1993 Was Oscar's "Year of the Woman," Has Anything Changed in 25 Years?

7:30 AM 3/2/2018

by Rebecca Ford and Mia Galuppo

Thirteen female Academy Award winners reveal the progress that has and hasn't been made: "Staying quiet has gained us nothing."

67 Female Oscar Winners Group Photo - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Theo Westenberger/©A.M.P.A.S.

After a record four women became U.S. senators, 1992 was deemed the “Year of the Woman” by the media. The subsequent March, the 65th Academy Awards followed suit, theming the show “Oscar Celebrates Women and the Movies” and opening with a photo of 67 female winners. Despite the hype, it took another 17 years before a woman, Kathryn Bigelow, won a best director trophy.

A quarter-century later, as #MeToo and Time’s Up address inequities and sexual harassment in the workplace, THR asks many of the women what has changed since the photo was taken.

  • Faye Dunaway

    “What’s happening now with Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie — they’re all taking their power back by becoming producers and directors. It was always, even then, in our minds. I developed something [as a producer] at the time, but the odds are against you — it was very, very difficult. Forget about going to any of the studios. You had to go through independent studios. This Time’s Up movement is enormously helpful and right. The industry is going to shift. It’s an amazing time right now.”


  • Whoopi Goldberg

    “Just the mere fact that women are taking the lead on this seems to be a very different kind of thing. Women being able to hear other women saying, 'Well, but why did you do it that way?' And having other women say, 'Because I didn't have anybody to talk to. Nobody was there to connect to.' I've always felt that our biggest issue as women is that we're very good in terms of putting each other down, and not supporting. And the change from that picture is there are many women of color who have won Oscars. Now, from Halle [Berry] or Viola [Davis] to Octavia [Spencer] and Mo’Nique, it’s a nice list of women. Still, it’s going to take a while to make the corrections that need to be made. But places like Amazon and Netflix, they’re making those movies. It just took a little while. Hollywood will never be like that again, that’s the greatest thing of all."

  • Geena Davis

    “When Thelma & Louise came out, there were opinions voiced about whether it was a positive step for our culture. ‘The world is ruined — now women have guns,’ that type of thing. But the media coverage was united on one thing: ‘This changes everything! Now we are sure to see many more films starring women, about women.’ I was thrilled, and waited with everyone else for that to happen. And waited. And waited. Twenty-five years later, I am not about to be fooled by the media proclaiming now things have changed, when they did not over the past quarter-century. However, it is with great confidence and joy that I unequivocally believe that yes, now things will change. Women in the industry have not only found our voice, we are being listened to.”

  • Ellen Burstyn

    “When Harvey Weinstein was brought down, I knew that the age of the patriarchy was beginning to crumble at last in Hollywood. And hopefully it will soon in the rest of the world. Someday, I hope we have as many women studio heads as men. I hope we have an equal number of writers and directors that are women. And I hope that sexual harassment of women in the workplace has been completely eliminated.” 

  • Marlee Matlin

    “I recall quite well when a producer bullied me into a scene where I had to be filmed in a tub, basically telling me that ‘all actresses have to do it’ when it came to nudity. He pulled a power trip, I felt as if I had no choice. I was humiliated and have never forgotten how I was treated. I wish I’d known back when this photo was taken that as women, we probably would’ve learned a great deal from each other had we taken a moment to ask, ‘Has this happened to you?’ But back then, we just didn’t speak about it.”

  • Eva Marie Saint

    “Women are on a roll. Women are so much stronger and willing to point fingers and are not going to take it anymore. The current conversation about behavior is healthy, so hopefully everyone from now on will be careful. I think the men who go that way have to be more careful, but it’s not working with our president right now. I sound like Pollyanna, but I think it will evolve to be more natural where people won’t be conscious about their behavior, it just will be.”

  • Estelle Parsons

    “When I started out, it was way before feminism. There were only a few women like me doing their own thing in life. So I predate practically everything. When women began to rise up, a lot of men began to give lip service to it. I think perhaps the end of lip service by men, or maybe the reveal of that lip service by men, is over. Now having this come on the table so strongly, a spade is really a spade. In the long run, it will be a wonderful thing because people will be more honest with each other. And the man who refuses to recognize women is going to stand out and be ostracized, which has not been true until now.”

  • Lynne Littman

    “My career began to happen at the height of the women’s movement. We had a tremendous amount of a new kind of courage and were bolstered by that. I think women in particular make their own opportunities. I think there’s been a tremendous opening-up in the past five years. Many more women are directing, and now there’s a real sense that we’re owed something. How long that will last I don’t know. But the rage and the sense of revenge or justice has blotted out most intelligent discourse. It feels like somewhat of a victory, but a dangerous one. I can look around and say I’ve done my fighting. But you know what? It doesn't end.”

  • Callie Khouri

    “Back then, there was always an unspoken understanding that women were not valued in the marketplace to the same degree as men, and that’s across the board, on every level, creative or executive. Except in rare cases, women don’t make the same kind of money, they don’t get the same opportunities to succeed or fail, and their successes always seem to be qualified. I think there has always been a very literal devaluation of females, but it’s certainly not limited to our business. I do think that, finally, women have realized that there’s no way to win this game by staying quiet about how they are treated, how much they are paid and how often they are or are not hired. Staying quiet has gained us nothing.”

  • Marilyn Bergman

    “When [Bergman’s husband and songwriting partner] Alan and I would have a meeting with a producer or director, they shook hands with Alan and although my hand was extended, they would kiss me on the cheek. Then, throughout the meeting, they — always men — would only look at Alan and hardly acknowledge that I was even there. Today, though the kissing may continue, women are on a much more equal footing.”

  • Ve Neill

    “You know what I would like to see? More women DPs. I’ve only ever worked with one woman director of photography, and every time I see a woman in the camera department, the boys have her schlepping cases. I think that’s a crying shame. That’s definitely still a boys’ club.”

  • Allie Light

    "In retrospect of the night this photo was taken, I’ve come to think that this event expressed much about women’s relationships with one another. There seemed to be a surface commonality but little co-mingling. From what I remember, there were not introductions or greetings between or among us. There was a feeling of isolation. It may have been only in me, but I don’t think so. I was in awe of women actors there whom I had seen on the screen all my life. I imagine others felt the same. Here was Margaret O’Brien I had idolized as a child, and while I was growing up in San Francisco, she was growing up on Hollywood screens. Now that we were in the same room, why didn’t I speak to her? People did not reach out. It was like we were boxed in. Was it a form of political correctness or was it fear of rejection? I don’t know. It would have been a different scene in that room today. Now when women meet, we talk, we introduce ourselves, we network, and if we respect someone’s work, we let her know. I get support from other women. And I give it. I think the sexual harassment scandals occurring now have helped women to band together and to support one another. The ability for some women to speak of past assault is due to the support of other women. We have a powerful statement to make — it’s like a scene in a movie of a crowd of women, all of us shouting our one line of dialogue: 'Me too!'"

  • Lili Fini Zanuck

    “I’ve noticed that this whole issue is really divided by generation. Millennials feel that this is going to effect a huge change. Older women, like myself, feel differently. Part of it is because feminism as it is today started in my youth. It was all about ‘Hear me roar.’ For the millennials, they aren’t looking at it the way the older generation is — which is: You need to know how to take care of yourself. On my crews, where I try to hire a lot of women, if a woman came to me, I would say, ‘I’ll take care of it this time, but you are going to have to learn to handle this because I’m not on every picture with you.’ I’m glad all these people were outed and I do think there will be a code of conduct now, but I’m not as optimistic that it’s a new day in the way that a lot of young people are.” 

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.