Helen Mirren Says Women Today Are Beneficiaries Of What The OG Feminists Fought For

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Dame Helen Mirren is certainly not one to mince words. The celebrated and award-winning actress has seen success throughout multiple decades of her life, making her somewhat of an anomaly. But she is not under any illusion about the obstacles women have faced over time in society. She has been quite gloriously unapologetic in claiming how f***ing outrageous it is that women in Hollywood face certain types of discrimination as they get older, as opposed to the way men are continually seen as distinguished and even sexy.

Having experienced sexism in her own career, she feels young women nowadays shouldn’t be afraid to speak out against it, and indeed even have the guts to tell men to “f*** off” instead of putting up with it. There was a time women and minorities were afraid to speak out about discrimination because it was thought that keeping a job and staying quiet was easier. Thankfully that is changing as we’ve seen in a major way among women in Hollywood over the past few years.

In a new interview with Makers Women, Helen takes viewers through the different types of sexism and societal gender constrictions she experienced growing up, and shared why she is passionate about changing this. The video starts with her talking about feminism, specifically, stating that all women are actually feminists today. Here’s why:

“They don’t realize it, because they’re living in a world feminism has, to a certain extent, created for them. Which is very exciting, because it’s entitled. That’s what I love about them. They’re entitled,” she said.

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While there is still a long way to go before we reach complete equality, even in the film industry, let alone the entire world, women today are beneficiaries of what the OG feminists fought for: the right to work outside the home whether married or single, the right to vote, the right to own property and open a bank account, and many more.

Helen describes that although the world around her hadn’t yet come around the idea of women as equals in society as she was growing up, she was lucky to have both parents be feminists who did think that.

“I do remember suddenly understanding how the world was stacked against me as a girl. I was just so horrified and shocked, coming from a family saying ‘no you can be anything, you can do anything’. And then boom! No you can’t, you be this, and you’re not allowed to be anything else,” she says, describing the juxtaposed message she received from society in comparison to her parents’ message.

She describes how reading the complete works of Shakespeare allowed her to fall in love with acting, and at the age of 18 she was accepted into the National Youth Theater. In a performance as Cleopatra, she stunned audiences and critics, landed herself an agent and landed a stop in London’s Royal Shakespeare Company.

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As her TV and film career burgeoned, she had to face a barrier of a different kind, which became obvious in an interview with famed English TV personality Michael Parkinson in 1975, where he described her as projecting “sluttish eroticism”, and she pushed back on his assertion.

“It was one of the very first interviews I ever did. I’m talking quite seriously about acting, but he had just decided to throw that mantle on me, I guess, and never actually listen to what I was actually saying. I think the ’60s and ’70s were not a good time for women. It should have been liberating, but actually it wasn’t. It squeezed women,” she told Makers.

When she landed a leading role in the the award-winning British drama ‘Prime Suspect’ in 1992, Helen says it was during a time when women playing those types of commanding lead characters were not common, and it was the start of a shift for her career.

“There was the wisdom that the audience wouldn’t watch if a woman was the lead character…At the time incredibly groundbreaking. You had not seen that woman on television before. You very rarely saw a single woman being the lead character in anything at all, let alone a police drama,” she recalls.

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Yep, even Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson) from ‘The X-Files’, another major ’90s show featuring a woman playing a law enforcement character was not without her Fox Mulder (David Duchovy).

She has certainly seen a number of evolutions within the film and TV world, but says there is a long way to go to see more diverse female characters, and the change happens faster when it also happens in the real world.

“I always used to say ‘put your energy into changing roles for women in life,’ because as night follows day, as women’s roles change in life, women’s roles will change on the screen. Your banging your head against a brick wall, and a little bit of cement falls away, and I feel that the wall is just about to fall,” she said.

Given that she was the first actress to play Queen Elizabeth II in a major film in 2006, we have no qualms saying “YAS QUEEN” to everything Dame Helen spoke about in this interview. But there was much more she discussed with Makers Women, including women in the military, the gender gap, and first reaching major success at age 40, a time when Hollywood has typically already written off many actresses and doomed them to play the wife, the secretary etc. See more from Makers by clicking here, and watching the interview below:

 

 

 

 

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