There’s a conversation I’ve had with men more times than I care to recount and it goes a bit like this:
Me: “Hey, that’s a sexist thing to say.”
Man: “ME? I said something sexist? I’m not sexist, I’m a feminist. I think you’re being sensitive. What I said had nothing to do with gender.”
Me: “You’ve done it again.”
This debate is so stale. It makes me want to stuff bits of chewed up beer mats into my ears so I can’t hear a man telling me that he alone, as a real feminist, truly knows when the spectre of sexism has entered the room.
The actresses fighting against sexism in Hollywood
The actresses fighting against sexism in Hollywood
1/12 Anne Hathaway
The 32-year-old actress said she has already experiences job rejections because of her age. “Now I'm in my early thirties and I'm like, 'Why did that 24-year-old get that part? I was that 24-year-old once. I can't be upset about it, it's the way things are,” she told Glamour.
2/12 Helen Mirren
On news that Maggie Gyllenhaal had been turned down for being ‘too old’, aged 37, to play a 55-year-old man’s partner: “It’s f***ing outrageous. It’s ridiculous. Honestly, it’s so annoying. And ’twas ever thus. We all watched James Bond as he got more and more geriatric, and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It’s so annoying.”
3/12 Maggie Gyllenhaal
Gyllenhaal revealed she was told by a Hollywood producer that she was too old, aged 37, to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man. “It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made feel angry, and then it made me laugh,” she said at the time.
4/12 Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep has helped fund an all-female screenwriters group called The Writer’s Lab to encourage more women to pen Hollywood scripts. She previously told Vogue in 2011: “Once women pass childbearing age they could only be seen as grotesque on some level.”
5/12 Emma Thompson
The actress said she thought Hollywood is “still completely s***” when it comes to treating women equally to men. ““When I was younger, I really did think we were on our way to a better world. And when I look at it now, it is in a worse state than I have known it, particularly for women, and I find that very disturbing and sad.”
6/12 Elizabeth Banks
Banks said she was driven from acting to directing due to the lack of roles for older women in Hollywood. “"[Industry sexism] drove me to direct for sure. I definitely was feeling that I was unfulfilled and a little bit bored by the things that were coming across my desk. I mean look at Gwyneth Paltrow who has her Oscar [for Shakespeare in Love] and played fifth banana to Iron Man,” she told Deadline.
7/12 Viola Davis
“I had never seen a 49-year-old, dark-skinned woman who is not a size 2 be a sexualised role in TV or film. I'm a sexual woman, but nothing in my career has ever identified me as a sexualised woman. I was the prototype of the ‘mommified’ role,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
8/12 Liv Tyler
The Lord of the Rings actress said she only get cast in roles where she is treated as a “second class citizen” at the age of 38. “When you’re in your teens or twenties, there is an abundance of ingenue parts which are exciting to play. But at [my age], you’re usually the wife or the girlfriend - a sort of second-class citizen. There are more interesting roles for women when they get a bit older,” she told More magazine.
9/12 Cate Blanchett
The actress famously called out sexism on the red carpet at the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards. When a camera operator scanned her up and down, she said: “Do you do this to the guys?” In her Oscar acceptance speech for Blue Jasmine, she reminded the film industry that movies with leading women can still be successful. “And thank you to... those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the centre, are niche experiences. They are not -- audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”
10/12 Ellen Page
Asked if she had ever encountered sexism in Hollywood, Page told The Guardian: ‘Oh my God, yeah! It's constant! It's how you're treated, it's how you're looked at, how you're expected to look in a photoshoot, it's how you're expected to shut up and not have an opinion, it's how you... If you're a girl and you don't fit the very specific vision of what a girl should be, which is always from a man's perspective, then you're a little bit at a loss.”
11/12 Zoe Saldana
The actress says she refuses roles where she has to play the generic girlfriend, wife or sexy bombshell. "It's very hard being a woman in a man's world, and I recognised it was a man's world even when I was a kid. It's an inequality and injustice that drove me crazy, and which I always spoke out against — and I've always been outspoken,” she told Manhattan magazine.
12/12 Charlize Theron
The actress spoke to ELLE about negotiating equal pay for the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel: "This is a good time for us to bring this to a place of fairness, and girls need to know that being a feminist is a good thing. It doesn't mean that you hate men. It means equal rights. If you're doing the same job, you should be compensated and treated in the same way."
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Maybe that episode of Girls you watched or that extract of Gender Trouble you read in your political science undergrad didn’t cover this, but feminism isn’t a qualification you earn once in your life and never have to think about ever again. It’s not a title you bestow upon yourself, it’s something you express in every interaction you have with a woman. It’s an ongoing process of learning about the different ways sexism articulates itself in our daily interactions with one another. If you’re not prepared to listen, you aren’t a feminist, you’re a woke misogynist.
If you do want to be a feminist, and you find yourself in a conversation with a woman who says she feels that you have said something sexist, here’s a few pointers on how to deal with it.
First of all, if you are more upset about being told that you are being sexist than actually thinking about the problem that has been raised, it means that you are more upset about defending your own ego than validating the experience of the woman in front of you. Sounds a lot like sexism, right?
I know you think that you “get feminism”, but even feminist women mess up. I say sexist stuff all of the time. Once in a Muay Thai boxing class I said “I kick like a girl”, a comment so cliché that I am actually ashamed of my own lack of imagination. Someone told me I was being sexist, and you know what, I didn’t complain: “Oh my god, I am the least sexist person ever, I’m a woman.” Instead, I said: “Yeah, you’re right. My bad.”
You know why? Because I know the patriarchy has a nasty habit of lodging itself into your brain, and I’m really glad when someone drags it into the light.
If a woman is saying you are being sexist, you definitely have to listen, because you’ve never lived life as a woman and don’t know what it is like to face sexism every single waking hour of your life. It is so tedious. While sexism is theoretical to you, it is oh so very real to us, so at least listen to what we have to say. Be thankful that the women around you don’t think of you as a lost cause because “behind every woke man is an exhausted feminist you need to thank.”
You’re no longer in denial and you have successfully reached step two.
This bit gets rocky: you actually have to listen to the person who says you have been sexist and think about it. You don’t have to hold your hands up, get down and your knees and pray for mercy from your feminist overladies.
Maybe you didn’t realise until now that you were being sexist: that’s OK. Sexism is so deeply woven into the very fabric of our being that sometimes you can’t see it. The patriarchy isn’t something we opt in and out of, it’s always there. It’s the white noise humming in the background of every interaction. If you still can’t see it or understand it, at least acknowledge that the other person did and listen to what they have to say.
If you’re still denying it even happened then straight to the bloke-not-woke jail. Do not pass go.
If you’ve accepted that it happened: you listened to why we felt what you had to say was sexist, and you’ve taken it on board, then you are on your path to actually being a feminist. Because, guess what: feminism is something you do, not an abstract label you appropriate because women think it is hot.Reuse content