The amazing gender equality and anti-violence activist, speaker, and Educator Jennifer Rey wrote an exquisite piece Pop Culture icons. After much begging, the debut of this amazing letter before it goes out into publication is now. Therefore, sit back and enjoy this powerful piece:
An Open Letter to Pop Culture Icons
Dear Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Models, and Athletes,
Social movements have gained momentum and traction again with the political conversations about women’s rights, civil rights, poverty, and minimum wage taking place in our country. We are seeing groups gather in solidarity to protest limitations on women’s access to healthcare, newly created gaps in the Equal Rights Amendment, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and McDonalds’ minimum wage salaries keeping employees below the poverty level. While average citizens mobilize, pop culture icons can either join with us in shifting cultural norms towards equality, peace, and health or continue to promote the status quo.
Some pop culture icons are already taking a positive stand on social issues. They are paving the way for even more athletes, musicians, models, and actors/actresses to positively impact society through their public platform. They are stepping out to support their gay brothers and sisters, create a healthier definition of beauty, and promote equality for women and girls.
Chris Kluwe (Punter/Oakland Raiders) – Kluwe is a published author, an online gaming nut, a social media whiz and a voice for the LGBT community. He has written letters to senators, columns for newspapers and taken a public stance on gay marriage, gun control and other major issues. Kluwe is the model athlete when it comes to public advocacy as made evident by the fact that he was supposedly cut by the Minnesota Vikings because of his candid nature and free speech. He has since jumped on with the Oakland Raiders and just came out with his second book.
Brittney Griner (Center/Phoenix Mercury) – Upon being drafted, the rookie immediately became the centerpiece of her team; the league’s marketing strategy and the focus of the media. But how could she not be? She is a 6’8, dominant low-post player with dunking ability, an 88 inch wingspan, who happens to be openly gay. On top of that, she is the first publicly gay athlete to have a contract with Nike where she will be modeling men’s clothing. Combine her trend setting with her established presence in television ads and on social media and you have the makings of the most prominent female athlete in the world when it comes to being a champion for social causes.
Macklemore – The new song, called “Same Love,” is the latest track by hip-hop artist Macklemore. As part of the music industry’s movement to support marriage equality in Washington State, Macklemore collaborated with producer Ryan Lewis in a song that addresses homophobia in hip-hop, education, religion, and politics in the U.S. today. They tackle big topics for a five-minute song, but do a fantastic job with thoughtful lyrics and a killer melody.
Jessica Simpson not only speaks out against flagrant photoshopping in her own life, she’s gotten involved with Operation Smile to start A Beautiful Me, a campaign to motivate teens to embrace their inner beauty. And she practices what she preaches: Simpson did a make-up free photo shoot for Marie Claire, looking beautiful without help from computer enhancements or cosmetics.
Plus Model magazine’s “Love Your Body” issue wants to put an end to what it calls the “body shaming” with portraits of naked women proudly showing off their curves. “I wanted to create that conversation, and I wanted people to say, hey, maybe I need to stop writing those negative things,” Plus Model magazine editor-in-chief Madeline Jones told ABC News. The spread, intended to represent all those who have been shamed or bullied for their size, shows models wearing little more than high heels and jewelry. But each photo comes with the message that no one is safe from body shaming, and that body shaming hurts everyone.
Brad Pitt used to make hearts flutter with his golden hair and burning gaze, Brad Pitt, now 47, is embracing his age along with his wrinkles. In a photo shoot for W magazine, Pitt not only refused any retouching but requested a photographer known for his extremely detailed photos that highlight all skin imperfections.
Kerry Washington continues to spread her talent and knowledge outside of the film industry. The actress, who is heavily involved with many charities, is an avid supporter of Peace Over Violence, a non-profit, community-based organization in Los Angeles that strives to end domestic and sexual violence, stalking and child abuse, and instead foster healthy relationships among families and communities.
Mariska Hargitay – Inspired by her role on Law & Order: SVU, Hargitay created the Joyful Heart Foundation, whose mission is to heal, educate, and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness surrounding these issues. With offices in New York, Los Angeles and Hawaii, JHF offers healing, wellness and empowerment programs for survivors of abuse and the professionals who care for them. “Joyful Heart is about the courage to heal, and all of our programming is dedicated to honoring that brave decision,” says Hargitay.
These are just a few of the many pop culture icons who are paving the way for positive social change. The purpose of this letter is to challenge ALL pop culture icons to decide what is important to you. What do you want society to value? What do you want your children to learn from pop culture? What footprint do you want to leave in our society?
Imagine if super models were not starving themselves to be the next cover model. Who would the magazines photograph? Women making healthy choices about food and promoting healthy body images which would create a new norm about beauty in our society.
Imagine if musicians were not willing to write and perform music that promotes physical and sexual violence, gangs, alcohol, drugs, and power. What would record companies distribute? Music and music videos about peaceful communities, equality and healthy lifestyle choices.
Imagine if actors and actresses were unwilling to take roles in movies that promote racism, classism, sexism, physical and sexual violence, and stereotypes. What movies would be written and produced? Movies that inspire people to create change, motivate people to achieve greatness, encourage people to care for each other.
Your participation in positive social issues will help the average citizens who are mobilizing feel supported. It will push the social issue out to the masses through your public presence. Your participation in positive social issues will help to reduce the impact of negative media on younger generations; preventing them from struggling with addiction, low self-esteem, violence, prejudice, and hate.
Don’t you want to be a part of this positive movement? Don’t you have something powerful to say? Don’t you want to use your public platform for more than promoting your latest venture? Don’t you want to join us, the average citizens, in creating a better society?
With warmest regards,
Activist, Feminist, Mother