Shondaland and Team “Orange” joined forces to celebrate their respective showrunners, Shonda Rhimes and Jenji Kohan, on Monday at the 10th annual Global Women’s Rights Awards at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. They were honored for “changing the face of media” by the Feminist Majority Foundation.
“How to Get Away with Murder” star Viola Davis summed up the evening’s feminist message by introducing Rhimes with a proclamation. “Shonda Rhimes is one of the most powerful and successful forces in television today. And she’s a woman.”
Rhimes proceeded to carry the feminist torch with declarations including, “I absolutely love being a woman,” “it never occurred to me not to love it,” and, with a wink, “I mean, I think I’m fabulous.”
She told a story about her assistant who expressed wanting to be a man for a day to know how it feels “to have all of that.” Rhimes repeated the refrain, meditating on the complexity of the suggestion.
“My assistant wants to walk through the world just for a day without some guy hitting on her when she runs to Starbucks to get me coffee,” Rhimes said before tumbling deeper into her assistant’s mind. “She wants to not be called ‘cute’ by the security guard. She wants to not be told that she should be a model. She wants to not see the look of surprise on someone’s face when she tells them where she went to college. She wants her boobs to no longer be a topic of conversation. She wants to no longer make 70 cents on the dollar. She wants to not have old men legislate her vagina’s rights. She wants to not know that a glass ceiling ever existed. She wants to not believe that having a baby would end her career. She wants everything in the world to be made for her, be about her and speak mostly to her. Because that’s how it is for men.”
Rhimes said that, in the moment, she rejected her assistant’s idea because it raised a terrifying truth, and “we don’t have time to be terrified.” She closed by clarifying her platform. “I don’t even want men wishing they could be women,” she said. “I just want those words ‘all of that,’ to apply to all of us.”
“Orange is the New Black” creator Kohan expressed her trepidation about following Rhimes’ acceptance speech. “Sucks following Shonda,” she laughed. “She’s so good at this stuff. But I love her and I love her work.”
And love for Kohan was overflowing from the “Orange” cast who came out to support her, including Taylor Schilling who gushed over her showrunner. “Jenji’s strength and individuality and her sense of freedom and gutsiness powerfully impacted me professionally, obviously, but personally as well,” she said. “I want to be like her when I grow up.”
Laverne Cox joined in on the love-fest with sincerity, gratitude and humility. “She’s just done so much for so many of us,” she said. “Three years ago I was thinking about going back to grad school. I could barely pay my rent. She’s changed my life and all of the people’s lives who have been touched by this show.”