The Best Five Celebrity Feminists

By Laura Barcella

Some celebrities shy away from the word, "feminist"—and get a whole lot of internet storms for their refusal. Think about Shailene Woodley, et alia.

More and more powerful women are realizing—and publicly recognizing—that "feminist" isn’t a dirty word. Here are some of today’s top stars who make the women's movement look pretty damn good (and make us personally proud to be XX).

ALICIA KEYS

What She Says:

Alicia Keys has admitted that having her son, Egypt, in 2011, is what pushed her over the edge into self-proclaimed feminist territory. Of course, plenty of her songs have long had pro-woman undertones (see "Girl On Fire" and "Superwoman"), but who didn’t cheer, just a little, when Keys finally fessed up to her feminist beliefs? As she explained in this interview, "I am honored to be raising a son and to be the example [for him] of what a woman is, should be or can be—I find that to be a really powerful position. […] My mother was an absolute self-pronounced feminist. I think I have that same desire to uplift the female race, so to be able to raise a man who can also uplift and respect women in the world is a really big honor."

What She Does:

Keys co-founded and serves as the global ambassador for Keep a Child Alive, a non-profit that helps put medicine in the hands of families with HIV and AIDS in Africa. In April 2008, she also released a documentary about her visits with African children who suffer from the virus, entitled "Alicia in Africa: Journey to the Motherland." She has performed many times to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy, Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, and as part of the Live Earth performances. She also won a Humanitarian Award at the 2009 BET Awards. In September 2012, Keys participated in the "30 Songs / 30 Days" campaign to help support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s popular book.

Just How Powerful Is She?

Keys has had multiple No.1 records on the Billboard charts, as well as earning 12 Grammy awards. Keys has also sold more than 35 million albums and 30 million singles worldwide. Her net worth is rumored to be $45 million.

Miscellaneous Bonus Points:

In 2008, Keys starred in the film The Secret Life of Bees, and it earned her a nomination at the NAACP Image Awards. Go Alicia, go!

BEYONCE

What She Says:

When Beyoncé orders her fans to "bow down," they’d best start listening. And duh, they do (the rest of the world, too!). Despite seeming hesitant to identify as a feminist back in 2013, Beyoncé has been all about promoting feminist ideas for the past year or so; she’s taken an admirably loud-and-proud public stance, encouraging other women to follow suit. Last year, the 32-year-old superwoman penned a powerful essay, "Gender Equality Is a Myth!," for Maria Shriver’s website. In the piece, the singer declares that gender equality is a myth and notes that we must encourage both men and women to embrace women’s rights: "We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible."

What She Does:

After Hurricane Katrina essentially leveled New Orleans back in 2005, Beyoncé and her buddy—and former bandmate—Kelly Rowland founded the Survivor Foundation. The organization helped provide transitional housing for victims in the Houston area; Beyoncé reportedly contributed an initial $250,000. She also raised more than $1 million for Jay-Z’s Shawn Carter Foundation, which helps send low-income kids to college. She has also worked in partnership with the organization Feeding America to help give meals to food banks across the U.S.

How Powerful Is She?

We all know the answer to this one—uh, she’s pretty damn powerful. Aside from winning 17 Grammys and selling more than 75 million records as a solo performer, Beyoncé is one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She was featured in TIME magazine’s list of Most Influential People in both 2013 and 2014, and for good reason. Her net worth is reported at $350 million.

Miscellaneous Bonus Points:

The singer developed a remix of her catchy song, "Move Your Body" and a music video for First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign to help prevent childhood obesity.

GEENA DAVIS

What She Says:

Geena Davis may not be doing too much acting these days, but that doesn’t mean she’s slacking off—quite the the opposite, actually. A longtime feminist activist, especially around images of women in the media, Davis is very vocal about her passion for gender justice, which she says was partially sparked by what she noticed while watching cartoons with her daughter.

She spoke about that frustrating experience: "My daughter was about 2 [she’s 9 now] and I started watching little kids shows and G-rated videos with her, and it really struck me how few female characters there seemed to be. […] I started counting the characters while we were watching. I knew there were far fewer parts for women in movies in general, but that we would be showing that to kids was sort of a revelation."

What She Does:

In response to the kids’ TV incident, Davis went all out, deciding to start up her very own non-profit called, The Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media. The group is dedicated to discussing—and, hopefully, transforming—the offensive ways that women are commonly portrayed (or ignored) in mainstream media.

The Institute commissioned "the largest research project on gender in film and television ever undertaken," done by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The researchers’ results weren’t pretty; as it turned out, in family films, there is only one female character for every three guy characters; and in group scenes, only 17 percent of the characters are female.

It’s been noted that some of Davis’ bigger goals with the Institute include "having more female representation as main characters, minor characters, narrators, and in crowd scenes; having more of that representation consist of people of color; having more female characters with aspirations greater than romance," and much more.

How Powerful Is She?

Geena Davis has a reported net worth of $38 million, and has won an Oscar for her role of Best Supporting Actress in "The Accidental Tourist." She was also awarded a Golden Globe for her acting in "A League of Their Own."

Miscellaneous Bonus Points

Davis is a member of Mensa. Smart and awesome.

ASHLEY JUDD

What She Says:

Ashley Judd is one of the first celebrities I remember noticing who was unequivicol about publicly professing her feminism. Years ago, seeing her photographed multiple times in a T-shirt that read, "This is what a feminist looks like," only helped cement my respect for her. (I was already a fan thanks to her acting, especially in the underappreciated film "Ruby in Paradise." SO GOOD.)

Since then, my respect for Judd has only grown, especially as she began making kick-ass speeches like this Blazer Lecture called, "At the Root of My Longing, Social Justice, Feminism, and Spirituality": "Gender inequality is the root of the HIV/AIDS emergency, the worst plague in human history, and how nothing short of a complete and total gender revolution will there ever be relief, lasting stability, and peace in our world."

Judd is passionately outspoken about the issues that matter to her, and high on that list are the rights of girls and women worldwide. She doesn’t mince words when she discusses this stuff. In this 2012 essay for "The Daily Beast" in which she responded to cruel media snipes about her face getting "puffy," Judd wrote, "Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women's faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly."

What She Does:

Judd is a Global Ambassador for YouthAids, and a board member of Population Services International. She has donated both time and resources to filming three award-winning documentaries on behalf of YouthAids. Since 2011, she has also been on the Leadership Council of the International Center for Research on Women, and has traveled to Kenya, Rwanda, Cambodia, and scores of other places afflicted by mass poverty and illness. In 2013, Judd reportedly considered running for Senate (as a Democrat) in her home state of Kentucky, but ultimately decided against it for undisclosed reasons, though people speculated that she was “too liberal” and too Hollywood.

Just How Powerful Is She?

Judd was nominated for four different awards for her work in 1993’s "Ruby in Paradise." She has also been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her 2012 role on the show "Missing." Her net worth is estimated to be around $22 million.

Miscellaneous Bonus Points

Judd was a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Oh, and in 2010, she received a Master's Degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Yes, she is officially a smarty-pants.

AISHA TYLER

What She Says:

Aisha Tyler has been speaking out against magazines’ retouching and airbrushing of female celebs and models since the good old days of 2008. She’s also a defender of women in comedy, saying, "Some of the most dominant voices in comedy are female right now—Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham. I feel like that is changing right now in a really extraordinary way. [...] Historically women have been socialized, and still are to a great extent, to be precious and cute and adorable, and comedy is none of those things."

And don’t forget her speech at a 2012 Planned Parenthood rally in North Carolina, where she pointedly noted that Mitt Romney "does not love women" before going on, "Planned Parenthood is not just about abortion... It is about women’s lives and our health and about women being able to be the architects of their own destiny, because when you choose when to become a mother, when you choose when to make a family, you don’t let somebody else make that choice for you, It’s your choice and we are going to fight to make sure no one ever, ever takes it away.”

What She Does:

Aisha Tyler kicks ass and takes names, of course. But when she’s not acting, writing bestselling books or magazine articles (she’s been published in "JANE," "Entertainment Weekly," and "Glamour," among others), hosting popular talk shows, or making people laugh hysterically from a comedy stage, this renaissance woman talks about her passion for reproductive rights and social justice.

(Check out this PolicyMic piece she was involved with, about how gamers can help end sexual violence.) Tyler is involved with a range of charities and philanthropic work—she regularly volunteers for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Red Cross, The Family Violence Prevention Fund, the International Rescue Committee, and she serves in an advisory position to the environmental group The Trust for Public Land. Tyler is also an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights.

How Powerful Is She?

Tyler is a one-stop shop for all of our collective entertainment needs. As mentioned above, Tyler works in just about every creative public medium you can think of, and more impressively, she’s pretty much stellar at all of them. Still, she’s not quite as big as Oprah (yet), so her net worth is reportedly only around 8 million dollars. But we told you: keep an eye on her; she’s still on the rise.

Miscellaneous Bonus Points

Tyler in an unabashed lover of beer (she home-brews)—and gaming. When people challenged her gamer credentials after she presented a press conference for Ubisoft in 2012, Tyler released a poem about how she's been playing video games "since you were a twinge in the left side of your daddy's underoos."