This chapter offers a comparative case study of singer Ricky Martin’s and actor Ashton Kutcher’s efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking. Together, their gender and issue advocacy situates them among “male celebrity feminists” (MCF) — a small but growing number of men from the entertainment and sports industries who appear with frequency and regularity on popular media listicles to speak openly about their interest in gender equality. Even as the MCF is a relatively recent phenomenon, extant scholarly and other discussions are highly critical of his efforts, characterizing and critiquing him as a creation of the “imbrication of hegemonic masculinity, patriarchy, and celebrity culture” (Cobb, 2015, 138). While these are certainly valid criticisms, there is little scholarship analyzing and comparing examples of MCF in depth. This chapter fills this gap in research by comparing Ricky Martin’s and Ashton Kutcher’s anti-trafficking work as performances of MCF, arguing broadly that by offering different narrative representations of human trafficking and, by extension, feminist ideologies, they indicate the potential dynamics of MCF — namely, its variations, and limits and possibilities for the promotion of gender equality.
Samantha Majic received her Ph.D. in government from Cornell University and is an associate professor of political science at John Jay College-CUNY. Her research lies in gender and American politics, with specific interests in sex work, civic engagement, and celebrities and politics. She is the author of Sex Work Politics: From Protest to Service Provision (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), co-editor (with Carisa Showden) of Negotiating Sex Work: Unintended Consequences of Policy and Activism (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), and co-author (with Carisa Showden) of Youth Who Trade Sex in the US: Agency, Intersectionality, and Vulnerability (Temple University Press, 2018). Her research has also appeared in numerous political science and gender studies journals. A fellow of the American Association of University Women, Majic is also a member of the editorial boards for Perspectives on Politics, The American Political Science Review, PS: Political Science and Politics, and Critical Policy Studies.
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