Celebrity Activism Inspires Gen Z Women but The Future Is Already Ours

Celebrities have been getting political this month. Angelina Jolie went to Capitol Hill last week with her 17-year old daughter Zahara. They urged lawmakers to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Meanwhile, Dolly Parton's Dollywood will pay full tuition for employees pursuing college, reigniting the conversation about student debt. 

Celebrity Activism Inspires Gen Z Women but The Future Is Already Ours angelina jolieThe truth is, I like it when celebrities do this kind of thing. It narrows the gap between celebrities and the rest of us. I'm a Gen Z woman working for a nonpartisan organization that empowers other young women to run for office, become policymakers, advocates, and more. We're inspired by everyone from Yara Shahidi to Kerry Washington. Celebrities are helping to normalize the idea of taking political action. They show what it means to talk about issues that affect your community. But we're also inspired by the young women who have been in their communities doing the work for years. 

Young women don't need celebrity influencers to inspire us. We know the future is already ours. We vote in record numbers. We make people listen. Gen Z women are three times more likely than their male counterparts to run for office. We're running for school boards and commissions across America. A record number of Republican women are running for Congress this year. We're changing America's definition of what a political leader looks like.  

In that sense, Gen Z women are not so much influenced by celebrities as influencing them. Gone are the days of "sitting on the fence." Now, celebrities are more likely to speak up and use their platforms for good. 

In 2020, I was part of a campaign called "IGNITE the Vote." We reached 6.5 million young women and motivated them to vote in the election. It's exciting to see celebrities rallying for causes they believe in. But the deeper truth here is that young people, and particularly young women, are as powerful as any icon. And, of course, there are a lot more of us than there are celebrities. 

Gen Z women are also less persuaded by partisanship than you might expect. Most Gen Z women step into politics because they care about specific issues close to them. In particular, for example, we care about menstrual equity and voting rights. We care about issues in our schools. We step up to run for office because we don't see leadership that represents us.  

There has been a rise in performative activism over the past few years. But celebrities in particular using their platform is important, especially when they put action behind the words. Just think about the thousands, possibly millions, of people who are seeing a celebrity's post. If celebrities can use their powers of persuasion to get people to buy a product, they can also motivate people to register to vote, advocate for an issue or simply start a conversation. When you read the comments, you'll find young people in conversation. We're shaping up political responses in the comments sections. Then we're taking action beyond social media. We're contacting our representatives and asking them to take action on issues. We're voting. And yes, we're running. 

Last week we asked people how well they knew the Kardashians. We also asked them how well they knew prominent women who ran for office. This provoked some amusing discussions on social media. But the real difference I can make in a young woman's life is to encourage her to go through political leadership training. 70% of the young women who complete an IGNITE training want to run for office, afterward. That's compared to 20% of them who do before they start. Research shows it takes a young woman seven times of asking before she runs for office. So: Run for office, please, Gen Z young woman. And please, re-read that last line another six times. 

Leave a Comment