If you haven’t seen a friend or loved one since June 11, it’s probably because they’ve been in bed binge-watching the new season of Orange Is the New Black (we were pretty excited that it was coming back, too.) Despite the sudden influx of 13 new episodes, it didn’t take fans long to pick a new show favorite: Stella Carlin, played by Australian model Ruby Rose.
There’s been a ton of media attention paid to Rose’s sudden stardom: BuzzFeed has seemingly endless listicles devoted to the actor, and The Huffington Post has written about Rose’s “universal sex appeal,” remarking on how “self-identified straight women” are swooning for the “androgynous” actor.
Amidst all the attention paid to her looks, it’s important to note that Rose has spoken out numerous time about important gender issues, most recently in an interview with Elle. Rose describes herself as “gender fluid” and explained what that means to her, saying:
Gender fluidity is not really feeling like you’re at one end of the spectrum or the other. For the most part, I definitely don’t identify as any gender. I’m not a guy; I don’t really feel like a woman, but obviously I was born one. So, I’m somewhere in the middle, which—in my perfect imagination—is like having the best of both sexes.
She goes on to explain how she can make the choice every day and not have to “succumb to whatever society—whether it’s work or family or friends or whoever—makes you feel like you’re supposed to be because of how you were born.”
This isn’t the first time Rose has touched on gender fluidity. A year ago, she wrote, produced and starred in “a short film about gender roles, trans and what it is like to have an identity that deviates from the status quo.” The eloquent short film captures what it’s like to transition from being uncomfortable in your own skin to freely embracing a physicality that feels authentic.
So while it’s great that viewers are embracing Rose (both on- and off-screen), perhaps they should contemplate whether continually praising her as “hot,” or commenting on how surprised they are to be attracted to her, is a tad offensive. Rose’s whole message is that she doesn’t fall into one category or another, and by focusing only on her level of attractiveness, people aren’t listening to her, they’re objectifying her.
Rose has never been silent when discussing gender fluidity, and considering millions of OITNB-viewers are suddenly obsessed with her, she has an enormous platform to garner awareness for these issues.
She’s not alone: Just last week, Miley Cyrus spoke about her own genderqueer identity, stating, “I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.” While it’s great that stars like Cyrus and Rose are bringing a new awareness of genderqueer issues to their fans, it’s important that these same fans grow from what they are learning instead of worshipping the stars’ sexiness when they have something important to say.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Eva Rinaldi licensed under Creative Commons 2.0
Emma Niles is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz and an editorial intern at Ms. Follow Emma on Twitter @emmalorinda.