Since January 20, 2017, we’ve all been living a new reality. Despite a slew of sexual assault allegations, audio recordings filled with misogyny, and an embarrassing, invented vocabulary of words like “bigly” and "covfefe," Donald Trump was inaugurated. The President wasted no time in stripping women of their rights and implementing xenophobic and downright racist ideas like the travel ban.
Resistance feels futile, but it shouldn’t.
Since the inauguration, celebrities have amped up their political involvement. The Women's March on Washington was a great example of people uniting with a common aim. Chelsea Handler’s words on the subject were particularly apt, as she explained in a video posted on Instagram that despite being “a white woman of a lot of privilege,” she wasn’t prepared to remain silent. She continued, “I make a lot of money… and a lot of what this administration has proposed thus far, won’t even affect me personally,” and by acknowledging her own privilege, Handler made an important point about advocacy.
“It’s not my job to judge anyone else’s advocacy, or lack thereof. It’s just my hope that people don’t keep the things that make them angry, or that light up their passion, secret, for fear of judgement.”
Celebrities have a platform, and regardless of whether or not they’re affected by the decisions of the country’s legislators, they’re able to speak out. Handler also explained that one of her friends described her as “too aggressive” and “too political,” but the comedian wasn’t remotely shaken by the feedback.
Another celebrity who has been told to stop being so political is Sophia Bush. The actor, famous for playing Brooke Davis in One Tree Hill and starring in Chicago P.D., spoke to Ravishly about advocacy and her take on the current government. She said, “It’s not my job to judge anyone else’s advocacy, or lack thereof. It’s just my hope that people don’t keep the things that make them angry, or that light up their passion, secret, for fear of judgement.” Luckily, attempts to silence Bush haven’t worked either.
Bush’s latest project, PenPal Schools, involves connecting kids all over the world to learn about different cultures and gain invaluable new perspectives via online resources. Bush hopes that the organization will be an important tool in stopping hate and encouraging empathy. She told Ravishly, “When this illusion of ‘the other’ disappears, I’m really excited to see the way that respect grows, and the way that empathy increases.”
By connecting children in the US with their peers all around the globe, Bush’s latest project seeks to join together everything that the Trump administration seems intent on pulling apart.
A total opposite to the travel ban, Bush hopes that PenPal Schools will “start giving kids global passports, to make them excited to travel the world, to learn about each other’s culture, and to advocate for one another’s health and wellness.” Despite being repeatedly told that advocacy is not her job as an actor, Bush is resolute when it comes to speaking her mind and standing up for other people. “I really think that this has the potential to truly make the world a better place,” she said.
As Hadley Freeman wrote in The Guardian in Feb. 2017, “There is something pretty hilarious about people saying celebrities shouldn’t talk about politics, when a celebrity is currently the President of the United States.” Of course, celebs entering politics isn’t a new phenomenon, and if Kanye West is really serious about that 2020 run, it could be par for the course.
If anything, now that a reality star is the President, surely it's more important than ever that celebrities use their platforms to achieve positive outcomes?
It feels as though a shift has already taken place, and the general public has come to expect to hear from their idols, which is why fans are currently so frustrated with Taylor Swift. Seemingly refusing to pick a side for fear of implicating herself in the wrong way, Swift’s political silence has grown increasingly problematic. Sure, it doesn’t matter who she voted for, but it matters what her stance is on women’s access to health care, abortion, and economic equal rights — especially after making feminism such a huge part of her personal brand. At some point, the “Shake It Off” singer is going to have to make a statement that isn’t pre-planned in the Notes app.
When it comes to specific celebrities expressing their politics, it’s really the personal choice of the individual. But if the Women’s March on Washington proved anything, it’s that people can mobilize. It may be difficult to maintain a positive perspective in Trump’s America, but anger is a powerful motivator.
If there was ever a time to become informed about politics, it’s now. And if you’ve ever considered running for office, step right up.
Even though celebrity advocacy can't undo all of the racist, sexist, transphobic bills the government seems intent on passing, it's a great antidote to the current political climate, and perhaps the only way the President can be challenged. As Trump is so concerned with his own fame, who better to challenge his ideas than his fellow celebrities?