As Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham continue to disappoint, here are 5 feminists worth knowing
Writer and actress Lena Dunham and comedian Amy Schumer have, over time, become the twin pillars of a brand of blunt, no-fucks-given feminism — feminism that frees the nipple, embraces different body types and is more than happy to call out patriarchal BS.
In the pilot of Dunham's show Girls, her character Hannah tells her parents, "I don't want to freak you out, but I think that I may be the voice of my generation." The title Hannah cautiously (and perhaps narcissistically) claims for herself is one that's been thrust upon Dunham in real life. As Dunham emerges with feminist newsletters and books, stumps for Hillary Clinton and speaks at the Democratic National Convention, the shoe, some say, fits.
It would make perfect sense for Dunham to tag-team with the likes of Schumer, who in 2015 Vogue called a "god" and "radical frontrunner of feminist comedy." Schumer has talked about her struggles with body image and taken down sexist hecklers during her stand-up sets.
But if the term "white feminism" didn't exist, we might have a hard time describing, for example, the garbage fire that was the last week in news for Dunham and Schumer. In a single conversation on Friday, the two managed to defend Inside Amy Schumer writer Kurt Metzger's rape jokes and blame women for being too sensitive to misogynistic language. Separately, Dunham went on to accuse NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. of ignoring her because he couldn't sexualize her, and Schumer deleted a tweet insinuating men of color are more likely to harass women.
Mic reached out to representatives for each woman, but did not receive immediate responses.
Dunham and Schumer disappoint easily and often. Still, there's good news: Schumer and Dunham don't have to be our feminist idols. There's no shortage of feminists to look up to whose feminism is more thoughtful, intersectional and, well, less questionable. Here are just a few:
Writer Roxane Gay will be the first to admit she's not perfect. In 2014, she published Bad Feminist, a collection of essays critiquing pop culture, exploring her identity as a woman of color and showing readers what it means to negotiate feminism — how to be a critical feminist while simultaneously enjoying the Hunger Games or giving blow jobs. In short, it was about how to be a woman in the world.
"I am a bad feminist because I never want to be placed on a Feminist Pedestal," Gay wrote in the book's introduction. "People who are placed on pedestals are expected to pose, perfectly. Then they get knocked off when they fuck it up. I regularly fuck it up. Consider me already knocked off."
New York City-native mental health social worker and activist Feminista Jones, affectionately known by her Twitter name "I Will Block Ya Mama," has moved mountains with her social media presence alone. In 2014, her hashtag #YouOKSis sparked a global conversation about street harassment, and #NMOS14, National Moment of Silence '14, inspired vigils and memorials across the country for victims of police violence.
Last year, Jones took a critical lens to news that Harriet Tubman would appear on the $20 bill, examining a move most would regard as an objective feminist victory within the context of race. "If having Harriet Tubman's face on the $20 bill was going to improve women's access to said bill, I'd be all for it," Jones wrote in the Washington Post. "But instead, it only promises to distort Tubman's legacy and distract from the economic issues that American women continue to face."
Actress Amandla Stenberg may be best known professionally for her portrayal of Rue in The Hunger Games, but the 17-year-old has distinguished herself further with powerful statements addressing race, gender and sexuality.
Stenberg has said much about the difficult time young girls and women of color have embracing feminism because of its overwhelming whiteness in the mainstream. In 2015, she co-wrote the comic book NIOBE: She Is Life about a female warrior of mixed ethnicity.
And, after coming out as bisexual in early 2016, Stenberg has frequently made intersectionality one of her core talking points.
"It's a really, really hard thing to be silenced, and it's deeply bruising to fight against your identity and to mold yourself into shapes that you just shouldn't be in," she said in a Snapchat for Teen Vogue. "As someone who identifies as a black, bisexual woman, I've been through it, and it hurts and it's awkward and it's uncomfortable."
When debates raged in 2015 over whether the Confederate battle flag should be removed from government buildings in the South, Bree Newsome took action.
Newsome, a North Carolina-based educator and activist, scaled the flagpole outside the South Carolina Statehouse and managed to snatch the flag down before being arrested by authorities. Even handcuffed, Newsome couldn't help but smile.
"I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us," Newsome told the Blue Nation Review at the time. "I did it because I am free."
We're awash in female comedians — Schumer isn't the only one.
Margaret Cho has spoken out against the misconception that feminists aren't funny and has talked about how her own experiences as a female comedian have exposed her to sexism.
"All I know is that as a woman, in my work, and in my life," Cho wrote for xoJane in 2012, "I have been treated as if my achievements were less valuable because they were borne from my body. I only know this because I have worked closely, been intimate with, risen and fallen with men of all kinds. I have done the same with women of all kinds — and my assessment, of all the humanity I have experienced: Women get the short end of it."