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Supermodels Vs Feminists

By Suzanne MacNevin, September 2006.

Off the top of your head name a famous feminist. I don't count, because I'm not that famous. Okay, now name a supermodel. See how much easier it was to name some anorexic bimbo. I've already made my point.

The average person (male or female, it doesn't matter) cannot name a famous feminist. I could very easily say Mary Wollstonecraft or Ani DiFranco, but therein lies another problem... they're only a LITTLE famous. They're not household names. We could argue that Bette Midler and Julia Roberts are famous feminists, but they're more famous for their acting skills than for their feminist activism.

We could also say the Guerrilla Girls, but since nobody but the Guerrilla Girls knows the real identities of the Guerrilla Girls (and since they're only famous in the art world) they're not really that famous.

So the definition of FAMOUS has to be someone that at least 80% of people will recognize.

Hillary Clinton is arguably the most famous woman in the world, but is she a feminist? Maybe. She can be rather conservative at times. She prefers adoption over abortion and strongly promotes adoption. She is certainly welcome to her opinion.

And so the problem therein lies that "feminism" really is not that popular. Judging by the number of women's magazines with fashion supermodels on the cover we can assume that most women seem to prefer an anorexic model on their magazine covers instead of a feminist writer/singer/activist.

Even the list of feminist magazines is pretty short. Ms Magazine, Bitch Magazine, Lilith Magazine... thats all the ones I can think of quickly and easily.

In the last 76 years we have had 32 supermodels (and a horde of other models) who have become major icons and sex symbols. In contrast there are scant few feminists. Most of this can be attributed to the fact that MEN like supermodels (and sex) more than they like feminists (whom conservatives tend to bash and call foul names). But in addition to blaming the male sex drive, we must also consider the mass media...

When was the last time we had an awards ceremony on tv for feminists? Yet we have Ms America televised every year. We also have the Oscars, the Emmys, etc.

And if we want to get more serious when was the last time a feminist won the Nobel Peace Prize? I'm not sure, but its probably been quite awhile.

How many presidents and prime ministers in North America have been female? (Just 1, Kim Campbell was Prime Minister in Canada, and only because Brian Mulroney stepped down. If we count Central America there is also Eugenia Charles of Dominica and Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua.)

Compare the lists below and you'll note that many of the feminists I've listed are not even that famous. You might recognize half of them. Likewise you probably won't recognize all the older supermodels from the 1930s to 1960s, but your parents or grandparents might recognize those names.

Famous Supermodels

1930s - 1950s:

  • Lisa Fonssagrives
  • Cathee Dahmen
  • Dorian Leigh
  • Dovima
  • Anita Colby


  • Twiggy
  • Cheryl Tiegs
  • Veruschka
  • Jean Shrimpton


  • Lauren Hutton
  • Janice Dickinson
  • Christie Brinkley


  • Claudia Schiffer
  • Paulina Porizkova
  • Cindy Crawford
  • Linda Evangelista
  • Naomi Campbell
  • Christy Turlington
  • Beverly Peele
  • Kate Moss


  • Laetitia Casta
  • Gisele Bundchen
  • Heidi Klum
  • Tyra Banks
  • Adriana Lima
  • Liya Kebede
  • Natalia Vodianova
  • Alessandra Ambrosio


  • Gemma Ward
  • Vlada Roslyakova
  • Heather Marks
  • Devon Owens
  • Jessica Stam
  • Famous Feminists


  • Ani DiFranco
  • Kinnie Starr
  • Bikini Kill (the band)
  • The Indigo Girls (the band)


  • Bette Midler
  • Julia Roberts


  • Hillary Clinton


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  • Virginia Woolf
  • Hattie Gossett
  • Victoria Van Dyke


  • Cindy Sherman
  • Lorna Simpson
  • Kiki Smith
  • Victoria Van Dyke

    Where are all the feminists?

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