Helen Mirren on why she resisted calling herself a feminist until recently

The actor recently made the commencement speech at Tulane University, offering sage advice to its graduates

Clarisse Loughrey
Thursday 25 May 2017 08:46 BST

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Though Helen Mirren emphatically calls herself a feminist now, she admits she's resisted the term in the past.

Making the commencement speech at Tulane University in New Orleans, Mirren stated: "No matter what sex you are, or race, be a feminist. In every country and culture that I have visited, from Sweden to Uganda, from Singapore to Mali, it is clear that when women are given respect, and the ability and freedom to pursue their personal dreams and ambitions, life improves for everyone."

"I didn’t define myself as a feminist until quite recently," he added. "But I had always lived like a feminist and believed in the obvious: that women were as capable and as energetic and as inspiring as men. But to join a movement called feminism seemed too didactic, too political."

"However, I have come to understand that feminism is not an abstract idea but a necessity if we — and really by “we,” I mean you guys — are to move us forward and not backward into ignorance and fearful jealousy. So now, I am a declared feminist and I would encourage you to be the same."

Mirren's speech was also packed with her usual wit and warmth, opening with: "So, today’s speech will contain advice for any of you born in England who decide to become Shakespearean actresses, and end up doing nude scenes in 10 films. I mentioned that just to see if any of your fathers are getting out their cellphones now to Google me. Dads. Stop. Inappropriate. Put it away. I mean the phone!"

She also toasted to New Orleans as the place where an individual is obligated to have "at least one fathered costume in your wardrobe at all times."

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in