Famous actresses called out gender inequality

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Sexism was alive and well in Hollywood in 2015. Studies conducted throughout the year showed that there are still ridiculously few films being made with female protagonists; that there are even fewer being helmed by female directors; that when there are no women in directing and producing roles, there are likely to be fewer in below-the-line positions as well; and that basically all gender statistics in all areas of filmmaking are terrible, but among animated films, they’re slightly less terrible.

Every year, research institutions conduct very similar studies, all of which produce very similar findings; the stubborn existence of gender inequality in Hollywood is hardly news. But filmmakers and actresses speaking out against industry sexism — that’s headline-worthy, and it happened with unprecedented frequency in the last 12 months.

All of the women (plus a few men) below called Hollywood on its sexism this year, and more and more A-listers join them each week. If 2015 was any indication, Tinseltown had better prepare itself for some major change in the coming year — the women of Hollywood are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take this anymore.

Patricia Arquette 

Arquette kicked off the year of calling out sexism with her impassioned Oscars acceptance speech (she won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making Boyhood, in which she played a hard-working single mom) this February. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all,” she said as Meryl Streep and J.Lo cheered her on in the audience in the most GIF-able moment of the telecast. In September, she continued to speak out, giving an interview about her experiences with sexism in Hollywood and taking part in a discussion on the subject between actresses and female showrunners for The Hollywood Reporter.

Jennifer Lawrence

 Among the many revelations that came out of last year’s Sony hack was the information that Lawrence’s back-end compensation was significantly lower than her male co-stars in American Hustle, despite her unquestionable position as the cast’s biggest box-office draw. Lawrence made waves in October when she published an essay about the Hollywood gender wage gap, writing that she “failed as a negotiator” in part because she “didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled,’” as so many women are labeled when they speak their minds.

While it’s true that Lawrence, who headlines two robust franchises, doesn’t personally need more millions (which she admits in the essay), the fact remains that women are paid significantly less than men — at all salary ranges — for absolutely no reason, and she used her considerable platform to bring attention to it. After all, when even the highest-paid actress of 2014 (and EW’s Entertainer of the Year for 2015!) is still not compensated the same as her male costars (and is making less than two-thirds as much as 2014’s highest-paid actor, Robert Downey, Jr.), something is amiss.

Ava DuVernay and Catherine Hardwicke 
The need for more women in film exists both in front of and behind the camera, and this spring, after two years of extensive research, the ACLU called for an investigation of discriminatory hiring practices in the industry. In October, the EEOC assumed the responsibility of investigating the issue, and A-list female directors DuVernay and Hardwicke applauded the move. “It’s important that this battle is fought on all fronts,” the Selma director and Barbie doll inspiration said. Hardwicke believes that “this can all change,” and “we can end this boring, repetitive conversation” — though she’s grateful that the conversation is finally happening.

Amy Schumer 
2015 was Schumer’s year — and she spent it speaking out (always hilariously, sometimes profanely) on women’s issues. She wrote and starred in the summer hit Trainwreck, a raunchy rom-com with an unapologetically flawed, sex-positive female protagonist, and befriended Lawrence, with whom she is writing a (female-driven) screenplay. Episodes of her biting sketch comedy series Inside Amy Schumer more pointedly addressed women’s issues, tackling Hollywood’s cruel beauty standards in the sharp 12 Angry Men parody, in which a jury of men debate whether Schumer is hot enough to be on TV, and the “Last F—able Day” sketch, in which Schumer, Arquette, and Tina Fey celebrate Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ “Last F—able Day.”

Schumer summed it all up with characteristic bluntness when she hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time in September. “People keep asking me, they say, ‘Amy, is it an exciting time for women in Hollywood?’” she said in her opening monologue. “And I’m like, ‘No.’”

Lena Dunham 

The Girls creator and star has always been an outspoken feminist, but in 2015 she really upped the ante. In a speech at Variety’s Power of Women luncheon in April, she spoke candidly about having been sexually assaulted, saying she wanted to use her platform to empower her fellow women and fellow survivors. She also set up a pilot at HBO, a comedy about second-wave feminism in the ’60s, and launched a newsletter, Lenny, which has already published an interview with Hillary Clinton as well as Lawrence’s essay. This spring, she participated in a Hollywood Reporter roundtable discussion with a group of other TV comediennes, including Schumer, all of whom opened up about their experiences with sexism in the industry.

Carey Mulligan 

The star of two female-driven historical dramas in 2015, Mulligan took an active part in the conversation surrounding gender inequality. While promoting the romantic Thomas Hardy adaptation Far from the Madding Crowd this spring, she called out the “massively sexist” industry for the lack of good roles it has to offer women. Later in the year, while discussing her women’s-suffrage drama Suffragette (which was also written and directed by women), she said, “stories about women are largely untold.” Finally, accepting an award for her role in Suffragette at the Hollywood Film Awards in November, Mulligan delivered a rousing speech, concluding with the call, “Let’s create a gender equality in our industry.”

Meryl Streep
The beloved actress, who also appeared in Suffragette with Mulligan, has long fought for gender inequality in all areas of the business, and 2015 was no exception. This spring, Streep funded a new screenwriting lab for women writers over 40, and made comments over the course of the year calling out the lack of female film critics as well as the lack of female protagonists. This summer, she sent a letter urging Congress to revive the Equal Rights Amendment, and in February, of course, she enthusiastically cheered Arquette for her Oscars acceptance speech.

Geena Davis 
Davis is known for being an advocate for gender equality and diversity in media, as seen with the founding of her Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2006, which conducts yearly research about the representation of women in film and seeks to improve the gender balance of what we see onscreen. This year, Davis co-founded the diversity-focused Bentonville Film Festival and continued to speak out about gender inequality in Hollywood, saying in an interview that little progress has been made over the course of her long career in the industry.

Emma Thompson 

Not only has there been little improvement when it comes to sexism in Hollywood, as Davis said, it’s actually gotten worse, according to Thompson. “When I was younger, I really did think we were on our way to a better world,” Thompson said in an interview this summer. “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.”

Shonda Rhimes 
The queen of Thursday nights, who is known for her diverse casts and strong female characters, said in an interview that in the film world, “everyone has amnesia all the time.” When movies made for women and about women succeed, “somehow it’s a fluke,” Rhimes observed. “There’s such an interest in things being equal and such a weary acceptance that it’s not.”

Jessica Chastain

Chastain was among the many who applauded Lawrence’s essay on the wage gap, saying “there’s no excuse” for unequal pay, and “everyone should talk about it.” She has also spoken out about the need for complex and dynamic women onscreen. “If the female character isn’t as interesting as the male character, I’m not interested,” she said in an interview in September, pointing out that female action heroes need not wear a skintight catsuit to be powerful. And her dream role? “People ask me if I want to be a Bond girl,” she said in October. “No, I want to be the villain.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal 

Gyllenhaal brought attention to Hollywood’s problem with women over the age of 25 when she said in an interview that she, at age 37, was told she was too old to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man. “It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry,” she said. “And then it made me laugh.” This summer, she joined other Emmy contenders (she was nominated for her role in miniseries The Honorable Woman) for the Hollywood Reporter actress roundtable (which also included history-making Emmy winner Viola Davis).

 Anne Hathaway
Just a few months after Gyllenhaal’s comments, Hathaway chimed in on the ageism issue as well. In an interview in September, the 32-year-old Oscar winner said she’s begun losing age-appropriate roles to younger actresses, though she admitted, “I can’t complain about it, because I benefited from it.”

Kerry Washington

Accepting the Vanguard Award at the GLAAD Media Awards this March, the Scandal star spoke about the need for greater representation in our culture. “Having your story told as a woman, as a person of color, as a lesbian or as a trans person or as any member of any disenfranchised community is sadly often still a radical idea,” Washington said. “There is so much power in storytelling, and there is enormous power in inclusive storytelling, in inclusive representations.” Spoken like a true gladiator.

Charlize Theron 

Everyone’s favorite Imperator is a leader and example for women in the industry as well as those who inhabit the desiccated landscape of Fury Road. When she reprises her role as Snow White and the Huntsman’s Evil Queen in 2016’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Theron will make the same salary as her co-star Chris Hemsworth — but only because she insisted on equal pay. “Girls need to know that being a feminist is a good thing,” she said in an interview following news of her successful negotiation. “It means equal rights. If you’re doing the same job, you should be compensated and treated in the same way.”

 Rowan Blanchard 

The teenage star of Disney’s Girl Meets World speaks to a new generation of budding activists using their preferred platform: social media. Rowan gave her voice to women’s issues this year when she published an essay about intersectional feminism to her Tumblr, and later joined forces with Instagram to help launch the #MyStory initiative, encouraging women to tell their own stories. Co-hosting an Instagram event promoting the initiative, Rowan told EW, “You’re told, when you’re a kid, like, ‘You can change the world’ — but it’s a difficult thing to speak out.”

Emma Watson 

Watson cemented herself as a leader among celebrity feminists when she delivered a powerful speech at the U.N. last fall, and she has continued to fight against sexism — in the film industry and beyond — in 2015. This spring, in a Facebook chat promoting her HeForShe campaign, which encourages male and female solidarity in the fight for gender equality, Watson said, “If you stand for equality, then you’re a feminist. Sorry to tell you.”

Article by Mary Sollosi - Read more at EW.com

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