This collection of short essays by 25 women under 30 is like a primer in why feminism still matters coupled with a call to action. Contributors include comedians, politicians, journalists, campaigners and performers, including Emily Benn, Laura Pankhurst, Sofie Hagen and the actor Jade Anouka, an extraordinary Hotspur in the Donmar Warehouse’s recent all-female production of Henry IV.
Their essays are interspersed with a series of pertinent quotes drawn from novels, memoirs, interviews and essays, and featuring everyone from Mary Wollstonecraft, Doris Lessing and Virginia Woolf through to Amy Poehler and Joss Whedon.
In this way the book manages to touch on what it means to be a feminist from the perspective of a Muslim woman, a queer woman, a trans woman and woman of colour, while also exploring intersectionality. There’s some rousing stuff here, even if the inherent bittiness and box-ticking of the format feels limiting at times.
I Call Myself a Feminist is published by Virago (£13.99). Click here to order it for £11.19
Who doesn’t love Jennifer Lawrence? She’s the modern-day Joan of Arc who calls out Hollywood and its sexist pay structures while still headlining some of the biggest films of the year. Well, Chris Rock, like many people of color doesn’t believe Lawrence is the great light for equality. Rather, he suggests that her focus on pay differences for women misses how race also plays a factor.
In a recent interview with the New Yorker Chris Rock discussed SNL star Leslie Jones’ struggle to gain recognition even though she has over two decades of experience in standup. Rock went on to state that if Jennifer Lawrence were a Black actress, she would have more frustrations because “black women have the hardest gig in show business.” This is an obvious fact for Black actors and actress everywhere. It is also a fact that Hollywood’s crusading feminists keep quiet about. Yes, I’m also staring at you Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.
Pay disparity is sexist and needs to stop. While actresses like Jennifer Lawrence are angered over why their pay checks are missing a few commas, Black actresses are still trying to find roles. In her essay “Why Do I Make Less Than my Male Co-Stars”, Lawrence highlights how women just gained the right to vote 90 years ago. For white women this was great. For Black women and other women of color, this meant poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests. The right for all Black women and other people of color to vote didn’t occur until 1964 with the Civil Rights Act that legally outlawed all forms of discrimination. Even then, various state laws continue to effectively disenfranchise people of color in the United States.
Sure, there are laws that “protect” people of color. There are even efforts for more inclusivity. John Boyega just had a leading role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, one of the biggest blockbusters of 2015. Black-ish is a hit TV show pioneering a different perspective of what it means to be Black in America. However, these efforts aren’t enough.
Still in Hollywood, there are only a few roles available for a Black actress. If you want more, then you have to rely on other Black writers and producers to create opportunities. It wasn’t until Shonda Rhimes created Shondaland that we started seeing more Black actresses. Lee Daniels, a Black writer, director, and producer created Empire, the music hit everyone loves to watch. When the shows are made and the actresses win awards, everyone is happy and agrees there needs to be more diversity. But afterward, mainstream Hollywood forgets the struggles while Black actors and actresses are forced to remember that racism is denying them the opportunity to show their talent as they struggle to find roles.
Like Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan who wore the shirt “I rather be a rebel than a slave”, like Lena Dunham who refuses to include people of color in Girls, Jennifer Lawrence is a feminist, but she’s not concerned with others’ struggles. They want their money and their recognition. Once they get it, they won’t ask the question “now what.” They’ll continue to turn a blind eye as they gaze at the new commas on their checks.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons
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