Joseph Gordon-Levitt launches feminism appeal: 'There are still tensions and unfair situations that arise more for women'

The actor calls for the public to define feminism on YouTube

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt has launched a film asking what it means to be a feminist (scroll to watch the video).

The actor spoke out about his desire for gender equality on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in January, but was surprised to read so much online confusion about what feminism means and has shared a film discussing the issue on YouTube.

"People are saying stuff like, 'I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equality for both sexes,''" he told The Daily Beast.

"So it’s really just an issue of how you define the word, and if people want to use a different word, I think that’s perfectly fine. The reason that I stick with the word ‘feminist’ is that I’m a fan of the tradition of that movement.

"It’s been a very positive movement for the last hundred or so years."

He dismissed claims that we no longer need feminism and, while “we’ve come a long way”, the debate is far from over.

"There’s a lot to talk about, and it’s a more nuanced conversation now than it was then, and that’s all the more reason for us to be having these conversations," he said. "There are still plenty of tensions and unfair situations that arise more so for women than for men."

He also addressed one member of the public’s view that they would rather be called a humanist than a feminist, arguing that the word feminism acknowledges "the very long history of the women’s rights movement".

"I agree with what he’s saying: It should just be assumed men and women are equally important and equally capable - but it’s not, and it hasn’t been for thousands of years," said Gordon-Levitt.

"So, ‘feminism’ and being a 'feminist' is an acknowledgement of that history and the culture we’ve lived in for a long time. It’s a reaction to that, but for me, that’s an important acknowledgement to make."

His film is part of his hitREcord on TV series and users are encouraged to voice their view on the issue by posing their own videos.

He is not the only high-profile figurehead to have explored the meaning of feminism recently; on Saturday 21 September Emma Watson discussed the subject in a speech as part her role as United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador.

"I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realised that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating," said Watson. "If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.

"For the record, feminism by definition is: 'The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.'"

Her speech launched new campaign HeForShe, which invites men, as well as women, to fight for gender equality.

Having since made her standing on the subject well-known, she has been targeted by anonymous photo hackers who have threatened to leak naked pictures of her.

"She makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online," one comment allegedly read on 4Chan, adding that the images are set to appear in under five days.