Guian Bolisay and Gnaphron via Flickr

5 ways to talk about sexism without having to talk about it

Thanks to the Sony hack—which showed that not even famous (and presumably powerful) actresses are immune to an unfair pay gap—and new reports on the lack of working female directors, almost every actress is now asked to share her thoughts on sexism in Hollywood.

Many actresses like Patricia Arquette, who famously urged Hollywood to do better during her Oscar acceptance speech, aren’t shy about using their platform to talk about the problem. But not every actress is eager to be publicly critical and to be fair, this hesitancy is understandable.

Working actresses, who want to continue working without any blowback, are put in a damned if they do, damned if they don’t situation.

If they admit there’s a gender discrimination problem and start making demands for equality, feminists will praise them, however they also run the risk of being labeled “ungrateful” or “difficult to work with” and this could mean they lose out on roles. This might have happened to Arquette, according to Variety the actress believes she lost two acting jobs for “throwing down the gauntlet at the Oscars.”

But if an actress insists there isn’t a problem, she runs the risk of coming off as delusional.

So how do you answer a question about blatant sexism in your industry in a way that doesn’t make you sound like a complete sellout, but also isn’t too controversial? It seems like the trick is to say something that seems forthright and pro-woman but in fact carefully downplays sexism as a problem.

Here are five sound bites from five actresses who have mastered this sly trick.

The Jodie Foster Method:
Step 1: Insist that instead of focusing on the hard numbers we need to have a more “complex conversation” then throw out a bunch of vague reasons as the source of the problem–the global economy, our psychology, El Niño, chemtrails—OK, those last two I just made up.

Step 2: Finish by saying there’s no plot to hold women down but then at the same time blame female executives for not doing more.

Jodie Foster’s quote:
“I feel like the issue is way more complicated than saying, ‘Why aren’t women making big mainstream franchises?’”

“Having been around and making movies for 50 years, the issues are way more complicated than the dialogue,” Foster added.  “There are so many reasons. Some of them are about our psychology, our financial world, the global economy, any number of things. There are so many answers to that question that go back hundreds of years. It would be nice to have a more complex conversation and to be able to look at it as more than just a quota.”

“I don’t think it’s a plot to keep women down collectively,” Foster said. “It’s a bunch of people that weren’t thinking about it, including a lot of female executives who have risen to the top and have not made a dent in [securing opportunities for women film-makers.]”

Source: Variety

The Kate Winslet Approach:
Claim any discussion about the gender pay gap is vulgar and so not how the British do.

Bonus points if you say it like your Lady Mary from “Downton Abbey.”

Lady Mary

Kate Winslet’s quote:
“I’m having such a problem with these conversations,” [Winslet on the gender pay gap] “I understand why they are coming up but maybe it’s a British thing. I don’t like talking about money; it’s a bit vulgar isn’t it?”

“I don’t think that’s a very nice conversation to have publically at all,” admits Kate.

“I’m quite surprised by these conversations to be honest, simply because it seems quite a strange thing to be discussing out in the open like that.”

Source: BBC Newsbeat

The Kristen Stewart Method:
Step 1: Act like the lack of opportunity for women in Hollywood is due to women not being properly motivated and not the result of systemic gender discrimination.

Step 2: Say that conversations about sexism in your industry are boring. Eye roll and groan optional.

Kristen Stewart’s quote:
“Instead of sitting around and complaining about that, do something,” she said. “Go write something, go do something.”

“And that’s easy to say,” she continued. “Like, f–k, it’s hard to get movies made. It’s a huge luxury. Who gets to just make movies? But that subject is just so prevalently everywhere right now, and it’s boring.”

Source: Variety

The Marion Cotillard Approach:
Also known as the “art will suffer” argument. With this approach you have to make the argument that demands for gender equality will stifle creative freedom, then in an ominous voice stress that it may even somehow lead to gender segregation. Everyone knows that freedom = good and segregation = bad, so who’s gonna argue with you.

Marion Cotillard’s quote
“Film-making is not about gender,” she said. “You cannot ask a president in a festival like Cannes to have, like, five movies directed by women and five by men. “For me it doesn’t create equality, it creates separation. I mean, I don’t qualify myself as a feminist.

“We need to fight for women’s rights but I don’t want to separate women from men. We’re separated already because we’re not made the same and it’s the difference that creates this energy in creation and love. Sometimes in the word feminism there’s too much separation.”

Source: The Guardian

The Scarlett Johansson Technique:
This sidestep is so masterful, it’s a thing of beauty. If done right, it will almost seem like you’re saying something boldly progressive while also being humble.

Step 1: Tell the interviewer that it seems wrong to talk about the gender pay gap in Hollywood unless people talk about the gender pay gap as a whole but then neglect to talk about the gender pay gap as a whole.

Step 2 (optional): Also mention that you feel lucky to finally make as much as your male peers and not that this is a right that you expect—you wouldn’t want to appear ungrateful!

Scarlett Johansson’s quote:
[On equal pay] “There’s something icky about me having that conversation unless it applies to a greater whole… I am very fortunate, I make a really good living, and I’m proud to be an actress who’s making as much as many of my male peers at this stage… I think every woman has [been underpaid], but unless I’m addressing it as a larger problem, for me to talk about my own personal experience with it feels a little obnoxious. It’s part of a larger conversation about feminism in general.”

Source: Cosmopolitan

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