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Standing Up and For Women

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by Melissa Silverstein
February 1, 2013 1:00 PM
7 Comments
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When I first started Women and Hollywood I knew that I wanted to the site to support women and their roles and accomplishments in pop culture but I really did not know exactly what that meant.

Now, five years later, I know exactly what that means.  It means that I say the stuff that's hard.  It means I say the stuff that's gonna piss people off.  But I don't care.  I have gotten over that whole phase where I want people to like me.  I had a really thin skin a couple of years ago, but now it's like leather. (See Jessica Valenti's piece: She Who Dies With the Most Likes Wins.)

The thought process for this piece began over the last month as we have seen Kathryn Bigelow get stomped on in the press.  At the turn of the year it looked like Bigelow and Zero Dark Thirty were on a roll.  The film won more critics awards than the others, and it looked like she would make history and become the second woman nominated twice for a best directing Oscar. 

But we all know what happened.  The torture controversy was led by of all people Dianne Feinstein who says she supports women.  But clearly not when they make films that challenge the image that the government wants us to perceive of American foreign policy and how and when this government used and condoned torture.

Then there was the hatchet job by Kim Masters in the Hollywood Reporter which I wrote about earlier which undermined Kathryn Bigelow's authority as a director and also threw in a ton of crap about her and Mark Boal's personal relationship and how it effected their working relationship.  And then there was also Naomi Wolf's diatribe where she compared Bigelow to Leni Riefenstahl.

Ironically, since all this stuff broke about the film and Bigelow didn't get the best director nomination, we have seen a new side to her.  She has been freed from doing the press with Mark Boal and has been out there plugging the movie on her own.  A woman who was so hesitant to speak in interviews and was dominated earlier now has found her voice and it has been a bittersweet thing to watch.  Had she stood up on her own earlier who knows what might have happened.

Her film was the front runner, but it now the also ran.  The fall of the film and the treatment of Bigelow has gotten my colleagues Sasha Stone and Thelma Adams pissed off and both wrote great pieces on it this week.  But what is so interesting about this is that when Michael Moore stood up for Kathryn Bigelow that was the first time that people are able to see the sexism and misogyny in this equation -- which we have been shouting from the rooftops for some time now.

Maybe Kathryn Bigelow is relieved not to have to deal with being another first.  The first woman to be nominated twice for an Oscar.  But, she still is the first woman to be nominated twice (in the feature area) for a Directors Guild Award.  We'll see who wins that tomorrow night.  I don't think she will win.  Because the narrative has shifted and the focus is on the fact that Ben Affleck didn't get an Academy nomination for best director.  The outcry for Affleck has become a roar and no one is any longer making a big deal that Bigelow was left out.

There is this tinge of misogyny that underlines this whole conversation as Thelma Adams got Tom O'Neil from Gold Derby to say.  It's ok when men call out misogyny, but women need to shut up and go back in their box and be happy with what they have already got.  No one would tell Steven Spielberg to just be happy.  By having won an Oscar no one should have the right to say that to Kathryn Bigelow.  She's in a different category than Ben Affleck BECAUSE SHE ALREADY WON.  She should be in the club but she's not because she's a girl. 

I read nasty stuff people -- women and men -- say about women every day.  People never seem to get tired about slamming Lena Dunham and there is also a huff over how Anne Hathaway is looking too eager and excited about her Oscar nomination.  But what put me over the edge to write this piece was the awful hatchet job yesterday written by Kate Aurthur on Buzzfeed about Smash and her take down of Theresa Rebeck. (which I am not linking to)  I usually like her work, but I take issue with this piece.  On the eve of the second season's premiere, Aurthur fills her piece with anonymous quotes about how the show went off the rails in the first season.  The fact that this all happened 10 months ago, and that Theresa Rebeck has not been involved with the show since then, does not seem to matter.  She just takes the knife and plunges it in and everyone else seems to come out ok except Theresa.

As Theresa's friend I am standing up for her.  She's has not asked me to. But if friends don't stand up for friends we are all lost. In this business you have lots of friends when you are top and then they suddendly seem to disappear conveniently when shit happens.  If the piece actually had anything helpful in it, that would be another story, but it is just rehashing old wounds, and let's note that the only person who lost their job out of the 10 executive producers who started on that show last season was Theresa.  But if you believe the buzz feed story everything was her fault anyway.  But I don't believe she should take all the blame and I'm sure there are many other people out there who agree with me.  But no one seems to want to say anything.

All these pieces made me think about women who shit on other women.  I really don't feel that guys shit on guys in the ways that women shit on women.  We all know that guys shit on women each and every day, but when women do it, to me, that's a whole different thing precisely because it is so hard to be a woman in this business.  It's hard to be the only woman out there talking about her film and everyone asking her about whether she and the writer are dating.  It's hard to be the new wunderkind who is set up to save all of TV.  It's hard to be the only woman executive producer when you have guys yelling at you all day long. 

I have spent the last couple of years trying to support women.  I don't like every movie I see, but I'm still not going to shit on it because it's not what I want to do and not how I want to live my life. 

I think Madeleine Albright said it best, "there is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

Adams on Reel Women: The Torture of Kathryn Bigelow (Yahoo)

Uppity Women: How Maya and KathrynBigelow Continue to Threaten the Status Quo (Awards Daily)

Sexism Pushes Its Way Into The Oscar Campaign (Women and Hollywood)

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7 Comments

  • Destri | February 22, 2013 3:26 PMReply

    Yes!

  • Bonnie Weiss | February 20, 2013 12:56 AMReply

    I'm back Melissa; had to change my e-mail. Got hacked-----Just read your blog. I don't even know how to comment. The harder women work, the less they are given credit. It's a "man's" world since the beginning of time. Is it because they are considered the hunters and gatherers, or is it because women were always subservient. But, lo and behold, the last few decades have proven, that women have talents in areas where men always succeeded; not just film, but government, science, medicine, business, etc. I don't men's egos can take the competition so they will go to ALL extents to stamp out the female genius, in otherwords, the penis shall always prevail to the male!!!! Do not fear, you ladies in the Hollywood world of film, "cream always rises to the top."

  • Mary Stewart | February 9, 2013 3:46 PMReply

    Thank you, Melissa! Your voice is making mine stronger. I was on Facebook and friends from the east and midwest were posting about how bad the SMASH script was before it aired on the west coast where I am. I knew that Theresa Rebeck had been replaced by Joshua Safran of "Gossip Girl" so I told them that's why it didn't measure up to last season's show. When it finally aired on the west coast, I agreed with the reviewer from the show within the show. The music was great, but the book sucked!

  • Melanie | February 2, 2013 11:07 AMReply

    Thank you for your work. I'm listening. I'm learning. You're making the world better.

  • Stephanie Rosenfeld | February 1, 2013 7:17 PMReply

    Amen Melissa. Thank you.

  • carmella | February 1, 2013 3:05 PMReply

    melissa, you rock! thank you.

  • Linn D. | February 1, 2013 1:21 PMReply

    On a happier note, did you see the NY Times piece yet? "Staging a Sisterhood" by By PATRICK HEALY, published: January 31, 2013. My favorite part is when Todd Haimes tries to say there is no longer a Boy's Club, when his theater company has one of the worst records for hiring female directors. I laughed out loud. Onward and upward my fellow sisters!

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