Helen Mirren Admits She Was Afraid of the F Word

It’s that wonderful time of year when commencement speeches from celebrities are circulating on the Internet, full of weird chestnuts that give you a glimpse into their journey. Helen Mirren’s speech at Tulane University on Saturday brought up her own evolution as a feminist and also includes dick jokes.

Helen Mirren is associated with her incredible, ageless physique, which she brings up herself early on, saying, “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!”

Wow. Anyway, after toasting New Orleans for being a place where one is obligated to have “at least one feathered costume in your wardrobe at all times,” Mirren gets into her list of rules for a successful post-graduation career. For instance, everyone should be a feminist, even though she never was one until recently:

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, 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.


Declare it, grads. Put it away, dads.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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It saddens me that so many young women are afraid to call themselves feminists. Somehow, Fox news and their ilk has succeeded in making that word translate to angry, bitchy woman. My nieces and female coworkers have occasionally expressed this idea. Fuck that. 

I am a feminist. I am committed to the radical idea that people should be given the same opportunities, same respect, and same treatment regardless of gender. I am an old man. Demand fairness; accept nothing less.