Feminist Fridays: 3/4/16

Welcome to the first of four Feminist Fridays here at the Corner. Every Friday, three or four short profiles of famous feminists will be published for National Women’s Month in March. This week’s feminists are Amandla Stenberg, Ellen DeGeneres, and Angela Davis.

Amandla Stenberg was born on October 23, 1998. She is 17 years old, and has publicly identified as bisexual. She is very vocal on the issue of cultural appropriation as well. In 2015, Kylie Jenner posted a picture of herself wearing cornrow braids on Instagram. Stenberg used the post as a means of opening up a conversation on cultural appropriation after Jenner, who is white, got the hairstyle, traditionally worn by black women. She wrote, “When u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter.” Kylie hit back on Instagram, “@amandlastenberg Mad if I don’t, Mad if I do…. Go hang w Jaden or something.” Jaden Smith is Jenner’s ex and Stenberg’s recent prom date. Later Stenberg posted a note on her Twitter addressing the issue and how it intersects with feminism with the caption “words by me.” “Black features are beautiful,” Stenberg begins in the note. “Black women are not. White women are paragons of virtue and desire. Black women are objects of fetishism and brutality. This, at least, seems to be the mentality surrounding black femininity and beauty in a society built upon eurocentric beauty standards.”

Ellen DeGeneres was born on January 26, 1958. She is 58 years old and has her own talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” In 1997, DeGeneres came out as gay on the Oprah Winfrey Show. In 2008, she married her longtime girlfriend Portia De Rossi. She was the first openly lesbian actress to play an openly lesbian character on television. DeGeneres has used her show as a platform to discuss not just gender equality, but other topics and issues including veganism, LGBT rights and humanitarianism.

Angela Davis was born on January 26, 1944. She is 72 years old and over her years of activism has spoken out in favor of prisoner rights, feminism, and Marxism. She is also the former head of the department of Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz. After a black high school student took over a Marin County courtroom in 1960, a warrant was issued for Davis’s arrest. As California considers “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense… principals in any crime so committed”, Marin County Superior Judge Peter Allen Smith charged Davis with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley” and issued a warrant for her arrest. Hours after the judge issued the warrant on August 14, 1970, a massive attempt to arrest Angela Davis began. After becoming a fugitive, Davis was found in New York City. After a massive movement in favor of her innocence, Davis was found not guilty. In 2001 she publicly spoke against the war on terror following the 9/11 attacks, continued to criticize the prison-industrial complex, and discussed the broken immigration system. Davis opposed the 1995 Million Man March, arguing that the exclusion of women from this event promoted male chauvinism. She said that Louis Farrakhan and other organizers appeared to prefer that women take subordinate roles in society. Together with Kimberlé Crenshaw and others, she formed the African American Agenda in 2000, an alliance of black feminists. In 2012 Davis was awarded the 2011 Blue Planet Award, an award given for contributions to humanity and the planet.

These women have all made contributions to the feminist cause: How will you?