From Prince Harry to Ryan Gosling: meet the male feminists

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From Ryan Gosling and Barack Obama, to Tom Hanks, Jon Hamm and a whole load more; behold the men who have long championed women’s rights and equality.

(Images: Rex Features)

  • Prince Harry

    As soon as the tabloids caught wind of Prince Harry’s relationship with Meghan Markle, they took aim. It wasn’t long before they had slammed her as a narcissistic social climber, penned entire articles about her “raunchy sex scenes” in US drama Suits, claimed she had been intent on marrying into the royal family, and dubbed her Princess Pushy.

    However Harry, in an unprecedented move, has spoken out in her defence – despite the fact that they have only been together for a “few months”.

    “Meghan Markle has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment,” an official statement from the royal read. “Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”

  • Sadiq Khan

    Sadiq Khan, who was elected Mayor of London in May 2016, has made his feminist beliefs clear from day one. Not only did he appoint women to the majority of roles in his mayoral team, but he also published City Hall’s first ever gender pay audit just a few months after he came into office.

    The dad-of-two told Red magazine: "It's like feminism on steroids when you become a dad of daughters, because you want them to be able to do whatever they want to do.

    "But the evidence tells us if you are a girl you’re less likely to be able to fulfil your potential. Women earn 81% of what men earn – and this is 2016 in the world’s most progressive city, right? The total number of women MPs elected from 1918 to now is still less than the number of male MPs in parliament today. And so the bad news is that, had I had sons, they'd probably have better life chances than daughters."

    He finished: "That’s one of the reasons why I’m obsessed about leading by example and being a feminist in City Hall." 

  • Joss Whedon

    The man who created our ultimate female hero ever was always going to feature in this list. Joss Whedon, creator of TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has always been our poster boy when we're discussing male feminists.

    It also helps that he was raised by a 'hardcore feminist'.

    Most recently, Whedon backed the case for a female Dr Who, telling an interviewer (who asked if he might one day take over writing for the TV series):

    "Check back with me when The Doctor is a she ... Or Idris Elba."

  • Justin Trudeau

    The Prime Minister of Canada, Trudeau himself has acknowledged his surprise that every time he says he’s a feminist, “The Twitterverse explodes”.

    To his eternal credit, he also says, “I am going to keep saying loud and clear that I am a feminist until it is met with a shrug.”

  • Ryan Gosling

    We did a quick poll in the office and it turns out that Ryan Gosling is every woman's dream male feminist.

    If you weren't persuaded by his credentials from tumblr, then perhaps the following might change your mind: when discussing the sex scene between him and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine he said:

    Black Swan has an oral scene between two women, and that’s an R rating,” he told the World Entertainment News Network. “But ours is between a husband and his wife, and that’s NC-17?” [via].

    He makes a very valid point: why would a woman on woman sex act be deemed more in need of censorship from a younger audience than a male on female one? Just as he suggests, it shouldn't.

  • Barack Obama

    OK, we've harboured a crush for POTUS ever since we saw him singing Al Green. But that aside, he's also pretty straight down the line when it comes to championing women's rights.

    "I want women to have their own health choices, just like I want my daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons."

    Right on, Obama.

  • Tom Hanks

    In the April 2016 issue of Esquire Tom Hanks teamed up with Emma Watson to promote her HeForShe campaign. Speaking about being a feminist he tells her in their interview:

    “We have thousands of years of human history under our belts. If we are not continuously moving towards equal rights, equal opportunities and equal freedoms for every member of the human race — not just the half that is male — then we have squandered all we have learned.” 

    He also predicted that “Canada will be run 50 per cent better than before” after the country’s president Justin Trudeau chose a cabinet with an equal female-male ratio. 

  • Mark Ruffalo

    We love Mark Ruffalo for this outburst on Tumblr entitled; My response to the 'I am not a feminist' internet phenomenon. In it he tells "ignorant" people who aren't feminists to "kiss my ass".

    He rails: "You're insulting every woman who was forcibly restrained in a jail cell with a feeding tube down her throat for your right to vote, less than 100 years ago."

    "You're undermining every woman who fought to make marital rape a crime (it was legal until 1993)."

    "In short, kiss my ass you ignorant little jerks."

  • John Legend

    Yes, we mean that John Legend. Yes, the bloke who sung Ordinary People.

    At a press conference for Chime for Change, he said: "All men should be feminists. If men care about women's rights, the world will be a better place." [via].

    He also added this: "we are better off when women are empowered –- it leads to a better society."

  • Kurt Cobain

    The late lead singer of Nirvana was well-known for being outspoken on various subjects, and in particular rape.

    "Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves.

    "What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there." [via NME]

  • Karl Stefanovic

    Australia's The Today Show host Karl Stefanovic decided to wear the same suit for a year after noting that his co-host was much more harshly criticised for her outfits. 

    On the subject of his experiment, he said:

    No one has noticed; no one gives a shit. But women, they wear the wrong color and they get pulled up. They say the wrong thing and there are thousands of tweets written about them. Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.

    “I’m judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour—on how I do my job, basically. Whereas women are quite often judged on what they’re wearing or how their hair is.”

  • Jon Hamm

    Speaking out on rape, Jon Hamm rallied that "It is an important thing to instill in a younger generation about the impact of rape, the lasting impact of rape.

    "Children from grade school to high school to college are incredibly susceptible and incredibly malleable, as we all know. To get them early, to teach them about the facts and figures and other realities of rape is key.

    "It is an important issue to me as not only a man, but as an educator, as a human being and as a person on this planet." [via]

  • Andy Samberg

    Andy Samberg, made famous through his spoof band The Lonely Island, could be construed as being sexist - but actually he's not. And here's why.

    When he went to the Spike TV awards (Spike TV is a channel just for men), he wore a National Organisation for Women, Berkeley t-shirt.

    When quizzed on it, he said: "I thought it would be funny, because obviously Spike TV is very in the opposite direction... but you know, I'm from Berkeley, California, I can't go into that thing wholeheartedly.

    "I had to put a little wink in somewhere to let everyone know back home that I hadn't gone all the way." [via ]

  • Rob Delaney

    Comedian Rob Delaney wrote a piece for The Guardian, explaining:

    "I support a woman's right to safe, legal abortion because centuries of history shows us that women are going to get abortions whether they're safe and legal or not.

    "And when they're not safe and legal, these women will often die terribly or be damaged irreparably."

    Full article here.

  • Tommy Lee Jones

    In Tommy Lee Jones we have found a surprising feminist. In his film The Homesman, starring Hilary Swank, he looks at the female condition within the frontier harshness of 1850s Nebraska. 

    “Our film is the inverse of the conventional Western. It’s about women, not men; it’s about lunatics, not heroes; they’re travelling east, not west; and we have a different perspective on what has come to be called manifest destiny.”

    While he doesn't necessarily call himself a feminist or call this movie feminist either, when speaking to The Guardian, he made himself very clear: 

    “I don’t think there’s a woman in the readership of The Guardian, not one, who hasn’t been objectified or trivialised because of her gender at one time or another. And that’s really what our movie is about.”

  • Seth Meyers

    In response to the following question: Why do Republicans seem so obsessed with female reproductive rights? Talk show host Seth Myers replied:

    "It's hard for me to say. 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." [via]

  • Patrick Stewart

    A fervent supporter of women's rights, Sir Patrick Stewart has spoken out various times about violence against women, as a result of seeing his mother suffer under the hands of his father, who was abusive.

    At Comicpalooza in Texas this year, a young woman named Heather Skye thanked the actor for a speech he gave to Amnesty International in 2009 on violence against women, as she'd been a victim of domestic abuse.

    Watch the video here.

  • Dustin Hoffman

    Despite the fact that this interview came out in 2012, this clip of Dustin Hoffman speaking about his experiences when he was in Tootsie went viral in early July 2015

     We don't want to spoil it for you, so watch the whole interview here, just make sure you have a couple of tissues handy.

  • The Dalai Lama

    We can probably all agree that the Dalai Lama's pretty ace.

    Not only does he have one of the best Twitter feeds, but upon receiving the National Civil Rights Museum’s International Freedom Award, in Memphis, Tennessee, he said: "I call myself a feminist.

    "Isn't that what you call someone who fights for women's rights?"

  • Ian McKellen

    In an interview with the trade paper, The Stage, Ian McKellen called for more older female parts.

    "People might have thought 'Who wants to see plays about older women?' Well, the general public do.

    "An awful lot of older women and gentlemen go to the theatre, and the population is getting older."

    Ah, Gandalf, we knew we liked you for more than your beard.

  • Chuck D

    This isn't an obvious one, but it's true Chuck D is a bona fide feminist.

    Chuck has spoken out against misogyny in hip hop and he actively mentors female MCs.

    Here he discusses the music of civil rights and women in hip hop.

  • Bill Bailey

    Just look at his t-shirt, need we say more?

  • Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam

    As part of the pro-choice movement in America, there was a series of benefit concerts set up to raise awareness and to allow musicians to show their support for the campaign.

    Eddie Vedder was a staunch supporter of the cause and said: "The music is a fine reason to come, and the fact is it's spreading a message... you're getting through." [via]

  • Peter Tatchell

    A staunch supporter of gay and women's rights, Australian campaigner Peter Tatchell has written an essay on why he admires the lesser known Sylvia Pankhurst.

    "I like the way Sylvia combined feminism and socialism, and love her feisty attitude and irreverent style of protest.

    "She is much more inspiring to me than her better-known mother and sister, the other suffragette leaders Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst." [via]

  • Baaba Maal

    Senegalese singer Baaba Maal has been a supporter of women's music in Africa.

    "I'm so proud these days to see more and more women are in the frontline in music" [via]

  • Antony Hegarty

    When discussing gender politics on Dazed Digital, this is what singer Antony Hegarty had to say:

    "Women have a full spectrum of potential, just like men do. It’s more about tendencies and reaching into the idea of archetypes. It’s just framing it semantically, so we can simplify the idea and begin to grapple with our options.

    "There are plenty of women that work within male systems or support them: raising little kings, relegating their daughters to the kitchen. Women have conspired with men in this process because it served women’s interests in the past, when they needed men to defend the fortress – it was a matter of priority.

    "But those archetypes are not serving our best interests any more." [via]

  • David Steel

    David Steel was credited with introducing, as a Private Member's Bill, the Abortion Act 1967.

    With this new law, women were granted more power over their own bodies. [via]

  • Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa

    Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa was a magician, alchemist and also a feminist.

    His infamous “feminist” text, De nobilitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus declamatio (On the Nobility and Superiority of the Female Sex), suggested that women have been excluded due to social conditioning, among other things, by their male oppressors and not due to any real sense of inferiority as propagated since the Greeks.

  • Jackson Katz

    An anti-sexist activist and expert on violence, media and masculinities, Jackson Katz's talk at TED created a real buzz and garnered over 600,000 views on YouTube. And for good reason.

    In his talk he discusses violence against women and about gender and asks why domestic violence is such a problem.

    Here is his full TED talk.

  • Fuekemshi II, the king of Baba1

    In Cameroon, women are stigmatised if they lose their husbands and they become widows.

    However,  Fuekemshi II, the king of Baba1, was first ruler to sign an agreement to protect widows in the region in May 2008 and support the first Widowhood Rites Project in the area. [via]

  • Ad Rock from The Beastie Boys

    Back in 1999, there was great controversy surrounding the music festival Woodstock. This was because there had been a high number of rapes, which had occurred during the event. But no one was prosecuted.

    However, at that year's MTV awards, Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys in his acceptance speech for best video addressed the fact that there had been so many cases of sexual assaults and rapes at the festival, and the need for bands and festivals to pay much more attention to the security details at their concerts.

  • Yashar Ali

    He Doesn’t Deserve Your Validation: Putting The Fake Orgasm Out of Business is a brilliant piece by Yashar Ali.

    To sum up: women are still having to placate the male ego by faking orgasms and this isn't right.

    "Women are not simply a tool for our sexual pleasure, they are ultimately a tool for making every part of our lives easier."

    Read his full article here.

  • Nicholas Kristof

    Renowned columnist Nicholas Kristof has been a consistent champion of women's rights in developing countries.

    In many articles, he discusses what problems women and girls in developing countries face and how focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism.

    "Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution." [via]

  • William Morris

    William Morris was a designer who spearheaded the arts and crafts movement and a successful businessman.

    He was also a social reformer and a feminist.

    "As long as women are compelled to marry for a livelihood, real marriage is a rare exception and prostitution or a kind of legalised rape the rule," he wrote to George Bernard Shaw in 1885.

  • Pedro Almodovar

    There's a debate about whether Oscar-winning Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is a feminist. But we're going to go out on a limb here and say that he is. And here's why: he's got the ability to portray women in all their forms.

    Whether that's femme fatales, business women, depressed girls, mothers, daughters and transgender, he's got the bases covered.

    Not only that he doesn't pretend that women are perfect and for that, we salute him.

  • Billy Cain

    When Texas rdecided that it would implement a new law that effectively closed down the majority of its abortion clinics, many Texan women were upset by this, including Billy Cain's daughter who held up this sign at a demonstration.

    However, Billy Cain's daughter was then the subject of anti pro-choice abuse, and so he took to Twitter to defend her.

    What a dad. What a man.