Feminism ignites powerful reactions in everyone, but at the crux of it all is human rights. Historically feminism has focused on women gaining power and equality, but in a modern context, it’s become more about the abolition of traditional gender stereotypes and acknowledging people as people, regardless of sex. According to Google Trends, searches for feminism are up 27% this week, unsurprising given its high-profile supporters, from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Ban Bossy movements to Beyoncé’s girl-power ballads—who “Run the World? (Girls)”—and Emma Watson’s #HeforShe campaign.
But despite its gender-specific title, feminism isn’t exclusive to women. Many of our favorite male celebrities are flying the feminist flag too and publicly expressing their support for gender equality.
But can men really be feminists? Noah Berlatsky summed it up perfectly in his piece for The Atlantic: “When I call myself a male feminist, I’m not doing it because I think I’m going to save women. I’m doing it because I think it’s important for men to acknowledge that as long as women aren’t free, men won’t be either.” We couldn’t agree more. Scroll down to read some inspiring quotes from our favorite male leads that prove men can be feminists too.
“I was raised in the kind of family where I was taught to respect women, be a true gentleman, and believe in love and romance. I never wanted to ever treat women like objects or have one-night stands, even though I could have lived that kind of life. “But that’s just empty sex and that never interested me. Meeting my wife Jenna [Dewan Tatum] was the greatest thing that could have happened to me. When I met her, I knew that I had met a woman I wanted to spend my life with. I’m a much better man because of her.” — Channing Tatum, as told to The Daily Mirror
“On more than one film, I’ve persuaded people to build up the female roles. There are certainly more female writers now than there were, but the fact remains; most female parts are written by men. At least there are so many more female directors, producers, and directors of photography now. I worked with an amazing DOP last year, Reed Morano, who did Kill Your Darlings, and what she did for that film was amazing. I think—I hope—the film industry is becoming a lot more balanced.” — Daniel Radcliffe, as told to Stylist
“If I had a bucket list, I’d say raising my four girls to be strong, good women would be number one.” — Matt Damon, as told to Parade
“People say to me, you’ll regret not taking that part. And I say, no I won’t. How am I going to regret spending time hanging out with my girls?" — Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as told to The Independent
“I think it’s appalling that for a long time only women were objectified. But I think if we want to really advocate for equality, it’s important to not objectify women less, but just objectify men as often as we objectify women.” — Chris Pratt, as told to BBC Radio 4
“I think that what people might really be upset about is the fact that we need more superhuman women. The guys can do anything, they can have love affairs, they can be weak or strong and nobody raises an eyebrow. But when we do that with a woman, because there are so few storylines for women, we become hyper-critical of every single move that we make because there’s not much else to compare it to." — Mark Ruffalo, as stated on Reddit in defense of director Joss Whedon’s portrayal of Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron
“You’re a feminist if you go to a Jay Z and Beyoncé concert, and you’re not like, I feel like Beyoncé should get 23% less money than Jay Z.” — Aziz Ansari as stated on Late Night With David Letterman
“All men should be feminists. If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place. We are better off when women are empowered—it leads to a better society.” — John Legend, as told to The Telegraph
“It’s sad that the situation still persists. I mean, you still have women as decorative objects all over the media.” — Alan Rickman, as told to Jane Hutcheon on One Plus One
“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. That, to me, is what feminism means. So yes, I’d absolutely call myself a feminist.” — Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as told to The Daily Beast
“It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than [one] film.” — Ryan Gosling, in a statement to the MPAA to appeal the rating of Blue Valentine
“When you work with the sort of really strong women that I work with, the idea that anyone would want to make decisions for them is hard to wrap your head around.” — Seth Meyers, as told to Elle
“We know that when women are empowered, they immeasurably improve the lives of everyone around them—their families, their communities, and their countries. This is not just about women; we men need to recognize the part we play too. Real men treat women with dignity and give them the respect they deserve.” — Prince Harry, as told to Chime for Change
“Mad Max is not actually in the driver’s seat in this movie. It’s about time you had better female leads in action movies. This is not a feminist argument, it’s a person-hood situation. This is how we ought to reflect the times—not so much strong women, but just people.” — Tom Hardy, as told to Metro
“The true wealth of a community is measured by how carefully it listens to its women and how sincerely it values their wisdom. Empowering women empowers us all.” — Forest Whitaker, as stated on his Twitter in support of the UN Women #HeforShe Campaign
Discover what it means to be a modern feminist with our top books below.
Are you a male feminist? What do you think modern feminism looks like? Share your thoughts in the comments.
This story was originally published on September 23, 2015, and has been updated by Sacha Strebe.
Bell Hooks Feminism Is for Everybody ($23 and up)
Rebecca Solnit Men Explain Things to Me ($12)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie We Should All Be Feminists ($6)