When Shailene Woodley was on the cover of Bust magazine’s Feburary/March issue, she was asked about feminism, like every star who appears on the cover of Bust. The piece’s author, Lisa Butterworth, writes, “Her passion for these characters makes me wonder if feminism influences the way she thinks on a day-to-day basis, and she does not hesitate to answer. ‘One-hundred percent,’ she says, matter-of-factly.”
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But it’s something she admits she’s still figuring out how to talk about in the press. “I think anytime a label comes up, it immediately creates some sort of image in someone’s mind,” she says. “I love men, and I think that this notion of putting men aside so women can rise to power could not be more wrong. I’ve read so many feminist books, and I’m very well acquainted with a lot of different theories, but I think there has to be balance, we have to have the yin and the yang… “I’m really connected to women just because I’m a huge fan of sisterhood,” she says. “There’s so much focus on males appreciating females, but until females appreciate females, how is anything gonna change? There’s so much jealousy, there’s so much envy, there’s so much ‘She’s prettier,’ or ‘She’s taller,’ or ‘She’s this,’ or ‘She’s that.’ Where is the ‘Oh my God, you are such a stunning individual and you’re my sister! What can we do for each other?’” It’s a topic Woodley tells me she could talk about for hours. “The GMO thing, that’s a lifestyle. But the woman thing, this is my soul… But until the day comes when her kind of candor becomes more the norm for young actresses instead of the exception, she’s content working her views into the national conversation one socially palatable sound bite at a time. And for now, that includes infiltrating Hollywood from the inside, even if that means leaving the toe shoes at home in order to have a proverbial platform for her causes.
Woodley sounds quite similar in this out-of-context Time Q&A (pegged to the June release of The Fault in Our Stars) that was clearly posted on the Internet to piss people off. Woodley’s excitement over maybe seeing the badly reviewed The Other Woman, in particular, feels as if the writer is just trolling her.
TIME: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Shailene Woodley: No because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance. With myself, I’m very in touch with my masculine side. And I’m 50 percent feminine and 50 percent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are. And I think that is important to note. And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.
If these two interviews reveal anything, it’s that Woodley is looking for her palatable public stance on feminism. Whether it’s coming from her or her team behind her — after all, she is the face of what will be a four-film behemoth, with the recent success of Divergent, and the upcoming The Fault in Our Stars could certainly be a surprise teen mega-hit if it’s any good — it’s the sort of fuzzy babble that’s coming from someone trying to say, “Yes, I believe in women” and “No, I’m not offending you” at the same time. It’s weirdly discordant coming from Woodley, whose hippie tendencies are well noted, like in her recent Into the Gloss interview in which she discusses eating clay, oil pulling, and getting some Vitamin D on your V(agina). What is it about feminism that makes it scarier to talk about than going without makeup or “being pregnant with the world“? One imagines that Woodley’s PR team has been tearing out their hair over Woodley’s outspoken love of Mother Gaia, and perhaps they’re giving her more advice when it comes to feminism and other topics. It’s hard to say.
The majority of “Are you a feminist, female celebrity?” questions mostly feel like a gotcha! trap in puff pieces. If you’re the head of a multimillion-dollar brand and the world “feminist” is scary to your bottom line, you can’t win. The power of the word “feminist” just turns public stances into gibberish most of the time, which is too bad.
But on the other hand, in an era when big-time celebrities are both embracing feminism and showing they’re not scared of the word — Beyoncé’s “***Flawless” pivots around Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, “We Should All Be Feminists,” and Miley Cyrus gets the approval of interviewer and eloquent feminist Tavi Gevinson regarding feminism in her recent Elle interview — the fear behind Woodley’s comments just feels retro.
But hey, Beyoncé wasn’t always embracing her feminism. Her stance has evolved as she’s been in the public eye. Maybe Woodley’s views, and her ability to express them, will evolve, too. Considering the actress’s generally earnest, hippie stance on life, the earth, and people, it’s more than likely. But until then, perhaps it’s time for Woodley’s team to read some of bell hooks’ Feminism Is for Everybody?