Hilary Swank On Sexism In Hollywood & Her New “Feminist” Movie

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Hilary certainly isn’t the first male or female in Hollywood to point out that sexism and gender imbalance still exists. Although the Oscar-winner no doubt is able to voice her opinion louder than some, it is interesting to hear her talk so strongly on the subject.

In a recent interview with the Loyola Marymount University School of Film and TV in Los Angeles on November 12, she told a group of students that her male counterparts don’t just get paid double, but sometimes up to ten times as much as the women.

The interview wasn’t just about her views on feminism and Hollywood, she also promoted her new film with Tommy Lee Jones called ‘The Homesman’.

The movie has been described as a Western movie with a feminist slant, which Hilary is strongly behind. She says that what women face today aren’t that different from what the women in the frontier period faced, and that comment is often met with mixed reactions.

“It [is] so similar to our era now,” said Swank. “And the reason why I say that is, and it’s funny, I like watching people’s reactions […] When I say it to a woman, usually they go [Yes!], and usually men go [Huh?]”

“To me it’s about the objectification and trivialization of women. And it takes place in the mid 1800′s. But us women know exactly what that feels like right now in 2014. So even though talking about gay, lesbian, transgender issues and how far they’ve come, same with equality for women and how far we’ve come, yet how far we still need to go. So that was something that I really, really related to.”

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In another interview with Vulture she expands a little on her character Mary Bee saying that during her time, she was certainly an anomaly, yet not that different to the way women are perceived today.

“She’s self-sufficient, she’s independent, she’s really a modern-day woman in a lot of ways, and a lot of people can’t even handle that in 2014, let alone the mid-1800s.”

One of the struggles Mary faces is being a strong woman amongst men, yet still maintaining her sense of femininity. Hilary basically says it sucks that the idea of masculinity and femininity are so segregated and a cause for shaming in certain circumstances.

“You know what’s interesting? What we consider “masculine” and what we consider “feminine” — and I was sitting here talking about it, too. If you can blur those lines a little bit more and see that it’s not just the woman’s place in a home, and break down those stereotypes that only men are supposed to be out making the money or doing the hard labor, the more it lends us to helping each other through this walk called life. There is no right [or] wrong way to live as long as you’re doing the best you can and, I think, trying to live with some manners and values.”

On a similar topic, Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan asked Hilary what she thought of the catcalling video which recently went viral and caused a maelstrom of divided opinions. Although she hadn’t seen in, in Hilary’s eyes she was already familiar with the subject matter and shared her thoughts, and drew comparisons with ‘The Homesman’.

“Women are objectified like that all the time, every single day. Unless you see it for yourself you don’t really understand what it’s like to be in that place of being objectified every single day, and trivialized. To me, this movie deals with that in a big way. It’s a feminist movie in a lot of ways, and I think it deals with how women carry themselves or hide from themselves because they want to be seen for more than just their looks. I know that when I became a teenager and all of a sudden was looked at differently, it was very uncomfortable. I immediately put on overalls and started wearing wool socks because I didn’t want to be looked at like that.”

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Since the beginning of time women have lived in a world where they are judged on their appearance, and to be honest it is an attribute that is seen in almost every industry in some aspect. Being part of the Hollywood machine, Hilary knows more than most the importance of showing women (and men, who are also being affected by image-heavy messages these days) to find their worth elsewhere than their physical appearance.

“I do think that happens to men in this business, too, but in general, when young girls are looking at billboards of already-beautiful models that are being touched up, it’s completely unattainable to look like that. The idea that you have to look a certain way to attain love or to be successful in the world, those are the stereotypes we need to break down. It’s interesting that being seen for who we are changes us, or allows us to be us.”

While Hilary doesn’t comment on every industry and every injustice women face, she knows more about the Hollywood sexism than most of us. The issue of women being paid less than men in film is something that is not talked about often enough, but once which she does address in the video below.

According to a study by the Journal of Management Inquiry who looked at earnings records for 265 actors and actresses between 1968 and 2008, female actors out-earn men in their 20s, but by 34 men’s earning in Hollywood far exceed that of their female counterparts.

“Hollywood is, in a sense, a window to society,” said one of the study’s authors, Timothy Judge, a management professor at the University of Notre Dame. “The trends we see in Hollywood are only more dramatic trends that we see more generally in the population.”

That’s a very sad and sorry society we’re looking at out of that window. What can be done to change? Well first up we need to reiterate that this is not just men’s fault. Like Geena Davis so eloquently put it recently, the sexism and inequality isn’t just due to the male population, it is because the standards that were set back in an era when women weren’t commonly working outside the home, and the culture has been perpetuated by both men and women to this day.

It is up to both genders to identify the problem, and find solutions together. Awareness is a start, and for us it is about encouraging more women and girls to pursue careers in all areas of Hollywood. Don’t focus on the wage gap, just work hard and led with your talent. Here is Hilary talking at LMU about her new film and sexism in the film industry:

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