Featured UCLA Feminist: Heather Adams

Photo by Nicolette Greco

Heather Adams is the Program Director of the UCLA Transfer Center, and third-year Education Leadership doctoral student at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. She has a reputation for being energetic, passionate, and inspirational.

“I have an incredibly positive and passionate view about feminism. I relish the word,” she proudly proclaimed.

Adams has worked hard, moving to California just a day after she completed high school in Maine. She had nothing but a bicycle and 200 dollars to her name. She dedicated 25 years to the entertainment industry as an actress. There she learned to have “the skin of a rhinoceros;” an imperative quality in an industry infamous for objectifying women.

During her acting career, Adams often found herself in “hostile, sexual environments.” She has dealt with countless incidents of harassment and lewd behavior, that were accepted as common. This can range from inappropriately commenting on a woman’s blouse, or general attire in a much-too-intimate fashion. Often these types of comments can be defended under the guise of “compliments.” These incidents can also involve unprofessional pet names and touching, such as a caress to the shoulder or lower back, and more severe types of contact.

“It became clear from early on that my sexuality was key in how directors and producers worked with me,” commented Adams. The status quo has made women “play the coquette, laugh it off, or pretend that you like it.”

“Fighting it gets exhausting, ” Adams explains. Quitting a job is also not an easy option because “you’ll only encounter the same issues wherever you go.” Either that, or the person is now unemployed. These situations have left women feeling helpless for decades.

The recent strides in Hollywood finally punishing men’s abominable behavior has made Adams ecstatic. She feels as though the women who have come forward to decry their abusers, after years of suffering in silence, have broken that cycle of shame. Shame that has no place being carried on victim’s shoulders.

“I feel like there is a revolution happening right now. I feel like there has been a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Adams said.

Feminism is a word that has made many uncomfortable, annoyed, pinch their noses, or outright angry. More recently celebrities have been speaking publicly about the merits of feminism, such as Beyonce, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, and John Legend, to name just a few. This along with all the victims of abuse coming forward, has progressed society’s view on the necessity of the movement and its ideologies.

“When I came here [to California] I was surprised at the vehemence against the word, and negativity associated with it,” Adams mentioned.

She advised that feminism will no longer be derided once we have “women in leadership, women directors and CEO’s, women mentoring each other, women having positivity towards each other, women and men navigating spaces together.” The support of men is paramount. When asked about her thoughts on Men’s Rights Activists (MRA’s), she explained that it was a response born out of fear – fear of changes being made to the paradigm of power in society. “When one group is pushing traditional boundaries, other groups get fearful and start lashing out,” Adams explained.  

In response to men who feel that feminism is ruining their lives, Adams listed the things that have been ruined for women for generations due to gendered violence, intimidation, or derision, inspired by a recent SNL skit: “Walking. Cars. Elevators. Anything could be, and has been, a threat.”

And to the men who declare, “Not all men!” Adams responded, “That’s not the point. The point is that there is a systemic issue of inequality.” Not every man is a rapist, but every man may indirectly contribute to the same culture that slut-shames, victim-blames, and allows for the sexualization and consequent endangerment of women that has plagued society. “Men need to hold each other accountable,” she said.  

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