Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau, and Ariana Grande are giving feminism a big push these days with their collective clout in their own respective spheres of influence. On his 55th birthday on Thursday, the president of the United States would dodge the birthday cake and instead deliver his own feminist manifesto to Glamour Magazine. Obama, along with the Canadian Prime Minister, has since earned the right to show up at the Glamour lounge at any time, says the magazine.
Today, Justin Trudeau says to Huffington Post Canada that he will keep calling himself a feminist “until it’s met with a shrug.”
What Justin Trudeau means is that Twitter shouldn’t implode every time he calls himself a feminist. For aside from the fact that dozens of news articles have been published about him espousing feminism, people are still acting surprised about his statement because feminism isn’t in the mainstream yet.
If it were, Justin Trudeau posits, there wouldn’t even be any discussion. The Canadian prime minister hopes that someday, all men will come onboard to declare themselves as feminists. Trudeau’s cabinet, by the way, is gender-balanced. He also says that there are still a lot of things to do before feminism can truly take off in society.
Across the border, Barack Obama is thinking along the same lines. He says that there have been great strides in the name of feminism over the last ten years, but there are still a lot of things left to be done. Still, the U.S. president is a Johnny come lately with regards to visibly espousing equality for females in society. That is when he is compared with his Canadian counterpart.
Trudeau’s outspokenness regarding the matter, however, has been upstaged on Thursday by Barack Obama’s release of his own personal feminist manifesto. Indeed, Trudeau walks the talk in every way. Still, he does not have anything written down that most people can scrutinize when it comes to what exactly feminism means to him.
Feminism is not a complicated subject, but it sure helps to jot down the backbone of one’s strong beliefs, as President Obama did on his birthday. Here’s the gist of the Barack Obama take on feminism, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“When you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society…That’s what twenty-first-century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.”
What exactly are these stereotypes? Alternet quotes Obama as follows.
“We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.”
Another prominent feminist, Ariana Grande, echoes the Barack Obama sentiment. You may think that Ariana’s latest music album, Dangerous Woman, is all about being sexy, seductive and beautiful. However, these undertones are merely the skin of the album.
If you dig deeper, you will come close to the singer and actress’s take on feminism. In fact, Ariana Grande’s strong convictions about the subject and her sense of mission antedate Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama’s stance on feminism by a huge margin.
In June last year, Ariana shared her feminist manifesto with Vanity Fair. However, the album is more telling. According to a Radio scoop, the album is inspired by Egyptian feminist writer Nawal El Saadawi, who has been labelled as a dangerous woman because she “spoke the truth and the truth is savage and dangerous.”
In El Saadawi’s 1975 novel, Woman at Point Zero, “the female protagonist endures arranged marriage, genital mutilation, forced prostitution and ultimately murders her captor. It’s considered a landmark text depicting women in Islam.”
Young woman from Nablus in a hijab (ca. 1867-1885). As many will know, veiling did not originate with the advent of Islam. Statuettes depicting veiled priestesses precede all three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), dating back as far as 2500 BCE. Elite women in ancient Mesopotamia and in the Byzantine, Greek, and Persian empires wore the veil as a sign of respectability and high status. Female slaves and unchaste women were explicitly forbidden to veil and suffered harsh penalties if they did so. Veiling was thus a marker of rank and exclusive lifestyle, subtly illustrating upper-class women’s privilege over women in lower classes in the Assyrian community.
Justin Trudeau, Barack Obama, and Ariana Grande are high-profile feminists of this generation who are leading the fight for female equality in a world that is still predominantly machismo-oriented. In their own unique ways and their respective spheres of influence, they are trying to make a difference, but only time will tell how they will fare in the gargantuan battle.
[Photos by Chung Sung-Jun and Frederick M.Brown/Getty Images]