Sir Patrick Stewart is an accomplished thespian, both in the theatre and on the screen. When Stewart walks onto the stage, or appears in the shot of a cinematic epic, he coats viewers with the oil of Olivier. Stewart also dedicates a vast amount of time to championing feminist causes.
Stewart is a staunch advocate for raising awareness in regards to violence against women. Every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States. Every week, two women in England and Wales are killed by their current or former partner. One UN statistic gravely states that globally, one in three woman are beaten or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Stewart has witnessed domestic violence first hand.
In an article written for The Guardian in 2009, Stewart describes in detail what life was like in a household that contains an abusive parent. Stewart's father was a World War II Veteran who returned home without adequate mental health care support. Stewart's father was unable to adjust to civilian life. Stewart writes:
"He was an angry, unhappy and frustrated man who was not able to control his emotions or his hands. As a child I witnessed his repeated violence against my mother, and the terror and misery he caused was such that, if I felt I could have succeeded, I would have killed him. If my mother had attempted it, I would have held him down. For those who struggle to comprehend these feelings in a child, imagine living in an environment of emotional unpredictability, danger and humiliation week after week, year after year, from the age of seven. My childish instinct was to protect my mother, but the man hurting her was my father, whom I respected, admired and feared."
Stewart also explains the victim blaming that is all too prevalent in domestic violence situations:
"Worse, there were those who condoned the abuse. I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, "She must have provoked him," or, "Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight." They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it."
Stewart began speaking openly about his childhood in 2007, when he joined Refuge, the national domestic violence charity in the United Kingdom. In 2009 and 2013, Stewart has openly said that it is on men to stop violence against women. Stewart could not help his mother, Gladys, escape the horrors she went through when he was a child. Now, Stewart is dedicated to helping other women and changing culture in his Mother's name.
Can men be feminists? Some feminist women argue that men can call themselves allies, but that men cannot truly be feminists. This is perhaps because these feminists believe that in the patriarchal culture that permeates the globe, men cannot truly remove themselves from the power and privilege they have over women. Others argue that men can be feminists and that feminism should be inclusive. Rape culture and other feminist issues certainly impact men too. One only has to look to the recent victim blaming of Shia LaBeouf after his rape and Hope Solo's domestic violence against a male relative as examples.
That being said, Stewart acknowledges his privilege. As seen in the photo below, Stewart has been quoted as saying:
"People won't listen to you or take you seriously unless you're an old white man, and since I'm an old white man I'm going to use that to help the people who need it."
I believe that feminism should be inclusive, and that there is a place for everyone, regardless of gender, in the movement.
"Is Sir Patrick Stewart a feminist?"
The only correct and apt response to this inquiry is:
"Make it so."