Emma Watson Interviews Tom Hanks About Feminism For UK Esquire Mag’s ‘Women & Men’ Issue

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It was the latest stop on her “year off from acting to concentrate on becoming a better feminist” tour. Of course, we’re talking about British actress Emma Watson who recently made the announcement that she would not take on any new film projects in order to focus on her feminist work, especially in regard to her ambassadorship for the UN Women He For She program.

So far she has interviewed Malala Yousafzai, traveled around the world advocating for He For She, and sat down with feminist author and activist Bell Hooks to talk about how her book was one of the first she read as a new feminist. She has been continuing the conversation, this time with an unlikely suspect – award-winning actor Tom Hanks.

In fact both of them appear on the cover of UK Esquire Magazine’s ‘Women & Men’ issue, and we finally get to see a side of the well-loved Hollywood icon that he most likely hasn’t shared with the world before. The interview was fairly short, but insightful. The first question Emma asks him is “are you a feminist?” to which he answers “yes I am”.

The reason he calls himself a feminist is easily one of the best answers we have heard from a man.

“We have thousands of years of human history under our belts. If we are not continuously moving towards equal rights, equal opportunities and equal freedoms for every member of the human race — not just that half that is male — then we have squandered all we have learned,” he said.

This is what it looks like for a man to express the importance of feminism, and not feel a threat to his masculinity. Equality benefits everyone, not just one group over another (that’s patriarchy!).

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Emma gets personal and asks how the women in his life have had an effect on his view of equality, and whether being a feminist has impacted his marriage as well as his relationship with his daughter.

“My mother got out of unhappy unions and marriages on her own. She went to college as she worked and raised more kids than just her own. My wife and my daughter have yet to allow themselves to be defined only by the man in their lives. The women I have worked with and those I seek inspiration from have had different perspectives on all there is to have an opinion on in this world, and I have always learned from listening to them,” he said, adding he would support the women in his life in the exact same way as he would the men.

The conversation moves on to Hollywood and the films Tom has specifically worked on. Emma mentions that he has worked with at least one female director, Penny Marshall (on ‘A League Of Their Own’) and also pointed out his co-star Geena Davis has developed an institute to examine the ways in which the entertainment industry is bias against women.

“Hollywood is far from equal, on screen and off. Of the top films in 2013, women accounted for only 30 per cent of all speaking characters. Female characters are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire in G-rated [family] films. Or look at the Oscars. The LA Times reports that Academy voters are 76 per cent male, 93 per cent white, with an average age of 63. Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to win the Oscar for Best Director. No woman of colour has ever been nominated. Why does this matter?” she asks him.

He says cinema becomes less of an art when women are reduced to only playing “hot” or “nurturing” roles, and that it has to do a better job of reflecting the real world back to audiences.

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“The great films make us all recognize ourselves up there on the screen, even when the characters are women from a different time and maybe speak a different language. When rules of gender and character dictate what stories are told and by whom, when women are required to be only hot or only nurturing, they no longer are full dimensional humans. That’s not art, and it brings less enlightenment to the world,” he said.

He readily admits Hollywood has a huge problem, but there is one medium that seems to be doing a little better.

“Television is a different matter. There are more women in starring roles, writing and running shows, and even in executive suites. The movies will catch up…” he concluded.

In a separate interview with Esquire, Emma spoke of how his own career is testament to a man who wants to push the boundaries, but it is painfully juxtaposed with the knowledge that if it was coming from a woman (and indeed there ARE already many women whose film careers would be considered on par with Tom Hanks) it just doesn’t carry the same gravitas in Hollywood.

“If you look at his career, a lot of his biggest movies — Big, A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle — have been with female directors. And also there’s something about the way he talks about issues, whether it be gay rights, Aids, environmental issues, children or the work he does with veterans, he speaks with such a humble grace and a credible voice,” she said.

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To which Esquire responds: “But isn’t it the truth that it would be impossible for any woman to have the same longevity and success as Tom Hanks in the film industry? He’s been in huge movies consistently since ‘Splash’ in 1984.”

It does give her pause for a moment, because the truth is, women are still facing many barriers in the film industry, whether they be actresses, directors, writers or producers. In fact, Emma says how it was the Sony leaks of 2014 which was the real tipping point in the increased amount of conversations about wage equality. With private emails and salary details exposed to the public, studios could not deny that Jennifer Lawrence was being paid less than her 3 male co-stars on ‘American Hustle’, for instance.

In terms of equality behind the camera, many women are pushing for more representation as directors. The conversation around how women get so few opportunities compared to men has now culminated in a major investigation by the ACLU into the major studios’ hiring practices.

“As far as female directors are concerned, the numbers are so ridiculous. Seven per cent of directors [on the 250 top-grossing films] were women in 2014, and less than 1.3 [per cent] minority women, and only 11% were written by women, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film,” Emma explained.

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But the conversations about inequality are not just limited to Hollywood, Emma says.

“Hollywood is just a small piece of a gigantic puzzle but it’s in the spotlight. Whether you are a woman on a tea plantation in Kenya, or a stockbroker on Wall Street, or a Hollywood actress, no one is being paid equally.”

This is a sentiment actress Patricia Arquette has stated in her fight for pay equality, that her speaking up during an Academy Award acceptance speech on behalf of actresses in Hollywood isn’t just for them to benefit, it is for women everywhere to be able to rise up and demand equal pay.

It’s clear that we need more men speaking up about the issue of gender equality, as Tom Hanks did in this interview. He is not the first, nor will he be the last. There is no such thing as gender equality without the participation or passion of men alongside women. To hear why Emma Watson believes men can benefit from feminism, and how it helped her get rid of body image insecurities, be sure to read the rest of the Esquire feature by clicking here.

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One Comment

  1. Pingback: Emma Watson Interviewing Geena Davis About Gender Equality In Hollywood Is Everything! - GirlTalkHQ

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