Besides wearing some of the most wonderful red carpet looks in the world and simultaneously not giving a licorice stick what anyone thinks of her “stripper shoes,” Dame Helen Mirren has some pretty great advice for young women. It’s not polite and it’s not pretty, but it is absolutely perfect because it is more than necessary for every woman to learn.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mirren discussed the way females are treated (well, mistreated) in the entertainment industry and how somebody like child predator Jimmy Savile could maintain such a high position despite accusations galore. With regard to what she would tell her hypothetical daughters, Mirren had this to say:
“If I’d had children and had a girl, the first words I would have taught her would have been ‘f*** off’ because we weren’t brought up ever to say that to anyone, were we?
“And it’s quite valuable to have the courage and the confidence to say, ‘No, f*** off, leave me alone, thank you very much’
“You see, I couldn’t help saying ‘Thank you very much,’ I just couldn’t help myself.”
You know that feeling of when somebody is being kind of creepy but you inexplicably feel the need to be polite? If not, go you — I wish I could be more like that; I, on the other hand, tend to feel obligated toward niceness, to not hurt the person’s feelings, even if I’ve already made my disinterest clear and it seems that the person simply doesn’t care. Honestly, teaching girls to say “fuck off” is one of the best skills to educate them in. Learning that you are not responsible for the feelings of people who don’t respect yours is a hugely important lesson.
She also notes the differences between present times and a few short decades ago:
“The 60s were not great, the 70s were really crap; the 60s and 70s were pretty ghastly, I think.
“And into the 80s, as an actress, you would be the only female on set, apart from the continuity person, who was always a woman, and maybe your own personal wardrobe person.
“Otherwise it was completely male, and a particular kind of testosteroney male that was quite hard to deal with.
“You had to have a sense of humour, put your head down, you were never going to be one of the boys, if you know what I mean.”
First of all, “testosteroney” sounds like the worst lunch meat of them all.
Second, I’m really glad people like Mirren are discussing these sexism entertainment industry. It’s easy to think about Hollywood (and film as a whole) as some far-off land where magical stuff gets quickly, happily, excitedly created — and it is, to a certain extent. But sets are still workplaces, and every workplace has its issues. The level of sexism in them, while frequently overlooked, is still incredibly important to correct; the more big names like Mirren publicly speak about them, the better those workplaces can become.
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