Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Feminism is still necessary & benefits everyone

Joseph Gordon Levitt

There are few sights more arresting than Joseph Gordon-Levitt on a red carpet, in a suit and flashing his red hitRECord button on a strategic lapel. That site is JGL’s open-collaborative production company, and he’s on a new mission.

This week is only halfway over, and the internet has been full of discussions about feminism. Emma Watson led the charge with her viral speech about how feminism is for both sexes. It should not be associated with putting down men. Emma was left to fend off terrible MRA trolls as certain pop stars gave silly quotes about why they’re not into feminism. Most of the starlets who have recently rejected the feminist label cannot articulate the term’s definition. They don’t know what they’re rejecting. They simply believe that the “f”-word is a bad thing.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has taken notice. Earlier this year, he spoke on feminism and its definition: “What that means to me is that you don’t let your gender define who you are-you can be who you want to be, whether you’re a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, whatever.” JGL proudly described himself as a feminist. He seemed shocked that so many young women shun the label.

Joe uploaded a new video yesterday. He reenforces his previous statements on feminism. He talks about the Women Against Feminism movement (which I won’t link) and so much more. This speech is very off-the-cuff, but it works:

“I actually found it very interesting looking through [the Women Against Feminism site] and seeing what different people had to say, who didn’t identify with that word. People who found that word ‘feminism’ to be sort of anti-men or indicate that it was not right for women to not do things that were traditionally considered to be women’s place, like stay home and raise kids.

“And then there were some people who were saying that feminism made sense in the past, but it doesn’t anymore because men and women are equal now. I’m no expert, but I think the facts are pretty contrary to this, I think, if you actually look at the evidence of salaries for women versus salaries for men. At least in the United States, there’s still a definite disparity. That’s just one of many examples.

“So it’s complicated, and I grant that it’s complicated. And I think that it’s a really great thing for us all to be talking about. In the interest of furthering this conversation, I want to ask you guy what you think about this. What does that word ‘feminism’ mean to you?

“The first person who ever told me about feminism was my mom. My mom was active in what was called the 2nd wave of feminism in the ’60s and ’70s. Not only was feminism something that my mom taught me about. Obviously, motherhood in general is right at the core of what feminism is or isn’t. A lot of people who don’t identify with that word ‘feminism’ feel like that word is somehow against motherhood. Me, personally, I don’t take it that way. For me, as a feminist, I would say it should be up to the woman who wants to decide. If she wants to be a mom, then she should be a mom. If that’s what she wants to do full time, then that’s awesome. That’s what my mom did. But if she wants to go out and work, have a career other than being a mom, then she should be able to do that as well. And that’s to the benefit of everybody.”

[From HitRecord on YouTube]

Joe then asks his audience to send in clips to talk about whether or not they are feminist, and what the word means to them. He will dedicate an entire episode of his online show’s 2nd season to this issue. What he’s doing is important, and I love that he acknowledges how feminism benefits both sexes.

Here’s the video clip of Joe’s impassioned speech. His mom raised him well.

Joseph Gordon Levitt

Photos courtesy of WENN

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68 Responses to “Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Feminism is still necessary & benefits everyone”

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  1. Lilacflowers says:


  2. KinChicago says:

    Incredible, articulate, brave and I love him for it

    • joan says:

      And he’s so much more aware than are a lot of women. I hope they hear him.

      He’s such a darling guy — really bright energy.

  3. HughJass says:

    I love him SO MUCH!

  4. Abbott says:

    Can we join internet hands and basket-toss JGL for this? I love this guy. It’s not a fleeting buzzword to him. He gets it and he’s committed. And why is my phone emitting chopped onion fumes? ‘scuse me…. *sniffle*

  5. Socalgal says:

    I love him for opening this discussion!

  6. Kat says:

    I really hate this. Women are verbally attacked and threatened for making any kind of feminist statement. Men are applauded. I don’t think he should be attacked or anything, but it always seems toe that we’re waiting for men to endorse feminism and falling at their feet in gratitude when they do. While women get attacked.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      Women who understand the meaning of feminism and aren’t afraid to identify as feminists are also generally applauded around here at least.

    • Erinn says:

      The people who congratulate men for this usually aren’t the same people tearing down women for it. The women getting attacked are generally attacked by people who aren’t understanding of it, or by the so called MRA dudes.

    • HH says:

      I’m sure that he’s getting attacked by men. I’m sure that they’re trying to devalue his masculinity because he’s speaking on such topics. One of the most frustrating parts of about fighting for equality of any kind is that the marginalized group requires the help and legitimacy of those with power. If women speak up, if minorities speak up, if the LGBT community speak up, it’s complaining/whining. However, when those with power join the cause (men, whites, heterosexual) it validates their grievances to the wider population. It’s frustrating, but a necessity.

    • Sixer says:

      Well y’know. I’m white. I’m anti-racist. I’m aware of the white saviour trope and am careful not to speak for anyone else or to be patronising about it but it doesn’t me think that I should avoid shouting loud and proud that I’m anti-racist. Because racism is wrong and I’m against it.

      As I see it, the same thing goes for sexism and rape culture and patriarchy and all the rest of it. These things are wrong. Right-thinking people are against them and that makes them feminist. If a man can clearly see that, he should say so.

      Although it’s frustrating when men are most feted for it, let’s not see it as being the male saviour of sexism any more than I’m being the white saviour of racism by being anti-racist. Let’s just see them as feminists – as every human being should be feminists, whatever their gender – and welcome them into the fold.

      I just posted a quote from Ani DiFranco on another thread – “Either you are a feminist or you are a sexist/misogynist. There is no box marked ‘other’.”

      • Sara says:

        why does it have to be so black and white though? with the whole you are either part of the movement or you hate women? i dont understand that. its also different to what Emma Watson said at the UN.

        when it comes to sexuality we try to get rid of labels but suddenly here its more important? isnt it waymore important what people actually DO instead of simply saying “im this and that”?

        i must say that quote turned me off alot and i can understand why people get sceptical hearing something like that. that sounds extreme. “you are either with us or against us” basically rendering criticism and other opinions as hatred.

        again: it seems to be mor about forcing labels on poeple than judging them on what they do.

      • Sixer says:

        But what grey areas are there, Sara? I can’t imagine a single one.

        Feminism is believing in equal political, economic and cultural rights between genders. Nothing more.

        Give me one grey area. Just one. In suffrage? In education? In the workplace? In court? Any example where a reasonable person could reasonably argue that women should have fewer rights than men. Because I can’t think of one.

        Sure, we can argue about the best way to achieve equal rights between genders (or races or sexual orientations) but surely no reasonable person would say that one gender (or race or sexual orientation) should have fewer rights than another?

        That’s all feminism is. And if a person believes in equal rights between genders then they are, de facto, a feminist. It’s really that simple.

      • TOK says:

        @Sara-But the antonym for feminism is sexism/misogyny. It stands to assume that if you don’t believe that men and women are equal, then by default you oppose that. You might not like the language Ani DiFranco used, but she really was on-point with her comment.

        I do agree that actions matter, but when it comes to issues of inequality, our voice can often be a more powerful weapon to fight against injustice.
        Not behaving like a racist, and not acting in a homophobic manner means less when you’re not firmly declaring that you are vehemently against racism and homophobia. That’s how things change—not just by changing behavior but by being vocal in our support of those whom we stand behind.

        Your comment leads me to believe that you have an expectation to be treated equally–even though you don’t identify as a feminist. But why do you think you’re privileged enough to have that expectation? Because of feminism. Equality wasn’t just granted to women, it was fought for.
        Saying that you’re not a feminist implies that you’re ok with being treated *less than*, period.

        And to put it even more simply, what is SO damn scary about the word feminist? I just don’t get it.

      • sadezilla says:

        This is a great response. I can understand not wanting to be labeled in certain situations, but if the shoe fits, you’re a feminist. :)

      • Lauraq says:

        I heard it described in a lovely way once (well, “heard”, it was in a book). “All humanists are feminists by definition. All feminists are not humanists, but they should be.” Basically, believing in basic human rights will cover your bases. If you believe in equality, you are a feminist.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I will always applaud a member of the majority anything who supports and works for the equality of the minority. It doesn’t discount the hard work that the minority themselves are doing, it only adds to it.

      This applies to men/women, racial equality, LGBT rights, income inequality, etc.

  7. Nuzzybear says:

    Now I want the two of them to date, fall in love, get married, and make a legion of adorable feminist babies…

  8. Cora says:

    Okay, I know I shouldn’t have done this but I never heard of Women Against Feminism so I googled them and … despaired. Every single post was written by someone who clearly had no idea what the word meant.

    By the way, Robin Abcarian at the LA Times wrote a really good take down of this group.

  9. nicegirl says:

    You go, JGL!!! AWESOME!

  10. kri says:

    This is what we need..women AND men who get it at its core. This man was obviously raised by caring, intelligent humans. As a result, he himself is an intelligent, caring human. A man speaking out and identifying as a feminist is a man who understands how to make the world better. Kick ass, JGL!

  11. Blythe says:

    All I ask is that people have a general and broad understanding of what feminism is and what being a feminist means. That’s it. How can you not be part of a movement that promotes equality for all people? Feminism is the movement for the people! It benefits women AND men. Feminism discusses the issues facing men in today’s society just as much as it does women. Why can’t people get that?

    Joseph rocks for this.

    • Nina says:

      I guess it’s because men find it difficult to, you know, label themselves as anything that starts with “fem”. Fem means female, which ALSO means damsel-ness and emotions and just all around weakness and all those good, married, wood-chopping MANLY men can’t really risk being that or like… human.

      • Sara says:

        not only that. yesterday i read Caitlin Moran saying:
        ” So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.

        a) Do you have a vagina? and
        b) Do you want to be in charge of it?

        If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.”

        that does rule out men as feminists. she does not define it for all but its things like that that will turn male allies away.

    • Sara says:

      “Feminism discusses the issues facing men in today’s society just as much as it does women.”
      that is not true and feminism doesnt have to. the majority of topics are obviously about women, that is because women need more empowerment. claiming such a thing is not helpful at all when it is simply untrue.

      • wolfpup says:

        I thought that his statement was amusing because of his somewhat obscured reference to motherhood. Motherhood is not the core of feminism, just as loving one’s mother is not. Quoting Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, feminism (1895) is “1). the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2). organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” The theory is self-evident to me; but the application of these rights, are the crux of the debate in the movement today; including the efforts to extend these rights to men and women everywhere. This is not anti-mother, or anti-men – it is about the rights of full personhood for everyone It is my belief that those who say that feminism is no longer necessary, are blinded by their culture (advertising and ignorance).

        I cannot think of any reason why a rational adult would not identify themselves with this movement.

      • magpie says:

        I hated what he had to say about being a mother in this day and age. If you are privileged like JGL and can DECIDE to be a SAHM, that’s great. But for a lot of women, they DON’T have a choice. A lot of women don’t have a partner that makes enough (or a partner at all). Some women HAVE to be the bread winners (pay the rent, support the kids) and that’s why feminism is still important. So women can get paid as much as their male counterparts. Period. If you are privileged enough to be able to make the decision to be a SAHM, you are one of the lucky ones.

        I think it’s just a spit in the face of history to say that you’re not a feminist. Women fought for your right to vote, work, control your body etc…. To say you don’t need that term anymore is just a slap in the face for every woman that put themselves down on the line for you. It really wasn’t THAT long ago.

  12. Really says:

    This is the same guy that said “I love French pussy” at my friend’s restaurant. He sure knows his target audience and what to say to please them.

  13. jane16 says:

    What a lovely way to start the day! My youngest son is a film student, so I am especially glad that JGL made this statement, because my son says that all the film students in his school really look up to JGL. What a great role model for the youngsters!

  14. Anastasia Beaverhausen says:

    Intelligent and articulate. And I love that feminism is not just a buzzword for him. He’s my husband in my head!

  15. Cait says:

    He tweeted yesterday, asking if folks were feminists. I responded that my husband and I were both feminists, and immediately some MRA came after me.

    Y’all, this is why we need feminism: because wanting gender equality doesn’t render a person evil or man-hating, despite how the manipulation of feminist gender into a four-letter word.

    • Cora says:

      I have found out the hard way that Twitter can be a very hostile environment for anyone identifying as a feminist. I’m an atheist and post on a lot of popular atheist feeds and am shocked at the hostility I’ve encountered. I was naive enough to think if I was posting among fellow atheists – people who pride themselves on logic and critical thinking – that I wouldn’t have to defend feminism but I was very wrong. “Feminist” is a dirty word everywhere, it seems. It’s very discouraging.

  16. Sara says:

    what i like is that he is opening a discussion, just like Emma Watson did. not talking from a point of authority and claiming feminism is this or that. there are lots of different views on what feminism is and if men even can be feminists. i read a lot “if you have a vagina and you want to the power over it you are a feminists. so what about men like Jopseph? I assume he has no vagina.

    opening a discussion is the best way to also see where people stand and WHY they might not want to call themselves feminists but agree with key points. instead of just attacking them.

    I think just saying Feminism stands for eqaulity is way too easy and dumbed down.
    Couldnt you say the same thing about Communism? why are americans so against that? you can also say it basically promotes the idea of a classless society where everyone is equal and no ruling class owns almost everything (called the 1% in modern america) but the people own it.

    so would you call yourself a Communist? do you have problems with the communist movement? are you against a classless society?

    Feminism is for the equality of the genders, that doesn’t mean that you have to be a feminist to be for the equality of the sexes. the main fallacy of feminists is believing that they can be the only gender equality movement, and that everyone who doesn’t belong to feminism is a misogynist

    I think it’s important to note the difference between feminism the ideal and feminism the movement.

    feminists dont have the right to be the only equality movement and why couldnt people have problems with the feminist movement and therefore dont want to call themselves feminists? Emma Watson talked about this, “we dont have a word for it, but as long as you are on our side” (paraphrasing)One of the main problems is that a lot of feminists don’t care about men’s issues. They just don’t. And it’s super obvious to everyone because they make snide remarks and roll their eyes whenever something like that gets brought up. lots of mocking of men who speak up with “male tears” or “think about the menz” in a very patronizing way. So, there are a lot of people who aren’t really interested in a movement where they see a lot of people who not only don’t care about them, but also are saying/doing things that make them feel unwelcome. And so, then a lot of feminists see a lot of men/women who are defensive and uncomfortable with feminism and therefore are validated in their disinterest in men’s issues. And the cycle continues. Emma’s point is that if real progress is going to start to be made there has to be a break in that cycle. It can come from either direction.

    you can be a christian without being in a church. i know gays who are not doing anything in the LGBT movement. seems more like people need to hear you say it, like you get asked a lot in the South if you believe in god.
    also it is YOUR personal definition of feminism. a dictionary is not necessarily the well of wisdom. Example: Racism is defined a lot differently than in antiracism circle. in a dictionary racism means discrimination based on race. in antiracist groups racism is about power, meaning white people can never be victims of racism. we dont need to go into if you agree or not, i am just pointing out that because you think feminism means that it does not mean that everyone agrees.
    what would feminism gain through that anyway? you would have billions of people who agree on gender equality but have complete opposite ways of reaching it.
    equality is hardly objective. in some cases almost impossible to find a solution that is truely equal. Quotas for example help women to get into political powers but a quota itself is by definition against equality as it promotes a certain group over another.

    nowadays feminism seems to be more of a lifestyle, someone here even talked about “feminist babies”. sometimes almost sect like “you are either one of us or your are against us”. on this site there are three feminist article on this day alone. lots of celebs are asked about feminism because journalists like trapping them and then they are thrown before the masses who can cast their judgements. thats also bad PR. if they say they are a feminist they get a cookie.

    i know a lot feminists, i dont know a lot of them that actually do something instead of telling everyone they are feminists. self congratulating people who assure each other that they are great people and everyone who doesnt want to join their club gets mocked or labeled as stupid. “its sooo obvious, how could you not?”

    it is very simple to just dumb down everything to “feminism means equality, why are you against that?”
    thats like saying “christians are against murder, why arent you a christian?”
    (celebitchy apparently deleted a lot of comments in two threads yesterday that did not seem to agree with the overall tone, i dont know what they said because they are gone. so lets see if this one also gets purged)

    ps: Emma Watson wasnt targeted by 4chan. it was a hoax by “Rantic”. no update on the celebitchy thread. i know it sucks to admit you were wrong but at least have some common journalistic standards. every site jumped on it, get trolled big time as there were neither nudes nor was it 4chan and now it has come out none of those pages has the journalistic morals to admit they didnt research it or even apologize for wrong reporting.

    • HH says:

      @Sara – I feel like this entire comment is your way of saying that you agree with the core concept of feminism, but you take issue with the label of feminist (?). I find that you are painting feminists with a broad brush due to your personal experiences. If you’re going to speak about feminism what’s wrong with it, you should also be aware that there is discordance within the feminist community. Feminists have their own arguments about some of the very issues you’ve brought up. Guess what? They still consider themselves to be feminists because at the basis of their beliefs is the core concept of the social, political, and economic equality of men and women. So at a certain point, no, it’s not about someone’s “personal definition” of feminism, IMO.

      I have no problem with celebrities speaking on feminism, my issue is that it’s a very wide and serious topic with a lot of disputed concepts and people are only using what celebrities and social media say as a reason to why they completely agree/reject/take issue with the notion of feminism. People need to make sure they’re not solely getting their information from a small collection of sources, especially when it comes to concepts such as feminism. It has been painted as being more narrow that what it actually is. It’s a scholarly topic and if people have some serious thoughts on it, I hope they take the time to do a bit of serious reading.

    • TOK says:

      Sara-I keep seeing this comparison coming up and I’ve ignored it up until now but I need to say something, since apparently it’s not going away.

      Christianity is a religion, feminism is a concept. It’s a false parallel to use the two analogously.

      “christians are against murder, why arent you a christian?”

      The definition of Christianity is not “the belief that murder is wrong”, Christianity is a complete set of thoughts and beliefs that involves many, many different elements and subsets but at it’s core is a belief in a deity. I’m not a Christian because I don’t believe in God–murder has NOTHING to do with it.

      The definition of feminism is a belief that men and women are equal. No matter how much you insist that it isn’t, you can’t redefine the concept of it–that IS what feminism is, period. People keep insisting “that’s not really what it is”——take it up with Merriam-Webster, guys.
      As HH said, yes feminism is an involved topic, but it DOES have one singular definition.

      “i know a lot feminists, i dont know a lot of them that actually do something instead of telling everyone they are feminists.”

      So the burden is on feminists to do something? Like what, exactly? Like fight for the rights that women were denied for so many years?
      Well, that already happened. It happened so people like you will be able to partake in all those rights while shunning the term that represents a battle that women fought so hard for. So what did non-feminists do to help further women’s rights? Historically-speaking, what movement was passed by non-feminists that greatly impacted women’s freedom and furthered women’s rights?

      On that note, what do you as a non-feminist do for women? Or is it only those of us who believe in gender equality that have to be pro-active and vocal?

    • TOK says:

      Also, what are “men’s issues”? What rights have men been historically denied over the course of thousands of centuries? What things are men unable to do that women CAN do?

  17. Anne tommy says:

    #TomHiddleston supporting #EmmaWatson :)
    12:22 PM – 24 Sep 2014

  18. wolfpup says:

    I’ve heard the early term for the movement, was “womanist”. I like that.
    I’m a womanist, I am for women. What’s wrong with being *for women*? Take the human rights part out of it for sake of argument. Then one seeks the well being of other women, however the application! If our thought. is on woman, and honoring of that, in self and other; we are in intimate knowledge with one half of mankind, simply by being a woman! What is wrong with focusing on women?!? Think of what we could do together? We have so many beautiful things to give, because we are women. We dream for our daughters. What’s wrong with being For Women? It’s women who have fire in the belly.

    The other half will be okay on their own, you can count on it. We should not be dithering, making excuses to them, and ourselves for not leaving, for a while.

    • magpie says:

      I am with you 100%, yay women! Feminism is about EQUAL rights. That is always what I was taught. The right to vote, the right to earn equally, the right to control our own bodies…. If afterwards we want to promote women and support them even MORE, so be it. History has been ALL DUDE, so we have some catch up to do in research and interest in women. For our health, our history, our self esteem.

    • Cumberbuns says:

      I agree with what you’re saying as a whole, but I need to tell you: The term “womanist” is actually used to describe a subset of black feminism. As a womanist, I would consider it highly appropriative if others started using that term without understanding the word’s connection to black feminism, Please at least google the word before using it.

      • wolfpup says:

        Cumberbuns, The term womanist rose early on in the woman’s movement by white middle class women seeking to address social issues additional to feminist ones. It was first utilized by Alice Walker, and she used it to include feminism, race and class. This must be the connection with the term that you are referring. I did google the term as you asked, however I was bringing this word up from some long ago history class, I just couldn’t remember the details, which are important.

      • wolfpup says:

        Cumberbuns: The race/class/feminist issue has been around a long time. I’m afraid that I haven’t given it the thought and study that it requires, at this point in time. It is like my heart is hearing yours (?) because this word is meaningful to you, and therefore so are the ideas. I vow to you that I will apply myself to this material, that perhaps I might make even a whisper of change that will blow around the planet. Beginning with the term “womanist” is a very fine start. Thank you.

      • wolfpup says:

        Cumberbuns: I’m glad you said something. I remember a class where the topic of racism and feminism were discussed. At that time, I believed that if I were black, racism would be my immediate and primary commitment. And now you’ve shared (via google it) that black women in their isolation due to racism, banded together and developed a theology to sustain them and those they loved. I believe that this would be very comforting, and I hope that it is sung on the wind by black women. There must be much to commend this theology. because of the uniqueness of its experience and thought. But like some things black, there is a point where I feel disconnected, because I do not share that experience. There has to be some way to bridge that gap, there has to be a page where we are just women together, all shades of us. But this is what I am noticing. My use of the word “womanist” was referencing the spiritual that only women share. You heard that. We are here.

  19. Tiffany :) says:

    I read this today, and I think it is very important.
    Twenty Facts About Gender and Film in 2014

  20. Cumberbuns says:

    I’ve found that most complaints about feminism surround the name itself, which is so ridiculous it isn’t even funny.

    • Anony says:

      Which is ironic because most of the problem with the word feminist is that it is a ‘feminine’ word and to apply anything feminine to a man is seen to be demeaning towards the man because anything feminine is also regarded as inferior to the masculine. So the very fact that people are bothered by the word itself, shows the reason we need feminism. If the masculine and feminine were viewed as equally acceptable, the word would no longer be offensive. Classic example include how a girl can proudly say “I was such a tom-boy growing up! I loved ‘boy’ things” and that is socially acceptable. A man saying “I was always so feminine growing up and love all things pink and girly’ would not be socially acceptable. Describing a man as effeminate, girlish, etc are all used as insults.

  21. CuriousCole says:

    Has anyone else grown more attracted to Joseph since finding out he’s a feminist? I thought he was cute, but was mostly meh about him. Now I find more reasons to follow what work he’s doing! Keep it up!