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What Marilyn Monroe Can Teach Us About Feminism On Her 90th Birthday

Some critics consider the Hollywood icon — who would have been 90 years old today — a "martyr for modern feminism."

Toward the end of her career, Marilyn Monroe pointed out, "my popularity seems almost entirely a masculine phenomenon."

But despite the stereotypes and sexist portrayal of her persona, many believe the life of Monroe, originally Norma Jean Baker, shows why feminism is still necessary. After all, she epitomizes the struggle for women in the 1950s.

When MAKER Gloria Steinem was asked whether Monroe would have been a feminist she said, "I think so, because her experiences were ones that feminism often speaks out on: sexual abuse, sexual victimisation, a mother's madness."

In an essay penned by Steinem in 1986, she asserts that Monroe's life challenges have encouraged women in the feminist movement to be honest and open about their experiences.

"In fact, the contagion of feminism that followed Monroe’s death by less than a decade may be the newest and most powerful reason for the continuing strength of her legend. As women began to be honest in public, and to discover that many of our experiences were more societal than individual, we also realized that we could benefit more by acting together than by deserting each other. We were less likely to blame or be the victim, whether Marilyn or ourselves, and more likely to rescue ourselves and each other," she wrote.

Today we are reflecting on three things Marilyn Monroe can teach us about feminism:

1. Be a leader
Monroe was the second woman to head her own production company (Mary Pickford was the first).

2. Speak out
She bravely revealed sexual abuse she faced as both a child and adult.

3. Intersectional feminism starts with advocating for equal rights
When Ella Fitzgerald couldn't be booked at the Hollywood nightclub because she was African-American, Monroe called the owner and said she would sit at a table in the front of the room every night Fitzgerald performed.

NEXT: Aging In Hollywood »

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Emma Thompson Says Hollywood Sexism Is Worse Than Ever

Photo Credit:Votava/Imagno/Getty Images