Is it difficult to be an actor or director in Hollywood and declare yourself a feminist? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
It's all very relative. No matter any difficulties I face in advocating for equality, it will always be harder to be the person that is being discriminated against for their gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. Even in speaking out about these issues and in being a feminist, I will likely have it easier than a woman who is advocating for feminism. I'll get more positive media attention for it and I won't have nearly the volume of men writing abusive, sexist garbage to me on social media. Unfortunately that's the way it is, and it probably won't change until we have equality across the board. So I'll use it to advance the cause in the best way that I can.
In terms of the jobs that I've had, I've been very fortunate that these shows are very friendly towards the idea of equality and feminism. I have no idea where my career will take me, but this is why it felt so important to start discussing these issues when I'd been afforded a platform thanks to projects that wouldn't penalize me for my voice.
But this journey is certainly not all unicorns and chocolate dipped marshmallows covered in tiny little rainbow sprinkles. It hadn't quite occurred to me until recently that I was isolating myself from large groups of people. But I think that's because if you're someone who stands in the way of equality, I don't really give much of a fuck what you think about me. If we can agree that most men do not identify as feminists, that rules out about half the population. Add in most white folks, plus the women who don't identify as feminists, and then the feminists who despise me and the way that I advocate for equality and you've got a hefty sum of people. But what I gain as a person and in my connection to my fellow human beings far outweighs that.
In a less ideological sense, I've been advised against speaking about many issues (and with such volume) very frequently. There are many countries that do not feel the same way that even many Americans do about equality, and these are markets in which my work will most likely play. Of the last 90,000 Facebook followers I've had due to my shows airing, I've had 15,000 people unfollow me. I've had magazines be uncomfortable with my activism and it's pretty widely known that being very "political" is not great for brand endorsements. There may even be projects that I won't get because of my outspokenness, but I'll never know that it was due to that.
It's often a tricky balance between how to amplify voices of others without speaking over people. I've certainly had some criticisms of that, and I think entertaining the idea that one can be wrong is very important not just as an activist, but in life. In my mind, being able to play devil's advocate with oneself is one of the qualities that I've noticed tends to be most associated with being able to grow rapidly as individuals. And I think that when anyone, including me, just assumes that they're always right all the time, we stop growing. But specifically in relation to supporting a movement, it ends up being a very fine line. When a certain online publication ran a blog about me and how they thought that I was talking over people of color and women, I certainly allowed myself to consider that they were right. It'd be remiss if I just assumed they were wrong. I looked back through my previous few days of Tweets and the vast majority of things I was putting out there felt in line with what I feel like I should be doing ... RTing and posting thoughts about race and gender from people of color and non-males (not even sure if that's a word). Of course, when I post thoughts of my own or go at someone for things I disagree with, that's more likely to get picked up by news outlets and get amplified through media. No one is going to run a story about my RTing someone else's idea, even though that is an extraordinarily important part of spreading the message. The system itself is fucked because I do get a disproportionate amount of attention and praise in advocating for these issues. But at the end of the day, my priority is getting as many eyeballs as possible on these things, and sometimes that means putting out my own content that I know will get views. Like the picture that I posted of me, shirtless, in bed reading The New Jim Crow. I knew that it would get more likes, and shares, and thus engagement by inserting myself into it. If I have to use my sexuality and recognizability to get more people to learn about the book and buy it, I'm willing to look like the potential douchebag. If I had just posted the book by itself, less people that follow me are going to engage with it. And effectiveness of spreading the message is really the thing that matters the most to me.
It still hurts when you're trying your best and people think it's not good enough.
But again, all of these things are worthy sacrifices when you see the need that is there for advocates of equality. And particularly when you look at the gaping hole in advocating for equality by straight, white men.
My biggest difficulties daily are deciding where I fit into the space of activist as a straight, white man. Finding the balance between amplifying the voices of those people that are the subjects of discrimination and that need to be heard while still offering my own opinions without drowning out those other voices. Understanding that despite seeing the issues that need to be dealt with, I've still been raised and socialized in a world with certain gender roles and racial biases that affect how I act and what I think. I imagine that it will be a lifelong process, but one that is ultimately the path to a better mind and a more loving heart.
Even in writing this answer, there will be some feminists that think I'm taking up space in the dialogue for equality to whine about my own problems, and that that is doing a disservice to the movement. It's the criticisms, that sometimes have a lot of hate attached to them, of those who are on the same side as me, that ultimately hurt the most. But I can never know what it's like to be in the shoes of those discriminated against and how frustrating it might be to see a straight, white man getting a lot of love for their advocacy their own communities.
At the end of the day, being an advocate is unequivocally the right decision. As a straight, white man, the fact that I even have the choice of when and how to engage with issues of discrimination is one of the main factors that compels me. As Deray McKesson (one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement) says, "Freedom work will always be more important than it is popular."