Well… it’s been a year. Between the street-filling outrage of the Women’s March to the near-constant stream of sexual assault and harassment disclosures, 2017 has left a lot of us feeling pretty fed up.
For what feels like the very first time, celebrity women were right there with us. We’re used to A-listers flashing mega-watt smiles on the red carpet, not ruffling feathers or making waves by saying exactly what’s on their mind. That all changed. This year, an unprecedented number of superstar women used their platforms to speak honestly about issues that matter. And they acted on what can still feel like a fantasy for so many of us: Not putting up with any bull, even if it’s their own (I’m looking at you, Gwyneth).
Here’s a rundown of stars who ran out of effs to give in 2017.
Spoke out about: The pervasiveness of sexual violence
“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Milano didn’t start the #MeToo movement (that was activist Tarana Burke), but it was her tweet that transformed allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein into a colossal, shareable statement for us all.
Spoke out about: Why it’s crucial to call out predatory behaviour
“Now that we are speaking, let us never shut up about this kind of thing,” wrote the Twelve Years a Slave actress in a New York Times essay about being a target of Weinstein’s sexual advances. “I speak up to make certain that this is not the kind of misconduct that deserves a second chance. I speak up to contribute to the end of the conspiracy of silence.”
Spoke out about: Plastic-surgery shaming
Fonda and Robert Redford appeared on Megyn Kelly’s show in September to promote their film Our Souls at Night. Redford got questions about the movie. Fonda was asked how she still looks so good, being such an old lady and all. “We really want to talk about that right now?” Fonda responded after a long, awkward pause. She then deftly shut down the sexism and ageism by steering the conversation back to the film.
Spoke out about: The prevalence of domestic violence
Kidman’s nuanced portrayal of domestic violence victim Celeste on HBO’s Big Little Lies earned her an Emmy for best lead actress in a limited series. After she took the trophy, she said this: “We shone a light on domestic abuse. It is a complicated, insidious disease. It exists far more than we allow ourselves to know. It is filled with shame and secrecy. And by you acknowledging me with this award, it shines a light on it even more.”
Spoke out about: The value of real people’s stories
The first Black actor to win the “triple crown” of an Emmy, Oscar and Tony also happens to win at giving awards acceptance speeches. After earning the best supporting actress in a drama Oscar for her role in Fences, Davis put a fine point on what makes an important story to tell. “You know, there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place and that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist — and thank God I did — because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
Spoke out about: How little she really knows about Goop
Sometimes there’s real relief in admitting you just have no goddamn idea. During an appearance on his show in June, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel quizzed the actress and lifestyle guru about the more woo-woo content produced by her wellness empire, Goop. After attempting to explain the concept of “earthing,” Paltrow let the mask slip: “I don’t know what the f—k we talk about!”
Spoke out about: Her “monster,” Harvey Weinstein
One of the most impactful and detailed accounts of manipulation at the hands of Weinstein came
in early December, from the Frida actress and producer. Hayek wrote in the New York Times about her battle to get the movie made, how she had to repeatedly ward off Weinstein’s advances and how she was devalued every step of the way. “Why do so many of us, as female artists, have to go to war to tell our stories when we have so much to offer? Why do we have to fight tooth and nail to maintain our dignity?”
Spoke out about: Ambition
Since she starred as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, Witherspoon has been a champion for the ambitious, underestimated woman — particularly so as a producer backing women-led projects. This year, she founded a new company, Hello Sunshine, to support more women filmmakers and storytellers. And while scooping up award after award for her HBO hit Big Little Lies, Witherspoon talked a lot about why it’s great to be an ambitious woman. “Run away from a man who can’t handle your ambition. Run,” she wrote in an essay for Glamour. “What would happen if we encouraged all women to be a little more ambitious? I think the world would change.”
Spoke out about: Hollywood’s culture of silence
Chastain was one of the first to talk about the culture of silence that allowed Weinstein to prey on women. “I was warned from the beginning. The stories were everywhere. To deny that is to create an environment for it to happen again,” she tweeted. Chastain was refreshingly honest about being afraid to speak up for fear of hurting her career. “I’ve got a good group of girlfriends on WhatsApp, and I said, ‘I’m really terrified I’m destroying my career right now. I wonder if people will still see me as an actress, and want to work with knowing I have these opinions,’” she told the New York Times. “They helped me eliminate fear and understand that the only way to change something that’s wrong is to change it, not ignore it.”
Spoke out about: Being angry
When Thurman, who starred in Weinstein Company’s Kill Bill films, was asked on a red carpet for her thoughts about Weinstein, she commended women for coming forward, but then gave a carefully worded equivalent of a “no comment”: “I’ve learned that, when I’ve spoken in anger, I usually regret the way I express myself. So I’ve been waiting to feel less angry. And when I’m ready I’ll say what I have to say.” The clip went viral, embraced as a broader symbol of women’s anger in 2017.
Spoke out about: Racial injustice in America
As a white supremacist rally filled the streets of Charlottesville, Va., this summer, DuVernay sat on a stage at the Sundance Next Fest in Salt Lake City and declared, “No tiki torches from any cowards here.” It was just a little quip, but it represented the director’s willingness to call out discrimination for what it is. The first Black woman to direct a film with a budget of more than $100 million (that’s A Wrinkle In Time, slated for release in early 2018), she’s been a consistent voice in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and used her platform at The Emmys to encourage others to “stand up and be heard.”
Spoke out about: How a woman doesn’t always dress “sexy” to get some
“It’s about women who feel free to wear what they want, when they want and how they want to wear it,” said Blanchett, at the InStyle Awards, on what makes a true style icon. “I mean, we all like looking sexy, but it doesn’t mean we want to f–k you.” Yes, even in 2017, some people think women are “asking for it” if they’re dressing the least bit sexy.
Spoke out about: How often she has sex
“You’ll go through times when you haven’t had sex in a year. Is this bed death? Is this the end of it? Do I want him? Does he want me?” Pink — one of the most refreshingly frank pop stars out there — told The Guardian this year, ahead of the release of her latest record. “Monogamy is work! But you do the work and it’s good again.” Her statement challenged our notions of celebrity couples and their (presumably) perfect relationships, and reminded us that everyone goes through their ups and (sexless) downs.
Julia Louis Dreyfus
Spoke out about: Donald Trump’s travel ban
When the freshly inaugurated president attempted to “Make America Great Again” by banning immigrants from Muslim majority nations, Dreyfus was among the first to call his move “un-American.” As she accepted her Screen Actors’ Guild award in January, the Veep star said, “My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France, and I am an American patriot, and I love this country… I am horrified by its blemishes, and this immigrant ban is a blemish.”
Spoke out about: How #MeToo mostly helps white women
held nothing back in her new memoir We’re Going to Need More Wine, including her own experience of being raped at gunpoint. Union has long been an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, but her words feel all the more relevant now as she highlights how women of colour have been largely left out of this conversation. “I think the floodgates have opened for white women,” she told the Times. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable. And whose pain needs to be addressed now.”
Spoke out about: Everything, on Twitter
In some ways, Harry Potter and his creator, J.K. Rowling, have a lot in common. The young wizard uses magic powers to battle dark forces. Rowling uses Twitter. Rowling’s sharp wit has been a constant on social media this year. When a follower told her to stay out of politics, she replied “In – Free – Countries – Anyone – Can – Talk – About – Politics. Try sounding out the syllables aloud, or ask a fluent reader to help.” And when Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore lost Alabama earlier this month thanks to a huge turnout of Black women voters, Rowling tweeted “Narrator’s voice: Roy was right. God was in control. What he didn’t realise was, She’s black.”
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