Proof That Will Smith Is A Feminist

Will Smith has been in the business a long time, and although there's plenty of speculation about his ties to Scientology and his alleged open relationship with long-time wife Jada Pinkett Smith, for the most part, the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" star is an open book. According to People, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey for "The Oprah Conversation," Smith admitted, "I've carried, most of my life, the sense of failing every woman I interact with."

The actor opened up in the memoir "Will" about his difficult road to superstardom, including witnessing his father physically abusing his mother as a child. Despite being hugely successful, Smith acknowledges in the tome that none of it matters in the long run because "To love and to be loved is the highest human reward." Per Insider, the actor told Winfrey, "When I was 9 years old, I watched my father punch my mother in the side of her head so hard that she collapsed."

As the "Men In Black" star revealed, "That moment in that bedroom, probably more than any other moment in my life, has defined who I am today." In fact, as far as Smith is concerned, there are only two women he's managed not to fail in his life thus far: Smith's beloved grandmother, Gigi, and his daughter, Willow Smith. Funnily enough, it was while discussing raising Willow that the actor's feminist bonafides became clear.

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Will Smith taught daughter Willow to make her own decisions

Willow Smith has grown up to be gorgeous, and her style evolution showcases how supportive her A-list parents are. As E! News points out, Willow has been experimenting since she was a kid, notably shaving her head at the age of just 11. As an adult, she buzzed her hair again in solidarity with mom Jada Pinkett Smith, who's endured some highly-publicized struggles with alopecia (via Instagram).

In Jay-Z's "Footnotes of Adnis" video, Will Smith revealed his daughter originally shaved her hair off to make a point about being uncomfortable touring for so long, while promoting debut single "Whip My Hair." He realized how serious she was in that moment and endeavored to never push Willow too hard again. As the Oscar-winner told Parade in 2012 (via Us Weekly), he and Jada let Willow take the lead with her look. 

As Will explained in a statement that shows his strong feminist stance, "When you have a little girl, it's like how can you teach her that you're in control of her body? If I teach her that I'm in charge whether or not she can touch her hair, she's going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. ... She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she's going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself."

Will Smith has publicly supported women in many different ways

When it comes to fighting for equal rights, Will Smith puts his money where his mouth is — quite literally. The Hollywood Reporter notes the actor personally gave bonuses to his "King Richard" co-stars when the movie, on which he also served as an executive producer, was given a day-and-date release in theaters and on streaming. However, during an appearance on "The Breakfast Club," star Aunjanue Ellis revealed it went even further.

Ellis shared, "I could have been paid better. And so, I told him this, and he did something about it. And as a result of his doing, his responding to the letter that I wrote to him, not only did he address that with increasing my pay, but the other actors in the movie also. Their pay increased. Which is proof of when Black women do well, everybody does well."

This idea is mirrored in Smith's involvement with "Women of the Movement," which spotlights the real-life struggles of Mamie Till-Mobley to get justice for her son, Emmett Till, who was tortured and killed in a racist attack, per Entertainment Tonight. The Oscar-winner executive-produced the miniseries, which puts women front and center.

Likewise, Smith has repeatedly raised awareness about human trafficking — which overwhelmingly affects young women and girls — alongside wife Jada Pinkett-Smith. In 2012, the Hollywood couple attended the U.S. State Department to mark the official release of the Trafficking in Persons Report, alongside then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The actor was criticized for allegedly sexist behavior at the Oscars

Will Smith has proven himself to have feminist leanings many times, but his track record isn't flawless. It was the slap heard 'round the world, and indeed Will Smith's onstage assault of Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars, after the comedian made a jab about Jada Pinkett Smith's alopecia, dominated the news cycle for weeks, per The Guardian. Although many saw his actions on the night as chivalrous, with some taking the act as further proof of Will's feminism, Hollywood and social media alike were split on whether Smith did the right thing. Several commentators made the argument that violence is never the answer, while others praised the "King Richard" star for publicly defending his wife's honor. 

As a piece by Andscape contended, Smith's actions could be read as more self-serving than anything else, particularly when taking his "love makes you do crazy things" statement into account. During Smith's rambling Best Actor acceptance speech, the beloved star compared himself favorably to Richard Williams, father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, describing himself as a "fierce defender of his family," among other things.

Smith clearly supports the women in his life, but some have criticized him for going too far and veering into sexist territory. Such detractors have pointed to a GQ profile, in which Smith recalled his wife accusing him of having an unchecked ego after he spearheaded a grand 40th birthday party for her, much to Pinkett Smith's annoyance. Moreover, Fortune asserted the "toxic masculinity" at the Oscars, from Smith and Rock alike, stole focus from those most deserving.