These famous women prove that your age and gender doesn’t stop you from achieving success and making an impact. All under the age of 30, our top 5 young female role models have contributed significantly to the arts and culture, politics, and humanitarian movements, and are extremely worthy of our attention, respect and admiration. These are the kind of women we love to see in the limelight, setting a great example for this generation.
In the past few years alone, Lena has accomplished writing a critically acclaimed autobiography, a TV show (which she writes, produces, directs and stars in), a film, two Golden Globe Awards, and was the first woman to win a Director’s Guild Award for Best Director in a Comedy Series. She actively supports pro-choice, feminist and gay rights campaigns, and also has a Q&A YouTube series. If you have read her book, you will also know that Lena has achieved all this while battling crippling anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Oh, and she’s 28 years old.
This 17 year-old recently became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She has been advocating education for girls in her home country of Pakistan since the age of 11, but rose to international notoriety when Taliban members shot her on a school bus in 2012. She survived the shooting and continues to speak out against Taliban oppression in her hometown, despite an ongoing warrant for her assassination. Brave, intelligent, kind: Malala is exactly the kind of young woman you want your children to know about.
Emma has been in the limelight since the age of nine, after gaining a lead role in the Harry Potter film series. This year she was appointed a United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador and advocates gender equality all over the world, most recently launching the UN HeForShe Campaign. In between filming one of the most popular film franchises in history, and being an accomplished humanitarian, Watson also graduated from Brown University with a degree in English Literature, and became a certified yoga instructor.
Since the age of nine, Palmer has been either on the stage, in front of the camera, or behind the mic. Once, one of the highest paid child actors on TV (as the lead in Nickelodeon‘s True Jackson, VP), Keke continues to conquer as the host of her own talk show, Just Keke, an album set for release, an ambassador for several charities, and an upcoming role on the tv show, Masters of Sex. Most notably, the 21 year-old recently became the first African-American woman to portray Cinderella in the Broadway musical.
The world is an oyster for this small town teenager… and we mean small town – her hometown in New Zealand has a population of just over 5,000. Lorde took home two Grammy’s earlier this year for her number one single Royals, including song of the year. She is a woman of the people, acclaimed for her lyrical critique of wealth, excess and celebrity. She featured in Forbes 30 under 30 list, as well as Time’s Most Influential Teenagers. This year, she was also appointed to oversee the Hunger Games Mockingjay soundtrack, and has another solo album in the works. She is a self-identified feminist, and advocates for people to enrol to vote in her home country. She is turning 18 in November.
Images via Shutterstock, Daily Mail UK, and Lollapalooza.
This year has been a great one for women and feminism. Gender equality is at the forefront of public conversation and concern, and people are actively throwing themselves into the cause. That includes a swag of our famous friends, like Beyonce, Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Yes, for what seems like the first time, men are standing up and saying gender equality should be a national priority, and feminism is important in achieving that goal.
Joseph Gordon Levitt
Levitt has really seized his responsibility to campaign for gender equality – and don’t you just love him for it? He first stated he was a feminist on Ellen, and since released a short video explaining that feminism means:
“that gender doesn’t have to define who you are. That you can be whatever you want to be, whoever you want to be, regardless of your gender.”
The Harry Potter star proclaimed his support for gender equality long before his co-star’s HeForShe campaign. He has advocated for more complex and substantial roles for women in film, and just generally seems to be a lovely wizard and defender of people.
“I think I’m a feminist just by the virtue of the fact that I believe in equal rights for everyone.”
John Legend is a supporter of the Chime for Change charity – an organisation that raises funds to advocate for equal education, health and justice for girls.
“All men should be feminists. If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place… We are better off when women are empowered. It leads to a better society.”
Ruffalo has long been an active feminist. He has advocated for abortion rights, lending his support to the 2013 Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, condemning threats to healthy, safe and legal abortion.
“I trust (women) with their choices, I trust them with their bodies and I trust them with their children. I trust that they are decent enough and wise enough and worthy enough to carry the right of Abortion and not be forced to criminally exercise that Right at the risk of death or jail time.”
Aziz recently threw his support behind feminism on The Late Show with David Letterman. The Parks and Recreation star said he obviously supports the notion that men and women should have equal rights, summing up his case with:
“You’re a feminist if you go to a Jay-Z and Beyoncé concert and you’re not like, ‘I feel like Beyoncé should get 23 percent less money than Jay-Z.”
Kristen Stewart is the latest in a string of celebrities keen to claim the title of “feminist“. In her recent interview with The Daily Beast, Stewart says that it is “ridiculous thing to say you’re not a feminist”.
While the Twilight actress almost makes a good point, her argument falls short when referring to the “overly-aggressive types” that are “discrediting” other feminists.
While she doesn’t go into who these aggressive types are, it would appear K-Stew’s brand of feminism is just the opposite: passive. If we are to subscribe to her logic, the only reason to call yourself a feminist is because it would be “strange” not to (because equality – duh!).
As a celebrity, Stewart has achieved something positive just by calling herself a feminist. But it appears she is the advocate of a kind of responsibility-free feminism: where you can stand for something, without actually participating in it.
Furthermore, Kristen is buying into the precise stereotypes – of the “angry” and “aggressive” woman – that feminism struggles against.
This begs the question, is it enough to just call yourself a feminist?
Prior to 2014, we feminists were used to being rejected by our celeb sisters who stuck to a rather patriarchy-friendly approach to gender issues.
However, things started to pick up earlier this year around Beyonce’s “FEMINIST”-emblazoned VMAs performance. Shortly after that, notorious “non-feminist” Taylor Swift came out with new political priorities, citing her friendship with Lena Dunham as the catalyst for her feminist rebirth. (Previously, a young Ms Swift had said she wouldn’t call herself a feminist because she didn’t think of things as “boys versus girls” – a common misconception about what feminism actually is.)
In an era where women continue to turn their backs on gender equality, I would argue that openly identifying yourself as a feminist is a triumph.
When it is popular to assign feminists labels like “man-hater”, “angry”, or “bitch”, it does take guts to claim such an “unattractive” title. It is this precise ownership of the label, specifically by people like Swift – a decidedly man-loving, feminine, amiable woman – that overwrites this misunderstanding of feminism.
However, this still doesn’t determine whether or not feminism in this context is a role, or just an honorary title.
While many people will buy into whatever their favorite celeb is endorsing, will they actually commit to a movement toward gender equality?
Are they going to challenge their friends in conversations of political, economic and social equality? Will they stand idly by while largely white, male governments legislate issues pertaining exclusively to women, their bodies and their health?
While we aren’t at a stage where we can confirm if feminism is merely the flavour of the month, we can confirm that conversation is rampant – largely thanks to the likes of Kristen, Taylor, Beyonce and Emma.
Swift nailed the relevance of celebrity feminists when speaking of Emma Watson’s UN speech:
“I wish when I was 12-years-old I had been able to watch a video of my favorite actress explaining, in such an intellectual, beautiful, poignant way, the definition of feminism. Because I would have understood it. And then earlier on in my life I would have proudly claimed I was a feminist because I would have understood what the word means.”
It is not so much the label, but about bringing gender equality to the forefront of public conversation so that men, women and children can begin to engage in this crucial issue.