Feminist Ian Somerhalder explains how the world is failing women
Ian Somerhalder? isn't just known for his role on The Vampire Diaries. He's quite the humanitarian who cares deeply for his organization Girls Impact the World Film Festival. Not only does he go into what this organization means to him and girls and women, but he makes it very clear he's a feminist at heart. He has a message for young girls, women and men everywhere, so read on.
SheKnows: Tell us about Girls Impact the World Film Festival, how you came up with the idea, and why it is important to you.
Ian Somerhalder: Girls Impact the World Film Festival (GITW) is a product of the genius within the Harvard College Social Innovation Collaborative and the Connecther organization. For this unique festival, high school and undergraduate college students submit films targeting a variety of women's issues worldwide and present solutions to these issues through the lens of creative media.
The collaboration between GITW and ISF was a perfect fit considering ISF acknowledges that our youth are the most undervalued and underutilized natural resource on this planet — and we feel so especially about young women. The Green IS award is a scholarship award presented to the filmmaker who utilizes the craft of filmmaking to create awareness and propose solutions to environmental issues that impact women.
SK: Why do you think it is important for girls to speak up?
IS: We have made it acceptable that women are spoken for and that needs to change now. Within the realm of advertising, marketing, fashion, technology and athletics, women are told where they fit properly and how to act once in their right place.
It is beyond important that girls speak up, that they act fearlessly, that they fall in love with the timbre of their powerful voices — but that isn't the complete solution. The men placed into positions of traditional patriarchal power need a massive shift to correspond with women's uprising and support this societal shift as a whole. Men need to acknowledge the evolution that comes along with embracing and championing the surge of powerful women worldwide.
When we men learn to celebrate the true and irrefutable power of women, we can then truly celebrate the progress of men.
SK: Women have made tremendous strides in the last couple of years, but still have a ways to go. What do you hope for from women in Hollywood in 2015?
IS: While I have the utmost hope for women in Hollywood this year, my real desire would be to see a louder, more public, more invested recognition of women outside of Hollywood. We need to celebrate the women in technology, science, education and our local communities, the women who are breaking gender barriers and [exceeding] all typical expectation.
When I'm out running errands, I always see a multitasking mother who truly blows my mind. This woman is nothing short of a comic book superhero. Strapped to her back she has a wailing new life, holding her hand is her intensely curious and super-fueled toddler, yet she maintains patience, creatively and constantly finds solutions and manages to execute 100 things simultaneously without losing any part of who she is. She is an absolute artist. There are incredible women like her all around us.
Hollywood has enough attention. Let's celebrate the women achieving the unthinkable in our local communities every day.
SK: How do you feel current female celebs are impacting young girls?
IS: We are in a strange era with the prevalence of social media. Female icons have the opportunity to utilize, empower and create calls to action through the swift click of a button. With power comes danger, of course. With immense and constant connectivity, it's easy to get swept away in a world of comparison.
Keeping up with the Joneses has found a way to creep into our thumbs when scrolling through Instagram. The look of someone's life on social media is a warped display of the truth, so it's good to embrace it with caution. At the same time, these social innovations spearhead international kinship and endless constellations of collaboration that would have otherwise never occurred. Social media has vastly impacted young girls, women, men (and maybe even some dogs with great eyesight) and the way we perceive the world.
SK: What are your thoughts on the pressures society puts on women to get married and have kids?
IS: Hopefully the pressure valve is releasing a little, and we are expanding our ideas of the roles that women — or, hell, all beings — can play. We need a massive shift in consciousness to understand the malleable truth behind role expectations as a whole.
In general, we tend to cherry-pick a standard and then deem everything that is "other" as a deviation of that golden standard. We have double standards surrounding us on a daily basis. A cow might get labeled livestock while a dog gets labeled a family member — and for what reason? A male athlete is referred to as a basketball player while a female athlete is considered a female basketball player. How is her participation in the sport any different to be classified as such?
Women can be wives, mothers, comedians, bioengineers, hackers, auto mechanics… the pressure should not be on fitting stereotypes and norms, but instead the pressure should be on launching yourself toward your true passions during the short time we have on this planet. While it seems pretty meta and grand in thinking, once we step back and really acknowledge the pointlessness of role stereotypes and the necessity of true passion, the world around [us] is liberated in every direction.
SK: What's the best way to fight against discrimination, sexism and/or stereotypes?
IS: Fight it head-on. Don't allow these restraints, boxes and limitations to even exist in your reality. Plant your feet firmly into the being you are, regardless of sex, regardless of gender, regardless of stereotypes and live life in full stride toward your purpose, being fed and propelled by your innate and indisputable passions every step of the way. Surround yourself with empowering people that reinforce your skills and talents — regardless of the expectations of conventional society. Be prepared to be exactly who you are every morning you wake up.
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