The Fault In This Star

Shailene Woodley certainly seems to be a star on the rise. She has starred in numerous successful teen movies in the past year alone, such as The Spectacular Now, Divergent and the soon to be released and much anticipated, The Fault in Our Stars. These roles and previous interviews had led me to conclude that she’s a great advocate for the current feminist movement and a marvelous role model for younger girls. She cares about the environment, she doesn’t seem totally obsessed with her appearance and she’s a driven, successful young actress. So, I was a bit taken aback when I read an article where she clearly stated that she did not identify as a feminist.

However, what shocked me was not just that she didn't adopt the label "feminist" but her misguided ideas about what feminism is. In an interview with Time magazine Woodley responds to the question of “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” with “No because I love men.” Oh, Shailene. She continued, "I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take men away from power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.” She then goes on to explain that she is 50/50 with both her femininity and masculinity.

I may have wanted to slam shut my computer screen and scream at the top of my lungs in frustration after reading that response, but instead I decided to share my thoughts with people who will hopefully understand the true definition of feminism and share their own frustrations with me. So, here I am. Cue rant:

Why must an actress I so admire, for previous comments she's made in interviews as well as for her strong role choices, completely belittle the lasting presence feminism is currently making on the mainstream media with icons such as Beyonce, Ellen Page, Lena Dunham etc. identifying as feminists? The amount of young girls and women that follow Woodley's career and every word that falls out of her mouth now have re-affirmation of stereotypes of feminists as man-hating and power-hungry when she could have taken the opportunity to dispel such ridiculous myths. Woodley later explains that her “biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism.” Silly me, I thought they were one in the same.

Woodley's explanation of her beliefs, most confusingly, seem to represent feminist ideals. She says that “We have to find a balance” between both male and female power and leadership and critiques the fact that “There’s so much jealousy [between women and girls], so much comparison and envy.” So if I identify as a feminist and agree with nearly everything she states she believes, what exactly does Woodley believe feminism is? I can only imagine how confusing this would be for girls who aren’t so firm in their beliefs as I am.

I want to say that Woodley rejecting the feminist label hasn’t changed my view on her at all, but that would be a lie. Now, when I watch her movies all I will think is, “Somebody, please, tell her the truth! Educate her about feminism!” She is still a fabulous actress, but I’m a little less excited to see her films now. Maybe that's illogical or selfish, but it's not just about her: I now associate her with a group of people with incredible media access, and thus immense power to shape people's beliefs, who don't take that responsibility seriously enough to educate themselves before speaking authoritatively about something. My issue is not necessarily about whether or not Woodley actually identifies as a feminist (although, of course, I hope that she would if given accurate information about the movement and its goals). Instead, I am frustrated that another opportunity for a public figure to change the way people view feminism and to be a great feminist icon in the current mainstream media has been wasted due to a lack of education.

More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Feminism, Media
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, News, Women's leadership, Sexism, Discrimination, Social media, Film, Books



Eliza V
Sign up for our Newsletter

Learn more about topics like these by signing up for Women’s Media Center’s newsletter.