Laverne Cox Talks About #YesAllWomen & Female Representation

laverne-cox

Have you ever wondered why some people have the courage to speak their mind, and others don’t? A lot of the time the difference is having support and representation. That means not feeling so alone to stand up and embrace who you are. The media plays a huge part in affording women different types of representations, but sometimes it takes a while for the traditional molds to be broken even in that industry. But when it does get broken, it opens a floodgate for more women, and more opportunities.

Actress Laverne Cox has been somewhat of a spokeswoman for the transgender community, breaking down stereotypes and allowing for more trans women to be represented in mainstream media, with her role on the hit TV series ‘Orange Is The New Black’. She has been on every talk show on the block, including Katie Couric’s show (twice!), explaining that the conversation surround transgender people should be more than just anatomy questions. It’s about gender identity as a whole, whether trans or not.

Her recent cover of Time magazine showed that people are listening, and what she has to say is a new type of discourse on the topic surrounding LGBT community. After season 2 of OITNB was released, Laverne spoke to Elle magazine why someone like her and all the women on the show mark an important point in history for the representation of women on TV.

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“For me, as a woman, thinking about how women are represented on our show, I actually like to think about the audience. I like to think about the demographic of people who come up to me on the street. There’s not a lot of shows where you have Asian, Latina, Middle Eastern, black, white, gay, straight, trans, and men, straight men, gay men watching the show, and they’re all watching.”

“The people who come up to me who are fans of the show, who are fully invested, are a testament to the diversity of our cast, and to what it means to tell stories that people really can see themselves in.”

For Laverne, the representation of women not only says something about diversity and representation, but how far feminism has progressed since its early incarnations.

“I don’t want to make a centralizing comment about womanhood, because I think that’s problematic from a feminist perspective, but we just see these amazingly complicated women, who are strong, and vulnerable, and scared, and want to support each other at the end of the day.”

“I think about #YesAllWomen and the culture of misogyny that I believe we exist in that a lot of people don’t want to acknowledge. I’ve said loving transgender people is revolutionary, but I think loving women—really loving women, is revolutionary too, in a social context that is deeply misogynistic, deeply does not celebrate women.”

She attributes OITNB as part of that all-important progress.

“We do have places where we celebrate women a lot, but I think the way the culture is aligned and structured is misogynistic. It just is. So it’s really great to have a show that creates spaces that really do celebrate women and our diversity, and not just one kind of woman. That’s revolutionary.”

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This is not just a LGBT issue. It’s a women’s issue, and it’s a humanity issue. Another powerful figure who recently spoke on the same issue from a different perspective was Michelle Obama. Giving a speech at poet and activist Dr. Maya Angelou’s funeral, the first lady revealed how a public figure like Maya was such an influence on a young black woman like Michelle, and created an avenue for representation.

“When I think of Maya Angelou I think of the affirming power of her words. The first time I read ‘Phenomenal Woman‘ I was struck by how she celebrated black women’s beauty like no one had ever dared to before. And in that one singular poem, Maya Angelou spoke to the essence of black women but she also graced us with an anthem for all women, a call for all of us to embrace our God-given beauty.”

“And oh, how desperately black girls needed that message. As a young woman I needed that message. As a child, my first doll was Malibu Barbie — that was the standard for perfection. That was what the world told me to aspire to. But then I discovered Maya Angelou, and her words lifted me right out of my own little head.”

“Her message was very simple: She told us that our worth had nothing to do with what the world might say. Instead she said, “Each of us comes form the creator trailing wisps of glory.” She reminded us that we must each find our own voice, decide our own value, and then announce it to the world with all the pride and joy that is our birthright as members of the human race.”

The message is clear. If we don’t advocate more diverse representations of women and support those who choose to venture out into the unknown, we regress as a gender. We have enough problems with gender violence, sexism, and rape, that we can’t afford to tear each other down any more. And it’s not just about supporting each other vocally, but with our hands and our feet and our life.
If Laverne Cox didn’t have the courage to speak boldly about her life and her choices as a transgender woman, and if Maya Angelou didn’t have the courage to write about the beauty of a black woman against a backdrop of racism and classism, then where would we be today? Don’t be afraid of who you are as a woman, don’t let anyone, or anything diminish your value. Because your worth is not just something that affects your life, but it can also be a source of support for those around you.
To hear more of Michelle Obama’s important and awesome speech, watch the video below:

6 Comments

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