Hollywood stars promoting feminism

I celebrated International Women’s Day with thousands of others yesterday at the WOW festival on London’s Southbank. The particular draw this year for me was Salma Hayek’s premier showing of her animated film The Prophet, a version of the best -selling book by Kahlil Gibran, after which she gave a talk and did a Q & A session with the audience in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

There was something so refreshing to have a figure that is one of Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses talking about feminism and changing the world. I confess to not having known very much about Hayek and so did some research to discover that she started her own production company in order to provide films and TV shows together with roles that she felt the male dominated film world were denying women.  She is also responsible for Ugly Betty – the hit TV series. She spent eight years trying to get Freda made and another eight to complete The Prophet which features a little girl finding her voice, such is the resistance to ‘female centred’ films.  The film The Prophet is for all ages and charming yet she has failed to find a distributer for it in the UK. How depressing to think that all the public want is violence and action. She was told that a film about poetry and philosophy would not interest a young audience! Hayek also spoke passionately about the charity she is involved in called Chime for Change

Another Hollywood legend Jane Fonda stood up for feminism last week  too at the International Conference on Masculinity in New York stating that ‘the most intractable problem that humanity faces is the problem of patriarchy,’. Predictably both women’s important critiques and comments were overshadowed in the Daily Mail write up by descriptions of their appearance and clothing.

One problem that feminism in the past has had is trying to effect change from the margins so to have a number of powerful insider women with huge influence publicly demanding change and an end to patriarchy is cause for celebration. No more having to bite your lip!

Concept of Choice

We hear a lot about choice amidst the numerous debates about women and their position in society. Women choose to go to work or stay at home, women choose to work part time, women choose to work in the sex trade, women choose to wear a veil…. If we start to add in the less obvious choices..  some women choose the have the daughters’ genitalia mutilated, Chinese women chose to bind their daughters feet, women choose to turn a blind eye to their partners abuse of their daughters, women chose marriage over careers until a few years ago….. the use of the word choice becomes less and less appropriate. Of course women did not choose to hand over all their property to their husbands upon marriage. Of course women in Saudi Arabia do not choose not to drive…

We choose available options…  but the question is who makes them available and who and what determines the  cultural and social discourse of the time – this can be material and, more powerfully ideological. Please can we recognise the discourse of freedom of choice for what it is – limiting.