Kristen Stewart: Disrupting Gender Roles One Blank Expression at a Time

You know what, we’ll say it: we’ve realize that Kristen Stewart is kind of awesome–really awesome, in fact.

(Wait, hold on–we’ll say up front that we’re not fans of Twilight, so there, that’s done with.)

We discovered our admiration of Kristen Stewart after being inspired by a tweet we read by @graceishuman, which was posted Sunday night in response to Stewart’s Oscar appearance:

“I kind of love Kristen Stewart’s flat affect and how she doesn’t GAF that everyone hates on it. #Oscars2013”


We read this and it hit us: yes, Kristen Stewart gets a lot of flak for looking boring, not smiling, and generally having a blank expression.

But you know what? It’s really refreshing. Women are expected (celebrities are no exception) to smile, look pretty, and generally be a ray of sunshine in everyone’s lives. When someone as famous as Stewart doesn’t, the whole world freaks out: Why isn’t someone so young and beautiful and famous smiling? Just give us a smile, gorgeous! You’d be so much prettier if you just smiled! 

If women are not smiling and happy, then they are probably whiny, difficult, a bitch, or PMSing–or so the world and media seems to tell us. Why can’t Stewart have a blank expression? Last time we checked she’s a very popular movie star and very in-demand, which must be stressful and not as much fun as everyone would think.

Plus, why fake a smile when you know every single person taking your picture is practically demanding a smile, while simultaneously judging every single aspect of your outfit? Not to mention that even if you do smile and then suffer some sort of unfortunate wardrobe accident (nip slip, crotch shot, etc), that they will viciously turn on you in a second?

Stewart also gets a lot of negative comments about her apparent lack of glamour or style and infamously wearing flats or sneakers when she “should” be wearing platform pumps.


This also bucks the gender expectation that women should willingly and happily physically suffer in order to look good (which she did big time, when presenting an award Sunday night). Stewart tends to throw that out the window, wearing Converse with haute couture as she pleases, and why not? What’s wrong with comfort and sticking to your guns instead of being pretty eye or arm candy?

Besides, if Robert Pattinson can show up with scruffy facial hair, why can’t Stewart wear flat shoes to a red carpet event?


Bottom line: Kristen Stewart, it took us a while to get here and we apologize for the delay, but we salute you and all your surprisingly subversive acts of  independence and dare we say it–feminism.


Want more? Read this:

It Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This: Hannah Braswell’s “Don’t Tell Me To Smile” Sweater on The Closet Feminist

Telling Women to Smile is Sexist by Laura on Feministing.

Dear Kristen Stewart: You’re Exactly My Brand of Antiheroine by Wendy McClure on BUST Magazine.

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26 thoughts on “Kristen Stewart: Disrupting Gender Roles One Blank Expression at a Time

  1. I want to thank you for this article! It is very appreciated since it seems like the rest of the media world is jumping on the trashing Kristen Stewart band wagon. It is very frustrating! Funny thing is I wish I was younger so I could wear the kind of things she wears!

  2. About damn time!!!!! lol Most of the women that I know already agree with this but it will take awhile for others to follow because not smiling and being different makes some people uncomfortable!! We women get it all the time “Smile, you will feel better!!( I feel fine) or Are you having a bad day?..( no I’m just not walking around smiling my a** off like an insane person) or you look better when smile (gee thanks for saying I’m ugly).. Love it keep up the good work!!

  3. Someone has to change what the accepted standards are for beauty. If Kristen isn’t pretty what does that make the rest of us? We want our movie stars to be “on” we don’t want a shy vulnerable young women anywhere near our ideal of perfection. The entire Twilight Saga is about love and vulnerability that’s why so many people hate it. Thank you Kristen for taking the bullet.

  4. It’s about time. Thank you.
    I’m also a feminist. But I conform to society’s dictates for my gender, particularly at work, and I hate it. Don’t get me wrong, I love looking pretty and sexy. That doesn’t mean I want people to tell me that I have to wear heels or make up. I like to be my own individual and choose to titivate for me. Unfortunately, I’d never get promoted if I didn’t conform.
    I have loved Kristen Stewart for years, because she has always been her own woman, without apologies. She is my hero. And the best role model for young and older woman. (And if anyone thinks that her cheating justifies them hating her and calling her names, thinking it’s not sexist; kindly find the exact male equivalent for the word ‘slut’)

  5. i agree with almost everything, but why do rob have to be mention, ben alleck, george clooney, bradley cooper has full beard on their face, but yes you have to choose rob, now kristen knows what she is getting herself into, when she walk these red carpet, so i believe she do care, because she mostly always walks the red carpet, so she must care, that’s were i believe she do care, sorry!!stop walking them, it is these ladies time, they sure to love it, they pose and smile, and look out to hear the fashion critics! so what ever movement you are, this you will never win, because seems kristen herself love it, just she do not smile 24/7..

  6. omg!!!!kstew’s PR team is trying REALLY hard to turn this around???? just like the scandal!! this trully is outrageous!! sorry but picking a bad dress&looking terrible at a mainstream award show does NOT make her a fiminist!! what the heck is wrong with you!??? you should be ashamed with that comparison!!!!

    • Are you kidding me? The fact that you’re focusing on her dress and overall appearance just shows how off-point you are. She is a feminist because she goes against the dictates of American society whenever she wears her sneakers on the red carpet for comfort. She chooses not to smile on command because she’s not a trained puppy who had to perform for strangers. Her independence is what makes her a feminist. Perhaps you should learn more about the actual concept (and the correct spelling) before you go on declaring that this article is “outrageous.”

  7. I would love for some feminist organization to stand up loud and public for Kristen. The vile name calling and bullying needs to stop. The media needs to be shame into treating her better.

  8. How can a feminist be enamored by someone who glorifies the word “cu**”, plays and defends characters that take feminism back 50 years (Bella Swan and Marylou) and betrayed a woman she worked with by sleeping with her husband? Kristen Stewart is the anti-feminist and dressing and acting like a slob at events isn’t feminist, it’s disrespectful.

    • I agree. She is no feminist, she changes into sneakers after she has worn sky high heels and it’s a sign of disrespect. I don’t know how being a disrespectful mess equals feminism, at all.

      • but a 50+ year old man can wear sneakers to an event and it’s fashionable and cool, right? any time a woman steps outside of the misogynistic framework we’re told to live within she’s described as being “inappropriate.” she wore sneakers to an event? omg. that is so disrespectful to the designer whose dress she’s wearing. that’s so rude and disrespectful to the event and to the fans. why exactly? all of these things ppl expect her to be or demand her to be shows people still think a woman should please. sometimes she’s wearing sneakers and her hair isn’t immaculately groomed. it’s just shoes and hair. get over it. there is no disrespect being done.

        • Except Proenza and Schouler made a custom dress for her for the MET Gala and when she changed into rags for the after party unlike ANYONE else, they never worked with her or spoke of her again so she IS expected to have some sense of respect and not change into garbage. And why doesn’t she wear flats and pants instead of the dresses and heels that she opts for? If she was such a feminist icon, she wouldn’t dress like that in the first place.

          And why does every argument like this have to be about men? Sean Penn can show up at an event and look like trash and people will say it. When a man looks dirty, people say it. Why should women dress like slobs just to fight misogyny? Dressing in a dress and heels doesn’t mean a woman is conforming to gender roles. It means she wants to wear the damn dress and heels. And the Oscars and certain events have their own standards. If a man showed up in ratty sneakers with holes in them and jeans, they WOULD be persecuted as well. It never happens bc other people have the sense to think about other people rather than whatever rebel image they want people to see.

          • Kristen Strewart should write an apology letter to all the people who´s feelings she has hurt by not respecting something so sacred as Hollywoods genre role dressing codes. So much harm has been done by her, how dare she dress how she she feels comfortable with? That´s not the human right feminism stands for. How dare she not wearing heels? I mean heels are so good for any female body, they are made to fit our natural Barbie feets! How dare she insult some rich designers? OMG, she so antifeminist and males so precious she stole one, man have no power over their desicions! She curses too!

            Obviously feminism doesnt stand for any of this.

        • And I’m not saying she must ALWAYS wear heels and dresses. In fact, I would think she were pretty bad ass if she didn’t, like Ellen Page and Diane Keaton. But she DOES wear heels and dresses and then changes to sneakers bc she wants to look like an anti-Hollywood rebel. That is not the same thing as wearing sneakers to an event.

          • oh boy.. okay, i’m going to try and respond, but i can see you have very firm beliefs on her that quite differ from mine, but i will try to provide my opinions (but this will probably be my first and last post in response to this thread)

            people seem to have this perception of her that she’s trying to be so different or make some extreme point. i think she is just trying to be herself and shouldn’t be so alienated and judged for doing so. people think she’s being disrespectful or trying to be a “rebel” when she changes into sneakers after an event. i actually believe it’s the opposite. i think she tries to appease the masses. i think she tries to wear the long gowns and high heels bc that’s what people demand of her. she’s said the only reason she changes in sneakers or barefeet afterwards is literally just bc her feet are killing her and/or to get to as many fans as possible. i’ve also asked myself why she doesn’t wear flats or something other than dresses she might not feel comfortable in. i think this has a lot to do w/ her not knowing how to dress herself and not having an innate fashion sense. there are a lot of young women who want to look put together and professional, but don’t know how to. and they’re also usually uncomfortable being so immersed in fashion, it’s not really a priority to them, so when it comes time to dress up they usually feel uncomfortable and they literally do not know what goes together. i have an older sister like this. this type of young woman does exist. now this might seem bizarre for an actress who has so much access and a styling team. i think it’s a mixture of her team not having found her fashion niche yet and also i could see her not liking the idea of just being dressed up without any input. so maybe that’s why we see a lot of these outfits that look half done or ill fitting to her and her personality. i for one cannot wait until she starts finding her own fashion sense. i think she could look great in some cool flats. and again, i do not think she is trying to be some feminist icon. that’s another complaint i see a lot which baffles me. i think she does have a lot of feminist values. i’ve heard her observe how women need to be all things while men can be individuals. i think she of all people has a lot of firsthand experience with that. this is getting really long and i’ve spent enough time writing, but basically, i think people get really worked up and offended by a lot of the things she does when i really think it is not her intention to piss so many people off. i think she’s just being herself but somehow it comes off very dislikeable and it’s been a huge mess like that for the past 5 years.

            alright, i’m done. i’m going to step away and work on my college apps now. thank god i am not kristen stewart. i do not think i could live her life or endure all this scrutiny. (i’m laughing as i type this, so no hard feelings 🙂

      • Disrespect to what? She’s not paying homage to the shoe and dress gods. She dresses appropriately for red carpet photos and photo calls, and that should be the extent of her duties as a public figure. She dresses into her “rags” for after parties, which are usually private. Claiming that she has to look a certain way (especially “sky high heels”) is the most appallingly anti-feminist thing to say.

  9. Thanks for your article!!
    I´m fed up to read everydays lots of articles written by bitter, envidious and jealous people and also by people who love wasting time writing vils comments against a person they don´t know instead of doing things more productives. Lots of tabloids only want to win hits and money thanks to Kristen Stewart and it´s sad to see they don´t care about offend a young woman, the important is money.

    Kristen endured hate so many years for nothing. For only be herself and to not play the medias game. Never in my life I saw things like that against a celebrity. She treated worst than a criminal and hope someone can stan up for her and say ENOUGH.

    After reading so many negative articles, any articles written to defend her seems perfect for me.

    And yes, I’m sick of the cannons of beauty! Any woman or man should go as he wants and does not matter whether or not an event. Naturalness first. A famous is primarily an ordinary human being having an unusual profession, which also despite being rich and famous also suffer and cry, all is not rosy in their lives and we don´t know nothing about their real life, only a small percentage we know thanks to tabloids and we know almost all is wrong.

    Of course, we all love and enjoy to see Hollywood stars go glam in events but we must also understand that everyone has their own style. Each one is a world.

    The world would be better if they would have absolute respect for people regardless of race, religion, sex and let the envy and jealousy in a far corner. Live and let live.

  10. BRAVO FOR THIS ARTICLE. This is exactly why I’ve vowed to defend Kristen Stewart until the end of her career. Her apathy to the demands of fame is very refreshing. While some of her life choices may not be ideal, she’s still very much a human being who should be respected. The brand of bullying that she experiences is INSANE.

  11. What I find concerning are the comments that go beyond what Kristen wears on the red carpet. When she is photographed at the airport, with friends, not on the job etc. Why is it that because she does these things in jeans, a t-shirt and hat people feel the need to call her a “dyke”? Whats worse is the fact they are hurling these words about as derogatory expletives thinking in some way it’s the worse thing she could possibly be. Oh no a girl who chooses to dress a certain way, not wear make up and not walk through life with a blinding smile, she must be a lesbian??! And if she was one why is that used as an insult? It’s strange the way so many people want to see other people packaged perfectly as THEY expect them to be. Oh the visceral hate that spews when expectations are not met.

  12. Wow!I’m a feminist and I don’t support woman that supports system created by middle aged men;this system means:to have a wife(that holds on her career and take care about children),successful career,and twenty something to f@ck. Kristen defenders are mostly middle aged men that are happy that such women like Kristen exist,women(of course young) that are ready for cheap affairs to please their fantasy.Many actresses are criticise for outfit,not only Kristen,also actors when you bring Robert’s example here.Did someone say that facial her is bad thing?No.Men also look like trash and people notice this.It’s ridiculous to make Kristen feministic icon,especially after the scandal.Victim of all this mess Liberty Ross is called sl@t and fame whore because she was wearing see-through dress at some after Oscar party.Why nobody wrote article about this?P.S.Kristen was wearing high heel shoe on her right foot and flat one on the left,what is the point?

  13. Kstew pays a lot for all this. I do admire this woman, but I’m often afraid to see or hear what people dare to declare about her. She’s huge, she used to be a really good actress. Think of “The cake eaters” or “Speak”… How can it be that people rush on her like this and never release their grasp.
    I’m very sorry for my poor English, I hope I can be understandable 🙂

  14. Thanks Emily for your appreciation of Kristen’s right to choose whatever the hell she wants. Her style of dress has zero to do with her career, nor undermines her talent.
    And so she doesn’t paste on the red carpet smile. This is a nice switch!
    I don’t think Johnny Depp would be criticized for ‘not smiling’…. in fact, he would deemed “cool.”

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