’s someone who believes in equal rights for men and women. I don’t understand the negative connotation of the word, or why it should exclude the opposite sex. If you are a man who believes your daughter should have the same opportunities and rights as your son, then you’re a feminist,” she said.

She believes real changes toward gender equality happen when both men and women understand the double standards that still exist in the world today, such as (un)equal pay.

“When we talk about equal rights, there are issues that face women disproportionately. That is why I wanted to work with [the philanthropic organizations] Chime for Change and Global Citizen. They understand how issues related to education, health, and sanitation around the world affect a woman’s entire existence and that of her children. They’re putting programs in place to help those young girls who literally face death because they want to learn, and to prevent women from dying during childbirth because there’s no access to health care. Working to make those inequalities go away is being a feminist,” she said, while adding that she doesn’t feel the need to prioritize one label over the other in regard to her identity.

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“I don’t want calling myself a feminist to make it feel like that’s my one priority, over racism or sexism or anything else. I’m just exhausted by labels and tired of being boxed in. If you believe in equal rights, the same way society allows a man to express his darkness, to express his pain, to express his sexuality, to express his opinion—I feel that women have the same rights.”

Beyonce also makes a clear distinction between being a feminist and being feminine, saying the two are not necessarily related, and also pointed out how gender equality isn’t just for women.

“We’re not all just one thing. Everyone who believes in equal rights for men and women doesn’t speak the same, or dress the same, or think the same. If a man can do it, a woman should be able to. It’s that simple. If your son can do it, your daughter should be able to. Some of the things that we teach our daughters—allowing them to express their emotions, their pain and vulnerability—we need to allow and support our men and boys to do as well,” she said.

Beyonce’s very existence is a brilliant study in identity politics and we love that every release, every performance, each outfit and even hairstyle carries plenty of cultural significance in a way that will no doubt be felt for generations to come.

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Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence also has been making a significant impact on the discussion and progression around gender equality, specifically in the film industry. Her candid essay about being paid less than her male co-stars was an eye-opening reminder that there is plenty of work to be done until we no longer need to keep having conversations about why equality is something everyone benefits from.

In a featured interview for Harpers Bazaar, J-Law is quick to jump on the trend of people being so anti-feminist, saying if more people understood what it really meant, it would change the conversation.

“I don’t know why that word is so scary to people; it shouldn’t be, because it just means equality. If we are moving forward in a society, you are feeling stronger as a woman, and you want to be taken more seriously. You don’t have to take away the wonderful traits that come with being a woman: We are sensitive. We are pleasers. We’re empathetic,” she said, adding that sometimes these traits can hinder women from asking what they really want or being allowed to make mistakes.

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Seeing celebrities like J-law and Beyonce use their elevated platform to advocate important issues is something we highly value. In an age where there is so much noise and many confusing messages that take root in our lives on a daily basis, we are encouraged to hear Jennifer Lawrence, arguably the hottest actress in Hollywood right now, slam unhealthy body image standards and give permission for women to love themselves the way they are.

“I would like us to make a new normal-body type. Everybody says, ‘We love that there is somebody with a normal body!’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t feel like I have a normal body.’ I do Pilates every day. I eat, but I work out a lot more than a normal person. I think we’ve gotten so used to underweight that when you are a normal weight it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, she’s curvy.’ Which is crazy. The bare minimum, just for me, would be to up the ante,” she said.

This is what feminism is about for us: upping the ante, changing the conversation, driving change around identity and politics, creating movements based on inclusion, and stripping away the systems that seek to define us in ways that are narrow and harmful. And this is why we believe in feminist conversations!

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