Now I know what it's like to be a woman

August 18, 2015 Written By Rohini Banerjee

A couple of days back, I came across an interesting Funny or Die sketch, where actors Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg staged a mock interview swapping questions which they often get asked during Hollywood press junkets.While the questions Jesse recalls being usually asked are on the lines of “did you have to bulk up for this role?”, “can you do impressions?”, “what’s your favourite prank you played on set?”; Kristen’s questions are hardly so innocuous. Her questions range from “who is your favourite designer?”  to “are you pregnant, though? Is that why you’re keeping things hidden under your clothes?” to “is it embarrassing when your boobs spill out of a dress accidentally? Do you have a favourite boob?” to a detail interrogation of smallest, irrelevant details of her appearance, like whether or not her nails are perfectly manicured. These questions are disturbingly intrusive, judgemental, patronizing, belittling, insulting and just plain outrageous, and needless to say Jesse is utterly shellshocked upon being on their receiving end. “Isn’t that how these things usually go for you?” asks Kristen matter-of-factly. “No”, says Jesse, “I’m usually just asked whether I’m the class clown”. “That sounds so easy!” says Kristen, voicing my thoughts succinctly. “Now I know what it’s like to be a woman”, Jesse says as his concluding statement.

While the sketch ends on a light, jovial note, its loud, profound message keeps haunting me. Why are women reduced merely to their physical appearance by the media? Why are their bodies, their genitalia, their sexual activity the only concern of these interviewers? Why can’t the media instead focus solely on their work or their professional capabilities? These questions, however, are not limited to Hollywood. Bollywood is no different. Mainstream entertainment news channels often pass harsh judgement on the bodies, clothes and sexual choices of Indian actresses. The horrifyingly sexist lens with which they scrutinise and pick apart everything an actress does in her personal life is not only barely protested against, but is dismissed as ‘humour’ and ‘entertainment’. One of these popular bollywood news channels once belittled Kangana Ranaut’s demand for equal pay (a demand which has been central to the history of the feminist movement for centuries, and is sadly still relevant even though its 2015) by saying, “Look at her nerve, going around asking for more money just because she had two hits back to back! She has to get rid of these airs!”. When I heard this for the first time, I didn’t know whether to be outraged, or laugh at their ignorance. She was asking for equal pay—as much salary as her male co-stars are paid—which is only fair, because it’s her basic fundamental right. The inequality in the salaries of men and women engaging in the same amount of work is still harshly prevalent in not just the film industry, but almost every other profession. In light of this, Kangana Ranaut asking for a higher, more justified remuneration shouldn’t be something that is judged, demeaned and ridiculed. It is this attitude of the media which poisons society’s perception of women who express dissent, or any kind of opinion that deconstructs the patriarchal standards of behaviour imposed upon them. Silencing women’s voices and denying them agency has always been, and continues to be, the mainstay of our society. An eye-opening, equal parts shocking and terrifying exposé of the rampant sexism in the film industry is the blog “Shit People Say to Women Directors and Other Women in Film” . The blog is a platform where women working in the film industry anonymously share accounts of discrimination and sexist humiliation they face in their workplace. The stories of gender-based discrimination often expand into racial and sexuality-based discrimination, going on to show how inextricably these systems of oppression are connected.  The posts often leave you deeply disgusted and deeply perturbed.  Here are some excerpts from the blog:

“The only girl among 8 production assistants on a primetime drama, one afternoon I received a text our Key PA clearly intended to send to one of the guy PA’s: “Yeah, her tits though. The only reason I hired her is because I wanna get with that.” Guessing that was about me.”

 

“I’m a highly qualified 1st AD, and I have stories out the ass of having to remind male crew members on set that I am in charge. The first story that comes to mind though was one of my recent gigs. I was shooting with A&E in Florida. At lunch, the director told me that he wasn’t going to give me the job until someone sent him my picture. He went on to say he didn’t care how I AD, as long as there’s something pretty to look at on set. He called me “something pretty.” He called me a “Something.””

 

““It sucks to be a woman in this industry. The only way for you to progress is to sleep your way up. I feel really bad for you.”—Assistant camera operator on set of an 200k budgeted indie film. It was my first day as a PA on set.”

 

““I only hired her to see if her bush is as red as her hair. I think it’s fake.”— Male boss pointing at me from a few feet away on set while talking to one of my male coworkers.”

 

“A rigger was telling a bunch of other technicians a story and when he saw me he said, “Oops! I shouldn’t swear when there is cunt in the room.” 

The other guys looked shocked but didn’t say anything.”

 

These are just a few stories, and there are countless more out there. What this blog, and Jesse and Kristen’s Funny or Die serve to enlighten us with is that our mainstream visual and cultural media has little regard for a woman’s individuality. As it is the female body and sexuality is portrayed on film and television—both Indian and Western—in extremely problematic ways (and that is a discussion for another time; which I hope to write about sometime soon); and what accentuates the skewed perception of women is how media reportage treats those women involved in the entertainment industry. By reducing an actress’ value to her physical attractiveness, by reducing a director’s value to her sexual choices, by not respecting the skill and effort with which they accomplish their work the media turns these women into glorified objects, as if they exist only to satisfy the male gaze. Why is it so hard to see women as human beings? We can be the class clowns too, you know. The eternal question thrown always at professionally successful women (be it in any field of work, not just entertainment) is—“how do you balance your work and personal life?”, “Can a woman really have it all? Can they be successful AND raise kids/take care of family?”. The very same questions are very much pertinent when it comes to successful men, and yet, why are they only celebrated for their work and not asked whether or not their success affects the raising of their kids? Isn’t parenthood supposed to be a shared responsibility? This is a perpetuation of the age old gender roles that have always been imposed on women. A “good woman” is one who takes care of the family and the kids. A “loose woman” is one who has multiple sexual partners, prefers her work over getting married or having children. And god forbid a woman manages to be both independent and successful AND raise her children/have a healthy family life. How can a woman have it all? No, no how is that even possible?

In India especially, very few actresses have been able to pursue active careers after having children because of this brutal stigma. Aishwarya Rai, after her delivery was mercilessly SKEWERED by the media because of the added weight she put on as a result of her pregnancy. It was Indian media at their sexist worst; every news headline made me wince painfully. In Hollywood, though not as brutal, but the stigma still exists. Actresses over the age of forty are relegated to the sidelines and not seen as complex individuals with their own sexual choices whilst actors over the age of forty are still celebrated in all masculine and sexualized glory (examples: George Clooney, Richard Gere, Michael Douglas and many many more). Men are hardly policed and judged in terms of their bodies, and even when they are, it is hardly as severe as in the case of women.

I again refer back to the Jesse and Kristen video, especially Jesse’s utter disbelief and shock upon hearing the terribly judgemental questions that are usually levelled at female artistes. “I feel like these questions are very personal and intrusive….?” He exclaims, rightfully flabbergasted. What is even more noteworthy is how calm and nonchalant Kristen is about these questions, like this is something so normal that it isn’t even worth a reaction anymore—and that is what’s most disturbing. When Jesse says “now I know what it’s like to be a woman” I want to yell at him No, you don’t. Because you will never have to answer these questions in an actual interview, but Kristen will have to, almost always. I don’t know how to end this piece, because, to be honest there isn’t an end to the amount of rants I have pent up in me regarding these woeful injustices. But for now, I hope you watch the Jesse and Kristen video and chew on it for a while.

 

Now I know what it's like to be a woman

August 18, 2015 Written By Rohini Banerjee

A couple of days back, I came across an interesting Funny or Die sketch, where actors Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg staged a mock interview swapping questions which they often get asked during Hollywood press junkets.While the questions Jesse recalls being usually asked are on the lines of “did you have to bulk up for this role?”, “can you do impressions?”, “what’s your favourite prank you played on set?”; Kristen’s questions are hardly so innocuous. Her questions range from “who is your favourite designer?”  to “are you pregnant, though? Is that why you’re keeping things hidden under your clothes?” to “is it embarrassing when your boobs spill out of a dress accidentally? Do you have a favourite boob?” to a detail interrogation of smallest, irrelevant details of her appearance, like whether or not her nails are perfectly manicured. These questions are disturbingly intrusive, judgemental, patronizing, belittling, insulting and just plain outrageous, and needless to say Jesse is utterly shellshocked upon being on their receiving end. “Isn’t that how these things usually go for you?” asks Kristen matter-of-factly. “No”, says Jesse, “I’m usually just asked whether I’m the class clown”. “That sounds so easy!” says Kristen, voicing my thoughts succinctly. “Now I know what it’s like to be a woman”, Jesse says as his concluding statement.

While the sketch ends on a light, jovial note, its loud, profound message keeps haunting me. Why are women reduced merely to their physical appearance by the media? Why are their bodies, their genitalia, their sexual activity the only concern of these interviewers? Why can’t the media instead focus solely on their work or their professional capabilities? These questions, however, are not limited to Hollywood. Bollywood is no different. Mainstream entertainment news channels often pass harsh judgement on the bodies, clothes and sexual choices of Indian actresses. The horrifyingly sexist lens with which they scrutinise and pick apart everything an actress does in her personal life is not only barely protested against, but is dismissed as ‘humour’ and ‘entertainment’. One of these popular bollywood news channels once belittled Kangana Ranaut’s demand for equal pay (a demand which has been central to the history of the feminist movement for centuries, and is sadly still relevant even though its 2015) by saying, “Look at her nerve, going around asking for more money just because she had two hits back to back! She has to get rid of these airs!”. When I heard this for the first time, I didn’t know whether to be outraged, or laugh at their ignorance. She was asking for equal pay—as much salary as her male co-stars are paid—which is only fair, because it’s her basic fundamental right. The inequality in the salaries of men and women engaging in the same amount of work is still harshly prevalent in not just the film industry, but almost every other profession. In light of this, Kangana Ranaut asking for a higher, more justified remuneration shouldn’t be something that is judged, demeaned and ridiculed. It is this attitude of the media which poisons society’s perception of women who express dissent, or any kind of opinion that deconstructs the patriarchal standards of behaviour imposed upon them. Silencing women’s voices and denying them agency has always been, and continues to be, the mainstay of our society. An eye-opening, equal parts shocking and terrifying exposé of the rampant sexism in the film industry is the blog “Shit People Say to Women Directors and Other Women in Film” . The blog is a platform where women working in the film industry anonymously share accounts of discrimination and sexist humiliation they face in their workplace. The stories of gender-based discrimination often expand into racial and sexuality-based discrimination, going on to show how inextricably these systems of oppression are connected.  The posts often leave you deeply disgusted and deeply perturbed.  Here are some excerpts from the blog:

“The only girl among 8 production assistants on a primetime drama, one afternoon I received a text our Key PA clearly intended to send to one of the guy PA’s: “Yeah, her tits though. The only reason I hired her is because I wanna get with that.” Guessing that was about me.”

 

“I’m a highly qualified 1st AD, and I have stories out the ass of having to remind male crew members on set that I am in charge. The first story that comes to mind though was one of my recent gigs. I was shooting with A&E in Florida. At lunch, the director told me that he wasn’t going to give me the job until someone sent him my picture. He went on to say he didn’t care how I AD, as long as there’s something pretty to look at on set. He called me “something pretty.” He called me a “Something.””

 

““It sucks to be a woman in this industry. The only way for you to progress is to sleep your way up. I feel really bad for you.”—Assistant camera operator on set of an 200k budgeted indie film. It was my first day as a PA on set.”

 

““I only hired her to see if her bush is as red as her hair. I think it’s fake.”— Male boss pointing at me from a few feet away on set while talking to one of my male coworkers.”

 

“A rigger was telling a bunch of other technicians a story and when he saw me he said, “Oops! I shouldn’t swear when there is cunt in the room.” 

The other guys looked shocked but didn’t say anything.”

 

These are just a few stories, and there are countless more out there. What this blog, and Jesse and Kristen’s Funny or Die serve to enlighten us with is that our mainstream visual and cultural media has little regard for a woman’s individuality. As it is the female body and sexuality is portrayed on film and television—both Indian and Western—in extremely problematic ways (and that is a discussion for another time; which I hope to write about sometime soon); and what accentuates the skewed perception of women is how media reportage treats those women involved in the entertainment industry. By reducing an actress’ value to her physical attractiveness, by reducing a director’s value to her sexual choices, by not respecting the skill and effort with which they accomplish their work the media turns these women into glorified objects, as if they exist only to satisfy the male gaze. Why is it so hard to see women as human beings? We can be the class clowns too, you know. The eternal question thrown always at professionally successful women (be it in any field of work, not just entertainment) is—“how do you balance your work and personal life?”, “Can a woman really have it all? Can they be successful AND raise kids/take care of family?”. The very same questions are very much pertinent when it comes to successful men, and yet, why are they only celebrated for their work and not asked whether or not their success affects the raising of their kids? Isn’t parenthood supposed to be a shared responsibility? This is a perpetuation of the age old gender roles that have always been imposed on women. A “good woman” is one who takes care of the family and the kids. A “loose woman” is one who has multiple sexual partners, prefers her work over getting married or having children. And god forbid a woman manages to be both independent and successful AND raise her children/have a healthy family life. How can a woman have it all? No, no how is that even possible?

In India especially, very few actresses have been able to pursue active careers after having children because of this brutal stigma. Aishwarya Rai, after her delivery was mercilessly SKEWERED by the media because of the added weight she put on as a result of her pregnancy. It was Indian media at their sexist worst; every news headline made me wince painfully. In Hollywood, though not as brutal, but the stigma still exists. Actresses over the age of forty are relegated to the sidelines and not seen as complex individuals with their own sexual choices whilst actors over the age of forty are still celebrated in all masculine and sexualized glory (examples: George Clooney, Richard Gere, Michael Douglas and many many more). Men are hardly policed and judged in terms of their bodies, and even when they are, it is hardly as severe as in the case of women.

I again refer back to the Jesse and Kristen video, especially Jesse’s utter disbelief and shock upon hearing the terribly judgemental questions that are usually levelled at female artistes. “I feel like these questions are very personal and intrusive….?” He exclaims, rightfully flabbergasted. What is even more noteworthy is how calm and nonchalant Kristen is about these questions, like this is something so normal that it isn’t even worth a reaction anymore—and that is what’s most disturbing. When Jesse says “now I know what it’s like to be a woman” I want to yell at him No, you don’t. Because you will never have to answer these questions in an actual interview, but Kristen will have to, almost always. I don’t know how to end this piece, because, to be honest there isn’t an end to the amount of rants I have pent up in me regarding these woeful injustices. But for now, I hope you watch the Jesse and Kristen video and chew on it for a while.

 

Articles You May Like