Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and More Top Actresses Get Real About Hollywood Sexism
"I've for many years tried to tell myself I wasn’t treated differently because I was a woman," says Anne Hathaway. "I just thought maybe if I say these things they will be true. I wish they were, but they're not." The star of the new film "The Intern" is one of several top Hollywood actresses taking a bolder stance on the sexism in their industry — and more of them seem to be speaking up every day.
It's getting harder and harder to ignore the increasingly vocal dissatisfaction of Hollywood’s top female players. Meryl Streep's unanswered appeal to Congress; Patricia Arquette's Oscar-acceptance speech; Helen Mirren, Rose McGowan, and Emma Thompson's unfiltered condemnation of industry sexism; the A.C.L.U.’s call for action; and the recent unsettling confessions from female directors all paint a rather damning portrait of Tinseltown. The New York Times reached out to even more of Hollywood’s most famous actresses, including the two most recent best-actress Oscar winners, as well as their male co-stars, to help fill in the picture. Perhaps emboldened by the women who spoke up before them, Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Carey Mulligan, and Ellen Page were eager to speak out.
All of these women, for the record, are starring in a crop of awards-friendly prestige films coming out this year. And those films — "Carol," "Freeheld," "Suffragette," "The Intern" — are all extremely female-positive. But that doesn't mean sexism is solved in Hollywood. Far from it.
Not every actress interviewed was fully comfortable with calling out Hollywood as especially sexist.
"Wait a minute," Moore says, "This is endemic to our culture at large." Meanwhile Page was quick to point out that while things may be difficult for women, they're hardly the only group marginalized. "All minorities [are denied opportunities]," she says. "African-American men, African-American women, trans men, trans women, the list goes on." The Times also points out that "there are no major films built around women of color on the horizon," perhaps to explain why all of the actresses interviewed for this piece are white.
But Moore also admits that she sees an imbalance in front of the camera. "Sometimes I read a script and there’s only one female in it," she says. "That's not what my world looks like. I have days where the only men I see are my husband and my teenage son." Blanchett, for her part, blames "lazy thinking" for her experience that "films with women at their center are generally lower-budget" (take that, Quentin Tarantino) and that male directors who stumble get a second chance whereas "there's a sense in the industry, and in most industries, that a woman can’t screw up."
It's that behind-the-camera disparity, some would argue, that is the real problem in Hollywood. And it’s getting harder to hide. "When the Sony hacking scandal revealed that there is huge disparity in pay for women, it made me question why don't I get offered those action movies," says Abi Morgan, the Emmy-winning screenwriter behind The Hour, Shame, and the upcoming Suffragette. Macho icon Robert De Niro, who co-stars with Hathaway in The Intern, says he thinks change should come behind the camera as well. "If it's a movie that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with, say, a women director — say, an action film — I think a woman hired to do an action film could do just as well if not better than any of the male counterparts ... Look at my career, I've worked with Penny [Marshall], Nancy [Meyers]."
But many of the actresses interviewed see a significant upswing happening for women in Hollywood. “This is a great year for women,” says Mulligan. “It’s nowhere near the number of roles that are available to men, but it does feel like a step in the right direction. Kristen Stewart or Jennifer Lawrence—people want to go and see these films with these really strong female characters at the helm.” Moore adds, "Look at this summer, Melissa McCarthy with 'Spy' and 'Trainwreck' [with Amy Schumer]—those movies made a fortune and those women are comic geniuses ... It's really about money."
And money is maybe how we, the audience, can best combat sexism in Hollywood. "Vote with your money," Moore concludes. "If there's something you don't like, don't go, don't pay for it. And if there's a female-driven movie out there that you want to see, buy a ticket. That's really what makes a difference. My husband laughs at me, but I just won't go see movies with only men in them. I just can’t bear it." Sounds like a good reason to see Moore and Page together in "Freeheld."
But is there something more that actresses can do?
"When the director says you really need to be topless in this scene, I go, 'Do I?' You have to fight back," says Blanchett.
Here's hoping these established Hollywood luminaries continue to kick down doors for the women coming behind them who might not have as much confidence to say no.
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