From Beyonce performing in front of a glowing "FEMINIST" sign at last week's MTV Video Music Awards, to Taylor Swift publicly declaring her own feminist awakening in an interview with The Guardian, could it be that embracing a feminist identity is the latest celebrity trend?
It's an exciting moment when some of our biggest celebrities use their wattage to shine a spotlight on gender inequality -- and it's especially timely right now, as we near the 2015 target date for the UN's new global goals.
One of the current UN Millenium Development Goals, set in 2002, is to "promote gender equality and empower women." While the UN reports progress in some areas -- including in equal access to education for girls and boys -- it has also found that "in many countries, gender inequality persists and women continue to face discrimination in access to education, work and economic assets, and participation in government." At the root of this inequality and discrimination, there is usually a firmly-ingrained stereotype that women are somehow innately unequal -- weaker, less intelligent, and less valuable than men.
By embracing the title of "feminist," Beyonce and Taylor Swift are publicly rejecting the notion that women are less than men. And in fact, more and more women around the globe are doing the same. They may not have the same star-level wattage, but when women on the ground refuse be reduced to the stereotypes that are so often imposed on them, the impact is powerful.
In our latest online media project, Imagining Equality, Global Fund for Women features the creative work of women who are leaning in to their authentic, powerful identities and demanding equality. You'll meet women who refuse to bend to expectations and instead demand that their families, their communities, and their countries acknowledge, accept, and support them just as they are -- just as they would any man.
These women are edgy, like Sameera, the protagonist in the short story "Hoor Al-Ayn," who wears an abaya and niqaab by day but by night leads a vigilante biker gang that helps keep her community safe. Far more than meets the eye, Sameera holds her head up high, rainbow-colored hair and all, as an example of a generation of women who refuse to be boxed in.
They're uncompromising, like the women featured in "Mex-tli Mexican Goddesses," who moved from Mexico to Australia but who refused to conform to simplistic stereotypes. By speaking out in defense of their own rich heritage, these artists point the way toward an expanded and more compassionate understanding of migrant experiences.
They're multifaceted, like the mothers in the series "No Perfect Niche" struggling to juggle work, life, and national identities. These eye-opening narratives not only expand the definition of "migrant," or "mother," or "woman," but shift definitions of gender equality.
Above all, these women are reminders that every step we take toward a more equitable world is made by and for unique individuals. From Beyonce to Taylor Swift to you or me, where we come from, what we look like, who we are, and who we aspire to be together, determines how we will shape our future.
The women sharing their work in Imagining Equality know that when we break the constraints of a mold, we are liberated to embrace our more authentic selves. And when we have the courage to pursue our individual human rights, we are also emboldened to work toward the larger goal of human rights for all women.