December 20, 2008

My Top Ten Feminist Icons in Western/Anglophone (Mostly American)Media in 2008

Awards season is coming up in the entertainment industry. This means we'll be even more inundated than ususal with celebrations of famous people and pictures of them looking super skinny after light lipo while sporting designer evening gowns. This will annoy me, it's true, but I don't hate celebrities and the whole of celebrity culture. Oh no, some celebrities are feminist-friendly and even feminist icons in my books. So, instead of railing against everyone in the media, I thought, for a change, I'd give some feminist love to those people in the entertainment industry I think jive with my feminist ideologies (for the most part. Obviously I am not requiring my idea of the perfect feminist, as the perfect feminist does not exist). People Magazine and US weekly love best of lists, so here is my list of the top ten best feminist media Icons of 2008!

10. Lilly Allen - her new album, "It's Not Me, It's You" is cheeky fun. Her lyrics are thoughtful and critique everything from with body image issues and consumerism to bad relationships. No, Lilly's not perfect. She gets into fights with people like Katy Perry, but at the end of the day, her music is honest and self-reflexive. She admits that consumer culture makes her body-obsessed and insecure, but mocks this in her music. Candidness is hot. Feminist discourse needs some honesty to stimulate good debate over issues like eating disorders and self-esteem. Lilly gives us texts that inspire just that.

9. Kate Wimslet - she's been telling people that since she read Betty Friedan for her research on Revolutionary Road, she's started to self-identify as a feminist. Wimslet's the new Meryl Streep - the most talented British film actor of her generation. She also refuses to change her look or her body for Hollywood, telling everyone her tummy is soft underneath her body but she doesn't care. She's self-confident, talented and successful - and now she's even an out and proud feminist! What a great role-model for young women starting out in Hollywood. After all, Wimslet proves you can be an actor without becoming an anorexic drug addict who flashes the paps for publicity.

8. Rachel Maddow - she is a liberal political pundit with her own show on MSNBC! And she's openly lesbian. She is, like, the antidote to the religious right. So, yeah, this is a pretty obvious one. I also like how she hasn't change her appearance TOO MUCH. She was kind of a bit butch before, and she is still a bit butch now (though perhaps less so?), but she isn't compromising her identity for mainstream success - That's integrity!

7. Hillary Clinton - We should all be as classy as Ms. Clinton was on the occasion of losing the presidency. She lost the democratic nomination partly because of sexist media coverage, in my opinion, but she forgot it all when it came time to campaign for Obama. She realized she'd have to suck it up and campaign for a guy who wasn't always nice to her and talk him up to a media that was hardly ever nice to her, but she did it for the good of her country. That's feminism! Not voting for John McCain's out of anger that Clinton lost...

6. Whoopi Goldberg - She's pretty even-tempered and cool on the view. Plus, she's a knowledgable woman. I also like the way she's a famous woman who doesn't care about looking stereotypically "feminine", shunning skirts and dresses because she finds them uncomfortable. I just wish she hadn't done that feature in the summer where she agreed to wear skirts for one week. That was a silly experiment. I wish she'd just told the producers to fuck off. Other than that, I like her. She's candid and was relatively even-handed when she and the other women of The View discussed the US presidential election this past year.

5. America Ferrera - I just love her! Her red carpet looks are always so old-school-hollywood sophisticated and she rocks those curves of hers. But I love her most of all for her vocal support of Hillary Clinton during the primaries. Clinton wasn't a popular choice of candidate in Hollywood, so choosing her so openly was probably not an easy thing to do, but Ferrera cared so much about her cause and believed so strongly in her candidate that she didn't care. She's a girl who likes democracy - even when it's a little risky.

4. Tina Fey - another really obvious choice. She's done a lot for women in comedy. She had a hit movie, Baby Mama, that starred women, and has a smart sit com - even if according to that Vanity Fair article she did only get these things because she got skinny. Also, her bang-on Sarah Palin impersonation did a lot of help the democrats win, in my opinion. In addition, at least ten of my friends on Facebook have "Tina Fey" written down as their religion...

3. Lisa Ling - a perennial favourite of mine, that's for sure. It's just that she's cool every single year! Whether she's going to The Congo to raise awareness about violence against women there or speaking out against American foreign policy, Lisa Ling is one brave woman, and I love her for it. Her show, Explorer, kicks ass! She is a fearless female investigative journalist, and I realize she's not the only one, but she's a prominent one who shows the world that we women can go anywhere Anderson Cooper goes - and in her case, even more dangerous places.

2.Jessica Valenti - I love me some It's a great example of how feminism is still very much vibrant in The US, despite people like Sarah Palin co-opted the term and trying to undo everything feminism has done. Jessica Valenti, the founder of, was politically involved throughout the entire US election, posting with her co-bloggers several times a day about all things election-related. But what I love about Valenti is not just how she tackles the obvious things, like backing a pro-choice presidential candidate over an anti-choice one, but how she realizes everything's a feminist issue. She'll critique republican policies AND the portrayal of Jessica Simpson's boobs in the media. She's not a snob, and that's what feminism needs - an icon who is able to talk about everything, so everyone can relate to feminism, no matter what their interests. I think Valenti is showing how feminism isn't just still relevant, it's ALWAYS relevant to everything!

1. Sarah Haskins - she's a feminist and she's even funnier than Tina Fey (don't hit me for Sarah that! I've just insulted almost a dozen friends' religious beliefs by making that statement, but I think it's true). This year, Haskins came out of nowhere to do what is very hard to do in the "postfeminist" ironic climate of "knowing" advertisments - she performed a feminist critique of everything marketed towards women from yogurt to cars. "Target Women" is definitely my favourite new discovery of 2008. And yes, it even beats mulled wine, which I had for the first time three weeks ago in London and I think is fan-fucking-tastic. I would rather watch Sarah Haskins videos than get drunk off mulled wine - that's how much I LOVE Sarah Haskins....I love how she critiques Sarah Palin, defends abortion rights and can make me laugh hysterically all in one three minute segment. The woman is a genius. That's the only word for her. She is most definitely my favourite woman in the media of 2008.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey! Love the list. I definitely agree with these choices but I will try to think of some of my own to add to this list. Merry Christmas and glad you are back in Toronto safely!