Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech was an unexpected highlight of awards-season mania, which is usually rife with cringe-worthy public displays of gratitude and ego. Her public appeal for equal pay and equal rights for all women was a bold move in an industry that all too often plays it safe when it comes to speaking truth to power.
Here are five more examples of female celebs who’ve put feminism at the forefront of the cultural conversation.
The Harry Potter actress has never played the coy starlet game but instead has used her status to bring attention to women’s rights and to openly declare herself a feminist. In the fall of 2014, the UN Goodwill Ambassador firmly outlined her position in a public speech and wisely called upon men to ally themselves with the cause “so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned, and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.” (She also doled out some solid feminist advice to a fan on Twitter.)
The singer has quite literally put the word feminist onstage with her, performing in front of a huge FEMINIST sign during her 2104 VMAs performance and drawing people’s attention to the work of feminist author Chimamanda Nigozi (whose funny, insightful Ted Talk on feminism is a must-watch). But her allegiance to the cause isn’t merely a stage prop. She’s repeatedly lent her name to the cause, writing an essay endorsing wage equality entitled “Gender Equality Is a Myth” for Maria Shriver’s Gender Report and making her views known in her music and interviews.
The Girls creator and author of Not That Kind of Girl has arguably made a career out of her belief in gender equality, and her efforts have tackled many of the pop-culture norms surrounding “femininity” head-on. Dunham is never shy about vocalizing her convictions. Memorably, in a 2013 interview she went after women who duck the feminist question out of ignorance or blind adherence to the status quo. Said Dunham: “People think there is something taboo about speaking up for feminism. I know for a long time that I was embarrassed to call out misogyny because I was then going to be that complaining girl who can’t let it go. But the fact is, we can’t let it go—not until we feel like we have been heard.”
The Oscar-winning actress is a significant advocate for gender equality and has done much to tackle sexism in Hollywood and the broader culture. Through the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a research-based organization that examines the current state of gender representation in popular media and advocates for positive change, she’s underlined the woefully inadequate (and troublingly hyper-sexualized) representation of women and girls in popular culture.
When Ashley Judd was the unwitting subject of the old “What happened to Ashley Judd’s face?” conversation in 2012—you know, the one that gets recycled in tabloids and gossip sites and has most recently zinged the likes of Renee Zellweger and Uma Thurman—she decided to call out the chatter about her “puffy face” as this sexist crap it really is. In an impassioned blog post for The Daily Beast, Judd raged against the “incessant objectification” of women’s and girls’ bodies, calling it “nasty, gendered and misogynistic.” Moreover, she called upon women to recognize the unflattering and misogynistic ideas that underlie the conversation in the first place.