Over the course of 2017, scandal after scandal has exposed the poor treatment women have endured in the entertainment and media industries.
But Variety’s Power of Women honorees and the high-achievers on Variety’s Women’s Impact list are raising their voice to insist on something they should have had all along: Equality. It’s a goal that has proven deceptively complex.
“Equality is not having to say ‘equal,’ it’s just being equal” says Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer. “It’s funny,” she says, “It’s hard for me to define it, because I haven’t seen it.” “Quantico” star Priyanka Chopra adds “We’re centuries behind where we should be.”
The evidence for that seems incontrovertible. Powerful men around the industry have been revealed as sexual harassers or worse. Female stars have gone public with complaints about pay disparities between themselves and the men who star opposite them. The kind of “locker room talk” exposed on the Donald Trump “Access Hollywood” tape remains widely accepted.
Yet the Variety honorees are hopeful and energized about moving forward, about insisting on the respect they’ve long earned with their work.
Part of that respect is simply being judged by their work. “My work, and whatever comes out of it, is somehow the loudest noise I can make in this fight,” says Chopra.
Double standards abound. “The hardest thing about being a female is that fine line between being tough and confident, and being a bitch,” says “Star Trek: Discovery” producer Heather Kadin. Women who stand up for themselves are labeled “emotional,” she says.
Women have long had to be wary of harassers and predators in the workplace. But even aside from that, women complain that they’re in a no-win situation when it comes to their appearance, especially if they work behind the camera. Powerful men in the industry can flaunt their status by dressing down, but women have to look put-together.
“You don’t want to wear something that’s too sexy, because that’s not the perspective I’m trying to present,” says Kadin. A woman who looks too alluring in the office may face gossip that she’s using her looks to get ahead. “I just don’t believe that’s something men need to spend as much time thinking about,” says Kadin.
Yet with all that still lingering, these honorees see progress. “Girls Trip” screenwriter Tracy Oliver, for example, salutes directors Patty Jenkins and Ava DuVernay as trailblazers. “They are women who are pushing forward in an awesome way and it’s making it easier for people like me to come in.”
“I would love for us to get to a point where we’re every time that something with women or people of color succeeds, we’re not surprised,” says Oliver.