Shailene Woodley Completes Carefree Hippie Image By Being Open to Dating Women

2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Red Carpet

I can’t open my computer without coming across Shailene Woodley these days, who first showed up in 2011′s The Descendants and is now starring in two upcoming young adult movies. Following the Jennifer Lawrence formula of being part of a massive YA franchise (the upcoming Divergent is set to take over the world) while presenting as a bit of an oddball, Woodley seems poised to be the next big young starlet with that sought after “likable” quality that spawns hundreds of thousands of devoted, maniacal fans.

Woodley is profiled in The Hollywood Reporter, which trips over her zany statements and commitment to green living. She’s painted as a manic pixie dream girl meets granola-making yoga teacher, waxing about nature (personified, female) and saying she won’t conform to typical starlet behavior. That’s all great and fine, except that after a bit of reading, it stops sounding “grounded” or “authentic”–both buzzwords frequently attached to Woodley–and instead begins to sound like someone playing the role of the oddball in the corner. Or, you know, a 22-year-old who just sounds painfully young. It’s especially apparent in a brief discussion of sexuality, when Woodley said:

“I fall in love with human beings based on who they are, not based on what they do or what sex they are.”

As someone who said that a lot during high school, (the sex part, not the “what they do” bit, because I seriously don’t understand the correlation) I sometimes wonder if statements like that are more about wanting to be perceived a certain way than actual attraction. Nobody has to identify as any sexuality, but Woodley’s characterization seems to purposefully not accept any actual implications.

Given Woodley’s whole Navajo pendant-wearing, food foraging, mason jar toting schtick, it’s hard not to see this open sexuality as an extension of her Portlandia-character persona. Sexuality is a convenient way to make a person seem evolved, and fits perfectly into what has to be a somewhat cultivated image. I don’t really know what I’m talking about here; I don’t know Woodley personally and for all I know, that statement is a completely accurate statement of her identity. But it reads as inauthentic, and like an accessory. Here is Shailene Woodley’s mason jar. Here is her open, enlightened sexuality.

In reality, Woodley’s statement is a pretty good summation of sexuality for some people, who may identify as predominantly gay or straight but are not closed to the idea of anyone. It gives credence to the idea of sexuality as a spectrum, which, while certainly isn’t the case for everyone I know, is definitely the case for many. And I am certainly not qualified to make any calls about Woodley’s sexuality in any capacity. But something about the whole “I fall in love with people, not genders” thing seems less like an expression of the sexuality spectrum and more like a convenient way to sound interesting. Woodley certainly isn’t unique–this statement is everywhere, and so Woodley could be entirely authentic and just a victim of a phrase that’s been co-opted. But generally speaking, that sentiment always seems like wearing sexuality as an accessory, instead of living with it in reality.

Photos: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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    • Inkygrl

      Oh please. Give her a break. She’s young, and all she did was declare a lovely openness to experience that all of us should of had at that age if we had been raised in an environment that embraced it. Why the cynicism?

      • Julia Sonenshein

        Not cynicism! Skepticism. And like I mentioned more than once, I don’t know her personally so she could be totally authentic about this.

      • Elizabeth Aspen

        No one seemed to have a problem when Sarah McLachlan said the same exact thing.

      • Julia Sonenshein

        I’m digging into that now–I hadn’t heard about that.

      • Inkygrl

        Seriously?? Talk about old news. Must be a super slow day around there.

      • Inkygrl

        But you thought the brilliance of this article outweighed giving her the benefit of the doubt?? Why write this?

      • Julia Sonenshein

        Yes, obviously.

      • Inkygrl

        Plot twist…nope.

    • elle

      Hmmm…IDK, she’s always been like this. Granted I think this is the first time I’ve heard her talk sexuality but she’s always been all about Mother Earth/Gaia/foraging all that jazz, even when she was still on Secret Life, so not that famous. I mean, maybe I’m just naive but i really think that’s just her. Or maybe I’m just not ready to be jaded about another seemingly authentic starlet who is really just as manufactured as the rest of them.

      • Julia Sonenshein

        I think that’s a totally fair point, and that this is a larger discussion about sexuality that may have absolutely nothing to do with her. I don’t know her personally, so I can’t make any type of call beyond the portrayal of her in one interview.

    • http://sarahhollowell.com/ Sarah Hollowell

      I really don’t get where the skepticism is coming from. Her statement is simple and short and I don’t get why you think it’s inauthentic.

      I don’t get why you’d just roll your eyes at her instead of going, “HELL YEAH, REPRESENTATION!” Erasure of sexualities that don’t fit into gay or straight is a super real thing and here’s a big, up and coming star saying, “Hey, I don’t fit into these boxes.” That’s so important to be talked about and for teenagers – so, most of her fans – to hear.

      • Julia Sonenshein

        This is an absolutely valid point, and the representation of sexuality that doesn’t fit neatly into straight or gay is fantastic, especially for a young audience.

      • Inkygrl

        Yes! Exactly! So how about an article praising her rather than doubting her. You really missed the mark here.

      • Inkygrl

        Precisely.

      • tifygodess24

        I think the skepticism comes from the fact that sadly many celebs use sexuality as a tool to get press and attention.

      • http://vulprick.tumblr.com SpillingTheT

        Yea that’s true, but I hadn’t even heard about this statement until I searched “is shailene woodley gay?” into google because I had some type of epiphany that told me that this girl had a thing for the giney. It seems as though her management have been doing a good job at making her appear straight and to keep this statement relatively out of the public eye. Ask her new “boyfriend” who also just happens to be the lead male in Divergent which has grossed $56 it’s first weekend and still has 4 more movies to go, WHAT A COINCIDENCE!?!?

    • Morgan

      I was really disappointed to find this article on this site.

      I identify as pansexual, which means I am attracted to all biological sexes and all gender identities. I, like Shailene Woodley states in her interview, fall for a person because of who they are. That’s just how I’m wired. I have dated both men and women of varying sexualities, and have had sex with men and women of varying sexual and biological identities. I firmly stand by my sexuality.

      And yet, people often question my authenticity. People also don’t believe this is a “real” sexual identity. Mainly because of this same bullshit that you express in your article. Skepticism? That she’s trying to fit a role? Do you realize that dismissing someone’s statements like this does far more damage than what you think she *may* or may not be doing? Trying to weed out the “fakers” very quickly becomes a witch hunt. It is not helpful for anyone.

      You don’t know her personally and you don’t truly know how she identifies, so you have no right to question her. You have no evidence that any of what she says is untrue, and yet you feel it necessary to write an article questioning her? You guys over here are constantly condemning xojane for their click-baity headlines and I’m disappointed that you’ve stooped to that.

      This is obviously very personal to me, as it’s something I’ve dealt with quite a bit. Please understand that this sort of article is not helpful and not right.

      Thank you for your time,

      A longtime reader

      • Julia Sonenshein

        Hi Morgan,

        Thanks for your comment–this is full of excellent points. I’m sorry that your sexuality has been invalidated, and that my article contributed to those negative messages. That’s not okay.

        I think that this post should have been separate from anything about Shailene Woodley, who of course I don’t know at all. People using sexuality as an accessory is a topic that’s personal and important to me, and it’s a nuanced issue that clearly can’t be adequately handled in a quick blog post. I do struggle with the idea of sexuality being used to make people seem more exotic or interesting–it feels exploitative to me. But of course, that’s a separate issue from Woodley saying anything about her sexuality. The two topics needn’t have been merged into one article, and that was poor judgement on my part.

        Again, thanks for your comment and for reading.

      • the_ether

        *pan solidarity fist bump*

    • helloshitty

      the government wants everyone to be gay.

    • the_ether

      Great to know you’ve either never heard of or don’t believe in pansexuality. It’s always oh so edgy and fun to not fit in one of the boxes, so I’m sure she’s only doing it to inspire ignorant critiques like yours.

    • FemelleChevalier

      Sexuality and labels have been an ongoing debate/fight even within the LGBT community; you’re not alone in questioning the authenticity of celebrities (or any individual, really) who proclaims such things. Some (vocal) lesbians hate being misrepresented, because (in their opinion) their fight for rights and inequality is being turn into a joke.

      Bisexuals/Pansexuals/Queers are being questioned, both by the hetero community and LGBT community, regarding their authenticity. They are treated as confused individuals and are forced to label themselves (if a woman ends with a man, then she’s not part of the LGBT to some).

      It happens, and proclaiming a sexuality not limited to homosexuality or heterosexuality can be both an empowerment and a mockery in this society. A lot of strictly homosexuals can be prejudiced, too, and it gets ugly. Really ugly.

      Saying that, it feels like you have taken this to a more negative route. This article could’ve been better if only you acknowledged that more and more individuals should proclaim their bisexuality and pansexuality to create a society based on acceptance. This way, those who are struggling to be accepted within the LGBT community will have the strength to flaunt their sexuality and not be afraid of the backlash.

      I’m speaking as a bisexual who have been called “confused” and “fake” by both sides. For example:

      Hetero Male: “So… Threesome?” or “Awesome. You can have sex without cheating.” (The second one is reeaaally insulting)

      Hetero Female: “Why not be with a guy? Isn’t it easier?”

      Lesbian: “Sorry. You’re nice and all… But I only date lesbians.” or “I’m sorry, but I only date goldstars.”

      Lesbian Extremist: “You’re a bislut! Go back to your boyfriend and your privileged hetero life!” or “You’ll eventually cheat on your girlfriend with a man, bislut.”

      I wish more pans, bis, and queers would come out and not be afraid of the backlash of our society. I wish people on both sides would stop questioning us. And this article, like the other commenter have said, is not helping to our dilemma.

    • http://vulprick.tumblr.com SpillingTheT

      I honestly do believe this girl is not even pan, but a full out lesbian. I absolutely love her and I have to say, my gay-dar has never been wrong. I don’t think she’s trying to sound “interesting” I think she’s trying not to completely out herself. She has a big movie franchise that is making big money right now and with all the bible thumpers and idiots out there, it’s not going to be easy to come out and have full support from everyone. It’s obvious that her and the lead guy in Divergent’s “relationship” is for publicity and it’s helping her to look straight. (I’ve heard from a lot of sources that she is definitely not). I just hope she can shave off the beard soon and can be honest about who she really is. Not just her, everyone in the entertainment industry (especially the two from One Direction). The fact that people have to be in the closet is a problem within itself. But I’m sure after all the Divergent movies have been released and all the annoying microscopic attention is over with, she’ll come out. Wait on it.

    • Alexis Simmons

      It’s refreshing to see a blogger who is not afraid to express their opinion. These days, with anyone famous, the question of sexuality inevitably arises in some interview at some point, which I feel puts people under an immense amount of unfair scrutiny if they don’t necessarily agree with the general consensus of that topic, so celebs say what the public wants to hear, cuz if they don’t, they are out of work with no fans. I agree that perhaps sometimes it would be easy for people who are constantly in the spotlight to overdo a personality trait or find something like sexuality to define them when people are so much more than that. It’s also important to remember that these people are actors, their whole job in life to pretend to be someone else. People don’t become fans of actors because of who those actors are, they like them because they like who they play in movies and such. They have never met these people, they could actually be huge jerks, who knows. I suppose when you spend your whole life being someone else, it’s hard to know who you really are, which leads people to explore sexualities, styles, etc, even if that’s not who they are (or even if it is, like I said, who actually meets these celeb anyways?). granted I’m a huge shai fan, and I think you have some legit points, and perhaps others that aren’t so legit, but the awesome thing is that you are saying how you feel, don’t apologize for that. You have just as much right to express yourself as anyone does.