Being a female in the entertainment industry isn't easy — I mean, it took until 2010 for Kathryn Bigelow to become the first (and only) woman to win an Academy Award for directing. As a woman in the industry, it's normal to face sexual harassment, belittling, and the assumption you aren't smart — all on a daily basis. I asked females in entertainment to share stories of sexism they faced on the job. Here's what 11 of them had to say.
Being a woman on the internet is a very judgmental and scary place sometimes. It seems like so many more people are judging your looks instead of your content. It can be confusing because I get as many "She'd be hot if she stopped trying to be funny" comments as I get "Funny girl, too bad she's a troll." I could deliver the same joke as a man and the comments will all be about how I look. "This video is really great if you watch it on mute." "I was distracted by how fat and ugly she is, was this supposed to be a joke?" And my favorite: "When will girls learn that they aren't funny?" It's really very frustrating when I wear, say, a V-neck shirt and make a video; I get called an attention whore, a slut, and if I'd put on some clothes I wouldn't get any views. If I wear a crew neck I get told to show my boobs and shut up.
The worst part, though, is no matter how many subscribers I gain or what level of success I reach, people always attribute it to my appearance. I was talking with a few male Vine users the other day about our numbers of followers, likes, and views. Mine were substantially higher, and almost simultaneously all three guys said, "Yeah but that's because you're a girl," "God it must be so easy being a girl," and "I wish I had tits." No one accredited it to the fact that I post new content daily, collaborate as much as possible with other content creators, or work hard at what I do. No one acknowledged that fact that the ratio of top male to top female influencers isn't even a question. If I only got a fan base on my looks, why isn't every attractive female in the top Vine users? I'll never complain about people telling me I'm attractive. But I am very tired of people telling me that's the only reason I have what I worked very hard for.
I was in film school when one of my professors told me, "The reason why they make film equipment so heavy is to keep little girls like you off of set." I then made it my mission to always be just as strong, to be the first one to jump up to carry something, and even more so to work as a G&E [Grip and Electric] on some sets just to prove that I could.
I studied dramatic writing and felt like I was often typecast in the guys' projects (as we had to act in one another's short films and plays). The guys always played really diverse/quirky characters while I was scarily often a non-speaking female object of affection for the male characters — a "naughty schoolgirl" or a ditz. I did my best to have a sense of humor about it and to do as much as I could with the characters, but it was very revealing of how straight men often view women, which then translates to what their writing becomes.
I will say though: For our graduation, we had Glen Mazzara (the former showrunner of The Walking Dead) give an amazing speech about how we are responsible for how we write people of other genders, races, and sexual orientations, and my friends and I in the front row immediately jolted up to give him a standing ovation. It felt like one of the first times something like this was acknowledged.
I worked as a writer on a (terrible) comedy series (that three and a half people watched) for two months, and was constantly referred to as "girl writer" throughout my time there. It made me feel like I was a token there to fill a quota, and not there because of my writing or comedic abilities. It also made me feel like my gender mattered more than my talent, or was seen as influencing every joke I wrote or idea I presented, when, really, being female is just one facet of who I am.
There was also a PA who hit on me relentlessly, despite my bringing up the fact that I was in a relationship and clearly not interested. He would keep talking to me while I was trying to work and asking me out, which I found pretty unprofessional. It just added to the idea that I was seen, above all else, as a "girl" and not as a colleague.
When I moved to Los Angeles (almost 10 years ago now), I originally wanted to be a cinematographer and was told to either get a job as a camera assistant or at a camera rental house. No one at any camera rental house would hire me because I was a girl and they felt I couldn't "lift 50 pounds or more" of equipment. Meanwhile, when I PA'd on set, I tried to make friends with all the camera department guys, and they were literally all guys (back then, and I don't think it's changed much, if at all, since; there were only two female members of the American Society of Cinematographers), but none of them would take me seriously. Their best advice was to "try to get a job at a camera rental house." A classic Hollywood catch-22. Suffice to say all this frustrated me enough to make me give up on pursuing this career path entirely after a few years of trying.
When I worked a talent agency I was up for a desk and was passed over. When I spoke with a friend who had been at the company longer, I was told, "Don't worry about it, he only hires tall, thin blonde girls." When I asked why, he told me that the agent wanted to make sure his assistant was hot enough so that a) people would wonder who she is with him, b) his clients would have someone to flirt with, and c) he would be feel "comfortable" sending her on his behalf to events.
I was applying for a bunch of film internships my junior year of college. I had to
get a recommendation from the director of the film program. I contacted him and
we met for the first time in his office. When I walked in the first thing he did was
look me up and down, then commented on my appearance: "That's an interesting
dress" and "Why are you so tense?" He didn't ask me anything about my time at
the college or of my film experiences in general. The "meeting" was barely 15
minutes, and he just asked me to send him my cover letter and résumé and he'd
have a recommendation for me by the end of the week.
I had always heard good things about him from all the male students in the
program and how he helped them network and get jobs in the industry. Before I
left his office, I had asked him if he knew any contacts in the industry or if anyone
was looking for interns and he told me, "No. I can't help you. You have to apply
yourself." It took him over two weeks to get back to me with my recommendation,
after I politely reminded him of needing it by a certain date. When he finally sent
it to me it was obvious he put no thought into it and he even misspelled my name
and the company I was applying to. I basically had to find a new recommendation
at the last minute.
When I was 19 I had an internship with a high-profile entertainment news company. A man there "took me under his wing"; he was one of the head anchors, and he had me with him almost every day.
Because I have big eyes and a sweet and Southern demeanor, I really believe people don't know how perceptive and smart I am. I graduated magna cum laude from a high-profile university (just saying). I was for sure intimidated and did whatever he needed me to do. He made a few comments here and there on how he liked my style or look or how I was just a little baby and he was going to teach me, etc. I was with him the day Michael Jackson died and most of the studio was on hiatus. He and I went to Michael Jackson's house in Encino. We got a coffee together and he even let me do an on-camera news report. When we got back to the studio, we were watching it and he said, "Do you like the way you look?"
I remember my face started prickling because I had a feeling I knew what was about to come. I said, "Well... I think so." He said, "Here's the thing, and I can say these things because I just lost 30 pounds to make myself more appealing for TV, and so I'm gonna be honest with you — you're very beautiful. You have a sweet, old Hollywood face and I like looking at you. But I want to put you on a shelf and admire you from afar and keep you as a treasure. To make it in television, you have to be fuckable. And right now you look like a little porcelain doll. The thing is, no one wants to fuck a porcelain doll. I'm telling you this because I believe in you and I really think you could be something special."
I was so shocked. I didn't cry, in fact I nodded in agreement before calling my mom and crying to her on the phone. I did go back the next day but asked my supervisor if I could not work with him; he definitely caught wind of me not liking him and started being so rude to me and making snide comments. I quit at the end of that week. I always say if I ever write an autobiography that's what I'm going to call it: No One Wants to Fuck a Porcelain Doll: A Southern Belle's Memoir to "Making It" in Hollywood. I'll never forget that!
Over the summer I got a job as a PA in London, and I was the only American on the crew and the only young woman in my department besides the leading man's personal assistant. There was a constant harassment from the older men on the locations and security teams, who would consistently call me "sweetheart" and "love" while asking why my boyfriend didn't pick me up from work (I didn't have one) or tell me it was "National Kiss a Stranger Day."
But the worst was when we were filming in a bad neighborhood in East London and these two older guys stood in their yards getting wasted on beer and yelling at me every time I walked by, which was often. Each time their comments would get more and more aggressive, from "Hey bird, why don't you go get me some sugar!" to "You fucking yankee cunt, look a man in the face when he's talking to you." I told the assistant director who asked security to go check on them. But they ended up joking around and having a few beers. The men stopped, but only because they had new drinking buddies to talk to.
During my latest project, I have been working with a small, completely male production company. Although these were microaggressions and probably unrealized, they were an irritating test of my confidence. I was assumed twice to be with hair and makeup. I was also called "darling" and "sweetie" multiple times. There were instances when I was being spoken down to and it was very clear that I was not being taken seriously by particular members of the crew. When an individual discovered that I won a student film contest and attended the Oscars, they said that they were surprised and thought I was just a "cute girl" who worked in social media.
I admit I am a recent college graduate and I am learning how to best perform in a work environment, but it is irritating that as a woman, if I demand respect, I am a bitch, and if I remain passive, I am a ditz. I hate that this is an insecurity that I have from my life experience and girlhood. Luckily, this is just motivation for me to work harder and be better than small-minded people. While I get ahead, they eat my sparkly girl dust.
I worked for a high-profile studio executive my first year after college. My goal was to eventually work in children's entertainment, primarily at their parent company in creative development. I felt like I had paid my dues — scheduled enough power lunches and meetings and set visits and all the fun duties that come with being an executive assistant to a high-powered entertainment executive. After a year of working with him, I knew we had just hired a woman who ran the entire human resources department at the parent company I wanted to work for. I knew she obviously had connections for my dream job, and I just wanted an informational interview with her, but I wanted my boss's blessing.
I think people mistake kindness for weakness, because I think it played into how my boss perceived me. He is a big, harsh, unfriendly man who never said anything more than the basics to me, never had a conversation. So after about a year of working for him, I went to him one morning, incredibly nervous, and told him I wanted to talk (about connecting with this new HR executive). He was definitely caught off-guard, and didn't know how to react so he advised me to take a seat on his couch, which I did.
I told him my goal of eventually working as a development executive at their parent company. He didn't say a word throughout my whole "presentation," and eventually said, "I guess I'm just shocked because you struck me as the type of girl who wanted to keep a job like this until she had a family and could stay at home." I said, "No... I do want a family but that is way down the road." I was heartbroken! I felt so sad that for a year he saw me as that girl! He said, "All right, well I suppose I could talk to her and see what I can do." I wanted to say, all it takes is one phone call to her, stupid, but I didn't. After a couple of weeks of him acting awkward around me and me realizing nothing was going to happen so long as he saw me that way, I decided to find a job elsewhere.
It shouldn't matter if I like pink or flowers; I can still want a career as an entertainment executive. And I'm allowed to have a family AND a job outside the home.