Lilian Min
Updated July 24, 2016
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Sometimes, when you ask a celebrity, and especially a male celebrity in a position of power and change within their industry, about feminism, they’ll dodge the question. (See: This roundup of male celeb’s answers to the “Are you a feminist” question.) The reason behind the asking is simple — if every female celebrity is asked that question (and most are), shouldn’t men, who are necessarily implicated in conversations about gender equality, also have to answer?

And for a master class in how to answer unequivocally yes to the question, and actually mean it, let’s look no further than director James Cameron.

In an interview with New York Magazine‘s Vulture, conducted after his attendance at the San Diego Comic-Con panel for the 30th (!!!) anniversary of Aliens, Cameron described himself as “a pretty hardcore feminist.” The conversation came up during a conversation about the popularity of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road; to Cameron, “These iconic characters come along every few years. Hollywood tries to do it from time to time, but…”

The “but…” is an acknowledgement that while Furiosa joins an action heroine canon that also includes Ripley from Aliens and Sarah Connor from The Terminator films (two iconic feminist roles that Cameron directed), compared to the male action hero canon, the ladies are still lagging behind in number and diversity of representation. For Cameron, the reason why this is the case is obvious:

He continued:

While the notion that motherhood or maternal instincts somehow add to a woman’s power and/or appeal should be gently knocked, Cameron has a good point: These characters aren’t iconic just because they’re women, but because they’re given identifiable character motivations and written as… real people, and particularly real women! Even less immediately “feminist icons” characters in Cameron’s filmography, like Rose in Titanic and Neytiri in Avatar, are vivid and memorable and—crucially—autonomous within their own stories.

That Cameron, who has considerable film world clout, can see this and has imbued this idea into his work and characterizations, means more men can and should. This doesn’t fix Hollywood’s general behind-the-camera gender disparity (a question more so for producers and studios than Cameron alone), but it can and does lead to more and more thoughtful stories about and including women.

And, remember Viola Davis’s scorching Emmy speech about the lack of roles for women of color in the entertainment world? Cameron cosigns this sentiment:

Word, Cameron. Now, we know he’s got seemingly a million Avatar sequels lined up — here’s hoping that he takes his words to heart and continues writing and directing women in iconic turns.