Gwyneth Paltrow. Angelina Jolie. Lupita Nyong’o. Romola Garai. Rose McGowan. These are just some of the women who have spoken out about their experiences of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. It’s been an extraordinary year for women in culture: rumours of violence persisting around figures such as Harvey Weinstein are finally being addressed. Women are finally being heard.
The story of sexism in Hollywood extends beyond sexual violence. The writer and actress Rashida Jones recently left her role as a writer on Toy Story 4 due to Pixar’s discriminatory culture. Studio head John Lasseter has been accused of unwanted advances, but Jones resigned because of a creative culture that repeatedly dismissed the voices of women and people of colour.
When women’s stories are respected as much as men’s, it results in diverse, exciting work. Many of 2017’s cultural highlights have been the result of women fighting back against patriarchal systems in entertainment. The HBO series Big Little Lies dominated this year’s Emmys (as did The Handmaid’s Tale): it was made by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, which the actress set up specifically to address a lack of compelling female roles. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird has become Rotten Tomatoes’s highest-rated movie of all time; Gerwig made the film “to offer a female counterpart to tales such as The 400 Blows and Boyhood”. Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi explored an experience that now looks eerily similar to accusations made against Louis CK, a storyline she hoped would draw attention to systemic sexual harassment in comedy.
If 2017 has taught us to listen to anything, it’s the stories of women, both on and off camera.
This article appears in the 08 Dec 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas special