32 outspoken celebrity feminists
Who run the world?
Hollywood's institutional sexism has become one of the foremost issues facing the entertainment industry, and a lot of our favorite actors, filmmakers, and musicians have spoken out against gender inequality in the biz—and in the culture at large, on which popular entertainment has such a profound impact. Here are 32 stars who proudly wave the feminist flag.
In October 2017, the industry was rocked an exposé in The New York Times reporting decades of alleged sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein. Ashley Judd was among the actresses and former Weinstein employees who went on the record for the story, revealing that a previously recounted 1997 allegation of harassment—involving an unnamed studio executive—was about Weinstein. Following the Times report in which Judd participated, over 50 more women followed suit and shared allegations of misconduct by Weinstein.
But those revelations aren't all she's done to combat gender inequality: In 2012, Judd published a searing essay slamming critics who made cruel remarks about her appearance and calling for women everywhere to challenge the patriarchy; in 2017, she participated in the Women's March on Washington and recited a fiery feminist poem, "Nasty Woman," for the hundreds of thousands of protesters who marched in the capital.
Jessica Chastain has commented on the necessity of gender equality numerous times, but she made her boldest statement yet at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, where Sofia Coppola became the second woman ever (and the first since 1961) to take home the iconic French fest's award for best director. "I do believe that if you have female storytelling you also have more authentic female characters," Chastain said in a press conference. "The one thing I really took away from [all the films at Cannes] is how the world views women from the female characters that I saw represented. It was quite disturbing to me, to be honest." Chastain also is a champion for female communal uplift and sent flowers to her fellow Best Actress nominees for the 2022 Academy Awards. She ended up taking home the Oscar for her performance in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
Beyoncé's lyrics have suggested her feminist leanings since her Destiny's Child days ("Independent Women," anyone?). But if there was ever any doubt about whether Queen Bey truly identified as a feminist, she eliminated it during a performance at the 2014 VMAs, in which she slid across the dark stage as the wall behind her lit up with the word "FEMINIST." In a 2021 Harper's Bazaar interview, Beyoncé described her values as a feminist. "I want to build a community where women of all races can communicate and share some of those secrets, so we can continue to support and take care of each other. I want to give women a space to feel their own strength and tell their stories. That is power."
Davis has pushed for change in the industry since before it was cool (even though, if we're being honest, it's always been cool). In 2006, she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which supports research projects examining gender representation onscreen and advocates for better, and more frequent, depictions of women in popular entertainment. In 2015, Davis founded the Bentonville Film Festival, the mission of which is "to champion women and diverse voices in media." Her devout support for gender equality within the entertainment industry lead to her receiving the 2019 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Governors Awards.
Arquette gave the acceptance speech heard 'round the world when she spoke out against Hollywood's gender wage gap at the 2015 Oscars, where she won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Richard Linklater's Boyhood. "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America," she said, receiving enthusiastic cheers from the audience (Meryl Streep in particular).
Kristen Bell took on the gender pay gap in September 2016, appearing in the feminist video, Pinksourcing. "Why outsource all your production to faraway countries like India, China, and Narnia when we have the cheapest and best workforce right here in the good ole U.S. of A.: women," Bell said in the spoof. "Women are a bargain at the workplace since you only have to pay them 77 cents on the dollar." The actress went on to tweet about the matter, writing, "Equal pay is no joke—which is why I made this video with @HuffingtonPost #CelebsHaveIssues." Kristen Bell attended the 2020 Global Women's Forum for Peace and Humanitarian Action and described a "feminist 'Good Place'" to "[look] like a place with equality."
Dunham has been in Hollywood for over a decade, but has made her voice heard more than a lot of celebs who have been around since before she was born. She has repeatedly affirmed her position as a feminist and frequently speaks out about women's issues, whether through videos, essays, books, tweets, or the taboo-breaking HBO series she created, wrote, produced, directed, and starred in, Girls. She recently directed films for 2022 exploring feminist themes—Sharp Stick and Catherine Called Birdy—and from 2015 to 2018, she and her Girls co-showrunner, Jenni Konner, directed Lenny Letter, a newsletter with a feminist bent.
Powerful showrunner Shonda Rhimes has spoken out about her feminist beliefs in the press and then illustrated them where it really counts—as part of her Shondaland lineup, where she's created and produced some of the most empowering, compelling, and honestly flawed female characters on TV. "The beauty of being a feminist is that you get to be whatever you want, and that's the point," she told ELLE in 2015.
Since graduating from Hogwarts, Watson has established herself as a prominent activist for gender equality. A UN Goodwill Ambassador, Watson launched the UN HeForShe campaign in 2014, which encourages men to join the feminist movement. In early 2016, she started a public feminist book club on Goodreads, choosing Gloria Steinem's memoir My Life on the Road as the club's first pick. Watson's 2020 interview with Vogue UK's Paris Lees, where the actress speaks on her support of the trans community, made its rounds on the internet and exemplified true feminism via intersectional discourse.
Between her popular sketch comedy series Inside Amy Schumer, her debut feature Trainwreck, and her stand-up sets, Schumer's biting comedy relentlessly attacks rape culture, gender double standards, and general Hollywood sexism. Hosting the 2022 Academy Awards alongside Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes, the comedian tackled sexism in the industry: "This year the Academy hired three women to host, because it's cheaper than hiring one man."
Girl on fire Jennifer Lawrence made headlines in 2015 when she published an essay in Lena Dunham's newsletter about the Hollywood gender wage gap and the sexist industry expectations that make her feel unable to negotiate an equal salary. The Hunger Games star has not shied away from the feminist label ever since: "I don't know why that word is so scary to people," she said months after the publication of her essay. "It shouldn't be, because it just means equality."
DuVernay is an advocate for gender equality in an area of the film industry that is even more homogenous than the rest: among its A-list directors. She is vocal on Twitter about inequality, she spoke out in favor of the EEOC's investigation into Hollywood's sexist hiring practices in 2015, and she pursues diverse projects that highlight social issues. In 2020, DuVernay exclusively sat down with EW to talk about her non-profit, Array Alliance, which seeks to uplift BIPOC and female filmmakers to create their art.
Grimes made waves when she published an epic feminist declaration to her Tumblr in 2013. The passionately written post has since been removed, but her comments included that she is sick of "being considered vapid for liking pop music or caring about fashion," and that she is "sad that my desire to be treated as an equal and as a human being is interpreted as hatred of men, rather than a request to be included and respected."
The Oscar winner is a strong voice for feminists as much as she's a powerful presence onscreen. Theron made waves when she negotiated a higher salary for herself for 2016's Snow White and the Huntsman to match the wage earned by her costar, Chris Hemsworth, and her performance in 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road has made her character, Imperator Furiosa, something of a pop-culture feminist icon. "I'm proud to be a f---ing feminist," she said on a 2020 Matter of Fact panel.
Rodriguez acknowledges her own celebrity and has often commented on how she aims to use her unique platform to reach a lot of people. "Now I can talk to more girls and tell them that any skin color, any economic background, any shape they were born into is perfect and right and strong and beautiful and enough because I'm sitting here not the stereotype," she told TV Guide in 2014.
Gen-Z actress Rowan Blanchard, who starred on Disney Channel's Girl Meets World, is an outspoken feminist—largely on social media, where she speaks directly to girls of her generation. In 2015, she posted a lengthy essay to her Tumblr about intersectional feminism and joined Instagram's #MyStory initiative. "I think it's important for girls to recognize feminist issues because it directly affects them," she told EW.
Fey has brought her feminist sensibility to the Golden Globes stage (with her BFF Amy Poehler), to Saturday Night Live, to major movies, and to TV with seven seasons of 30 Rock, which she created and starred in. Her sharp observant humor consistently satirizes the rampant sexism in our culture and in the film industry, and she even told Bustle that it's time to "retire" the evasive "I'm a humanist" line.
Amy Poehler—like her best friend, Golden Globes co-host, and frequent collaborator, Tina Fey—is an outspoken feminist whose comedy reflects her dedicated interest in gender equality. Poehler directed and starred in Moxie, the 2021 Netflix film about a young girl who initiates a feminist uprising at her school. In addition to film, she founded the organization Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, which is "dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves."
Scandal star Kerry Washington who was a part of EW's Beyond Beautiful roundtable, has thrown her support behind the feminist movement. She spoke eloquently about the need for intersectional feminism and greater diversity in our entertainment at the 2015 GLAAD Media Awards. Washington graced the 2022 cover of TIME's inaugural Women of the Year issue and stated, "the only way we can save our democracy is if we realize we are the Olivia Popes of our communities and families."
Margaret Cho is a vocal intersectional feminist, and her words are borne out of her identity as a queer woman of color. She wrote an essay for xoJane in 2012, which says, "My feminism—it's kind of necessary. I don't want to feel like I am less than anyone, and so I have to label myself in order to be ready for the fight." Cho was the recipient of NOW's Intrepid Award in 2003.
Streisand holds the honor of being the first of only three women to have won the Golden Globe for Best Director (for 1983's Yentl), and presented the Oscar for Best Director to that award's first female recipient, Kathryn Bigelow, in rather dramatic fashion in 2010 ("The time has come"). The actress and director has spoken out about the need for gender equality in both the film industry and our political system. "I've always thought women are intrinsically powerful," Streisand told The Hollywood Reporter in 2021. And some men still don't want the competition. Thirty-seven years ago, the industry was mostly run by men. Directors were mostly men."
Longoria has long been active in politics and outspoken on issues of equality and diversity. The actress and a founder of the Time's Up movement has focused on projects that are diverse and female-driven and frequently campaigned for political candidates who support women's issues—and she took part in EW's Beyond Beautiful roundtable in 2016.
Rose McGowan seems to be sick of the film industry's sexist crap, and she isn't afraid to talk about it—much of the time on Twitter. The Charmed actress made headlines in 2017 when she claimed Harvey Weinstein raped her, then followed up a year later with a speech at the Detroit Women's Convention. "I came to be a voice for all of us who have been told that we are nothing. For all us who have been looked down on," McGowan told listeners. "No more. Name it, shame it and call it out. Join me."
Amandla Stenberg has, like their fellow activist Rowan Blanchard, established themselves as a prominent feminist and reached a younger generation of people via social media. The Hunger Games actor speaks out frequently about intersectional feminism and often chooses projects that shine a spotlight on social issues.
Oscar winner Cate Blanchett has frequently commented on the gender imbalance in Hollywood and is known for calling out the sexism of red carpet interviews. In 2020, she played the anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly—who notoriously fought against the Equal Rights Amendment—on Hulu's Mrs. America, a role opposite to Blanchett's true character. "I think feminism is about, at its base, equality. But it also means that someone who is holding all the power has to share and that's a fearful thing for a lot of people," she told Variety.
Witherspoon, who was a part of EW's Beyond Beautiful roundtable in 2016, has emerged as a powerful producer, in addition to an Oscar-winning actress. Initially inspired to start producing by the lack of good roles available to actresses, she has made a string of films centered on challenging and interesting female characters with her production company, Hello Sunshine.
Kaling can add 'feminist' to her long list of titles, which includes writer, actress, series creator, showrunner, and best-selling author. "For everyone, men and women, it's important to be a feminist," Kaling told Refinery29 in 2013. Her feminist perspective came through with The Mindy Project, which she created and starred on, and she has made a point of assembling a writers' room with a multitude of female voices.
A lot of celebrities dance around the "Are you a feminist" question (looking at you, "I'm a humanist"-ers), but Page isn't one of them. "I don't know why people are so reluctant to say they're feminists," the actor told The Guardian in 2013. "But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?" In 2020, Page came out as a transgender man and has lived authentically as himself since.
Whether striving to abolish toxic masculinity or defying gender barriers in fashion, the "As It Was" singer has eminently expressed his firm belief in gender equality. With a female-dominated fanbase he's defined as the "future," Harry Styles is a feminist, but he refuses to be praised for it. In his 2017 Rolling Stone interview, Styles discussed how his feminocentric upbringing shaped his gender ideals: "I grew up with my mum and my sister...when you grow up around women, your female influence is just bigger. Of course, men and women should be equal. I don't want a lot of credit for being a feminist. It's pretty simple. I think the ideals of feminism are pretty straightforward." Oh, we'd walk through fire for you, Harry. Just let us adore you.
Just like Miss Ponytail said: "When all is said and done/You'll believe God is a woman." Ariana Grande is an intersectional feminist who consistently fights for gender, racial, and LGBTQ+ equality. The multiplatinum singer has publicly confronted misogynistic interviewers—thank u, next!—peacefully marched in 2020's Black Lives Matter protests, pledged $1.5 million to fight against anti-trans legislation, and so much more. "I'm willing to take the brunt of what I'm fighting for," Grande stated in 2016, "and my fellow women are definitely something that I will always be one of the first to speak up about." If that's not enough proof, watch her "Positions" music video to get a glimpse of a feminist utopia—an all-female presidential cabinet.