Keira Knightley On Fairytales & Feminism “Why Should I Wait For A Man To Rescue Me?”

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Don’t be fooled by these ethereal images of British actress Keira Knightley in various states of whimsy and romance, because there’s nothing about her that says “damsel in distress”.

In a shoot for Net-a-porter online magazine The Edit, Keira talks about feminism, and why finding a man shouldn’t be the most important goal in life.

It should be noted that although the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ actress is well-known to have worn corsets and big dresses in many of her roles on screen, off camera it is a very different story. She has spoken before of the need for more women in positions of power in Hollywood in order to change some of the stereotypes and gender imbalance that exists today.

The Edit interview opens with Keira’s thoughts on fairytales:

“I left them behind,” she shrugs. “Why should you be told to wait for some f***ing dude to rescue you?”

Yep, if that doesn’t set the tone for a badass interview, we dunno what will! Her powerful words are a stark contrast to the soft imagery portrayed in the fashion shoot, which shows you shouldn’t necessarily pigeon-hole women because feminists come from all walks of life.

“The people who make movies, whether it’s directors or producers or money people, look for things that they can identify with, and if they’re all predominantly middle-aged white men, then what you see are things that middle-aged white men can identify with. And you don’t get anything for anybody else.”

She may only be 30, but her film career spans nearly 20 years (seriously! She began acting in 1995) but if being a woman in the film industry has taught her anything, its how gender roles are perceived from a young age. In fact it is not something she takes for granted.

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She talks about a friend of hers who recently had a baby daughter, and what a political statement it can mean in 2014 to give birth to a girl, as opposed to a boy:

“It’s a political thing, having a baby girl, in a way that it isn’t for a boy. You think, ‘Oh, isn’t this fairy-tale lovely?’ Then suddenly you worry, ‘What [expectation] am I planting with that? I don’t want her to be waiting around for a man to fix her problems.’ Maybe it’s a bit silly, but because [gender] equality is going so hugely the other way, I think it probably does take being silly to try and swing it back round.”

Keira cites a pop culture example to point out how the hypocritical issue of how women are able to balance home life and career doesn’t apply to men, and how deeply rooted into our subconscious it is.

“There’s a storyline in Borgen [the TV drama about the first female prime minister of Denmark] where her husband is freaking out because he’s not seeing his wife anymore and the wife isn’t seeing the kids because she doesn’t have enough time, so he’s going to leave her,” says Knightley. “And as a viewer, I went, ‘Oh my God, she has to give up her job! She needs to spend more time with her family.’ Then I realized, ‘Wait, if it was a guy playing the prime minister and his wife was freaking out, you’d go, ‘Shut up, woman! He’s the f***ing prime minister, give him a f***ing break!’ I’m a feminist, somebody who is saying there’s a f***ing problem, and I’m thinking that.”

As for her own roles, although Keira has been known to play a lot of period characters, there is one thing she is very conscious of when accepting roles.

“I’ve turned a lot [of roles] down because of it, mostly because of really overt sex and violence that is just, in my view, not justified,” she explains. “I’m not saying that there can’t be really interesting stories about sex and violence, but a lot of it I just think, ‘This is gratuitous for the sake of being gratuitous, and you’d never ask a dude to do this’.”

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It’s another double standard we so readily accept, all you have to do is look through HBO’s library of shows and compare the number of male genitals you see vs female (here’s a clue: its 0:100+). On one hand there is the need for sexual liberation for women at the same standard as men, but then there is also the need to set our own standards and not use sexuality to get ahead, and go against the male-driven conversation about women.

“It’s actually a difficult question: how much flesh are you meant to bare? What are we saying is appropriate or not appropriate? We’re saying that we should be sexually liberated but then again not that sexually liberated. It’s confusing.”

“I think I’ve specifically taken two roles in order to be the kind of female stereotype because I was just quite interested in it,” she says, “but everything else, even the period films, even The Duchess, were all about a woman that doesn’t fit into the mold and is being constrained by it and trying to break out of it.”

One of her more current films ‘The Imitation Game’ where she plays WWII code-breaker Joan Clarke fighting for equal pay alongside Benedict Cumberbatch, which hits theaters soon, explores a character who had to fight against the mold to have her seat at the table. These are the kinds of roles she wants to explore more.

“I think I’ve specifically taken two roles in order to be the kind of female stereotype because I was just quite interested in it,” she says, “but everything else, even the period films, even ‘The Duchess’, were all about a woman that doesn’t fit into the mold and is being constrained by it and trying to break out of it.”

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Despite finding her own real-life prince charming, musician husband James Righton, Keira loves the idea of not fitting in and marching to the beat of her own drum in the name of progression.

“There’s a concept of how you should be and I’m not sure anybody really fits into it. I hope they don’t, because I don’t feel like I do.”

Part of her own evolution in feminism has come with age and being comfortable in her own skin the older she has gotten. It can’t have been easy for her, literally growing up in the spotlight, having every ounce of her appearance and movements picked apart by the tabloids. But yet here she is, bigger, bolder, and more badass than you ever thought she would be. And perhaps every negative thing she did experience, such as the press accusing her of promoting anorexia because of her naturally thin frame, led her to be the confident woman she is today.

In a shoot for Interview Magazine, Keira posed topless making a statement about taking back the power of women’s bodies, which is a timely message in light of the slew of naked female celeb pics leaked onto the interview without their knowledge. Keira says she was only going to do the topless photo if they didn’t retouch her image.

“I think women’s bodies are a battleground and photography is partly to blame. Our society is so photographic now, it becomes more difficult to see all of those different varieties of shape,” she said making it less about the sexuality of an image, and more about the message.

The Edit refers to her as a “status quo-challenging feminist” and a “modern heroine”. We certainly can’t argue with that. It’s enlightening to see how women get stronger with age and experience, and how they in turn use those journeys as a message of empowerment to others.

We have massive respect for Keira for speaking out in such depth about her feminist views (in a fashion magazine no less!) and hope her words will encourage you not to feel you need to fit into society’s standards in order to be accepted. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and be considered an outsider, if it means you are your strongest, best self.

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