Summary: In this video, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes it upon himself to discuss the matters of feminism. Gordon-Levitt was first asked on The Ellen Show if he considers himself a feminist, to which he replied, “I absolutely would.” Soon after, journalist Marlow Stern asked Gordon-Levitt what being a feminist meant to him, to which he replied, “it means that your gender does not have to define who you are, that you can be whatever you want to be, whoever you want to be, regardless of your gender.” Gordon-Levitt’s response garnered a lot of public attention, which sparked his interest in the meaning of feminism to different groups of people. Gordon-Levitt explains how his mother, who he describes as a “second wave” feminist activist, initially exposed him to feminism. He contrasts second wave feminism from the 1960s and 70s to the feminist activity that took place during the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the early 20th century, commonly referred to as “first wave” feminism. In this video, Gordon-Levitt spends a good amount of time contemplating the issue of feminism being “for or against” motherhood. Ultimately he argues that women should be able to choose freely to be a stay-at-home mom or a working mother without being judged. Gordon-Levitt ends the video by asking his audience to share their opinions on what “feminism” means to them, and to submit their videos to his online HitRecord project. This video is useful for teaching about periods of feminist activity and for contemplating what feminism means in the current era. While Gordon-Levitt references the wave model that is commonly used to characterize American feminism, viewers can be encouraged to think about the limitations of this model. For example, in her article “Third Wave Black Feminism?,” Kimberly Springer (2002) critiques the feminist wave model, pointing out that it is largely organized around white women’s feminist activity, and lacks recognition of significant eras of feminist activity carried out by women of color. Viewers can also think about whether Gordon-Levitt’s online video project might constitute an example of what some have called “fourth-wave feminism.” In a recent article, Ealasaid Munro (2013) draws attention to the role of the Internet in contemporary feminist activity, showing how the Internet has become an important outlet for the public to easily channel their opinions and confront issues concerning feminism. Viewers can reflect on whether Gordon-Levitt’s video project is an example of this potential fourth-wave feminism idea, given that he voiced his opinions about feminism using online channels, and he invited his viewers to publicly share and debate their thoughts via the Internet.
Submitted By: Kuchee Vue and Valerie Chepp