The F Word; how celebrities have fuelled the fire of new wave feminism

By Taylor Retter

Beyonce photo by José Goulão from Lisbon, Portugal (Beyoncé) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Feminism has been trending in popular media and vocabulary. It has been things like Emma Watson’s HeForShe UN speech in 2014 which have spurred the third wave of feminism to immense popularity across social media and in the international community.

But how did a speech manage to captivate a global audience while women burning bras and baring their chests did not? One word. Endorsement.

Mega-stars like Beyoncé, for example. At last years MTV Video Music Awards she performed in front of thirty-foot letters spelling FEMINIST. Men are showing support as well. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, while promoting his film Don Jon on The Ellen Show, said blatantly that he is a feminist.

There are other celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, whose campaign to stop rape as a weapon of war is one of the many causes she supports. Her support has cemented her as one of the modern voices for women’s rights worldwide. And who could forget Taylor Swift, with her instant hit “Bad Blood,” which rocketed the star into a whole new level of female empowerment. Swift’s “girl gang” of many famous female celebrities, whom she brings onstage at her concerts, celebrates girl power in popular media today.

There are advocates like Lena Dunham, who use their fan base to spread their message through statements and carefully crafted tweets. There are others, like Nicki Minaj, who have taken advantage of their star power to inspire their fans directly in speeches and messages meant for the masses. Minaj takes time out of her press conferences and concerts to encourage her “Barbz” to stay in school, love themselves, and not feel the need to impress others.

“When you’re a girl, you have to be everything. You have to be dope at what you do but you have to be super sweet and you have to be sexy and you have to be this, you have to be that, and you have to be nice,” she says. “It’s like, ’I can’t be all those things at once. I’m a human being.’ ”

  • Nicki Minaj in “My Time Now” MTV documentary

It isn’t just film and pop stars using their influence to foster the next generation of feminists—even the British royal family is getting involved. Prince Harry has spoken out about the importance of gender equality. And let’s not forget Malala Yousafzai, the girl who survived being shot by the Taliban. One of her numerous causes is education for girls, and she has been a figurehead for equality since the beginning of her courageous journey.

But what does it all mean? Education, my dear Watson. Or rather, hero worship being used to promote a decent cause. Fans want their idols to be proud of them, and thus tend to act in ways their favourite celebs do. This can have devastating effects in some situations, but this is one movement which seems to be working well.

Celebrities can leave you starstruck, but don’t be fooled. Feminism is more than a popular trend. It’s the simple belief in equality for men and women and a demand for this equality. It is a forceful movement which is achieving women’s rights and human rights here in Canada, and abroad.

Thus, in the age of 140 character power quotes, positive messages in song lyrics, and powerful roles on the silver screen, feminism is no longer considered the “f word,” and celebrity endorsement is getting gender equality the recognition it truly deserves.

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