Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Beautiful Definition of Feminism Is Pretty Much Perfect


Joseph Gordon-Levitt has always had a place in our hearts, from his adorable years on Third Rock From the Sun to his lip bite-inducing performance in 500 Days of Summer.

But one of the Don Jon star's greatest contributions to pop culture so far is his beautifully nuanced and thoughtful definition of feminism. In an era when multiple high-profile celebrities have publicly distanced themselves from the "feminist" label, Gordon-Levitt's consistent and enthusiastic embrace of the "f-word" should be required reading. As the actor noted in an interview with the Daily Beast published on Thursday:

What [feminism] 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, However you want to define yourself, you can do that and should be able to do that, and no category ever really describes a person because every person is unique.

He goes on to say that yes, he absolutely considers himself a feminist: "I'm a believer that if everyone has a fair chance to be what they want to be and do what they want to do, it's better for everyone.

The interview highlights the young actor's already deep understanding of not just feminism as a concept, but the feminist movement as a whole, a viewpoint that has been distressingly absent in interviews with other celebrities.

Lady Gaga, for example, once said that she wasn't a feminist because she "[hails] men, [loves] men, [celebrates] male culture, and beer, and muscle cars." Kelly Clarkson, whose ballads are consistently empowering for women in girls, noted that she wouldn't call herself a feminist because "when people hear feminist, it's like, 'Get out of my way, I don't need anyone.' I love that I'm being taken care of and I have a man that's a leader. I'm not a feminist in that sense." And who can forget Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who said that she wouldn't consider herself a feminist because she doesn't have the "militant drive … that comes with that." And the list goes on.

These and other, equally misguided definitions of the movement underscore many of the misconceptions associated with feminism, that it's misandrous, or it's just full of bra-burning women who are angry at the world.

Gordon-Levitt hasn't embraced those mischaracterizations, suggesting instead that we shouldn't fall into the trap of defining people solely by their gender; we should let them be and do what they want.  

And this isn't the first time he's offered similar insights. In January, Gordon-Levitt spoke with Ellen DeGeneres, telling the comedian that his own mother pointed out gender issues from an early age. "It's worth paying attention to the roles that are sort of dictated to us and that we don't have to fit into those roles," he said. "We can be anybody we wanna be."

It’s fabulous advice, and we would be smart to listen.