Revisiting Ani DiFranco on my iPhone a few nights ago reminded me of my introduction to feminism. I was about 19 when a bi-sexual girlfriend of mine suggested I listen to her music. With lyrics like, “Ya know, my thighs have been involved many accidents, and now I can’t get insured so I don’t need to be lured by you. My cunt is built like a wound that won’t heal, so now you don’t have to ask ‘cause you know how I feel,” this was a female artist I simply couldn’t ignore. Then came my love affair with Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, Bell Hooks, and the second-wave feminism innovator herself, Betty Friedan.
Being a sexual assault survivor (don’t be alarmed, one in four of us are), by my late 20s, the feminist in me began yearning for an outlet, a voice, a platform. The problem was, my pop culture feminist contemporaries emerging at the time were the likes of Lena Dunham (one of my heroes) and Laverne Cox (also a hero)—one being short and chubby, and the other being a transgender African-American. So while giant strides were being made—and still are—with the more diverse portrayals and representations of women in the media, it still felt like there wasn’t really a place for a feminist like me. What’s a feminist like me? Well, I’m white, blonde, tall, blue eyed, love fashion and most things girly, and I also played a sex bomb on a notorious cable television series. In fact, as an actress, to stray from such type casting has been a challenge, to say the least.
Although these stereotypes are dissipating over time, up until recently, “feminism” remained a dirty word. To men it felt both exclusive and aggressive. And to most people, the term conjured up images of hairy armpits and stout girls with boy cuts.
But having been the acute subject of the male gaze for my entire teen and adult life—the result of looking the way I do, being an actress, and one who embodies an inherent femininity—I believe I am even more qualified to speak on the matter—if a qualification was even required. I’ve been told that I’m “too opinionated for a blonde actress,” “too pretty to be smart,” and, in front of 2,000 people at a fan convention, a man took the microphone and thanked me for having saved him “$19.95 on an annual Playboy subscription.” Yep… Boy, am I fed up with misogyny, sexism, and the harmful messages that are regurgitated by the media and fed to both women and men about women.
This is why a year ago, Vicky and I founded SheRa Mag. In one fell swoop, I had found both my voice and my platform! And while our primary mission with the mag is to represent real girls (not patriarchal fantasies) and encourage critical thought surrounding pop culture, a few weeks ago, I decided to take the idea one step further and launch “Fashion Feminista”—a fashion blog curated by SheRa Mag. With Fashion Feminista, I intend to both celebrate my love for fashion and emerging designers, and challenge the dated perception that feminists can’t be fashionistas.
So here I go.
*Fashion without Photoshop.
Cardigan and trousers by Tory Burch
Jewelry by Alex and Ani
Photography by Antonio Beliveau