Gender Equality in the Spotlight: Hollywood’s Top 15 Quotes

Kerry Washington, Emma Watson Speaking Split - H 2015
AP Images

Kerry Washington, Emma Watson Speaking Split - H 2015

Kerry Washington, Emma Watson, Shonda Rhimes, Meryl Streep and more speak out in support of gender equality and women's rights.

Gender equality has been a topic at the forefront of many people's minds in Hollywood this year, and women like Patricia Arquette, Meryl Streep and Emma Watson have made it their mission to fight for equal rights for women.

The feminist fight started out strong in January, as actresses demanded reporters ask them substantial questions on the red carpet for awards shows with the #AskHerMore campaign. Patricia Arquette gave a rousing speech about equal pay during her Oscars acceptance speech and later incited a conversation about intersectionality in feminism.

Amy Schumer mixed feminism and comedy with sketches like "Last Fkable Day" and "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer," which focused on how Hollywood treats women. Meryl Streep asked Congress to revive the Equal Rights Amendment, and Charlize Theron negotiated her contract to get more money after the Sony hack revealed the gender pay gap in Hollywood.

Kerry Washington gave a passionate speech about the need for better representation in Hollywood, not only in regards to gender, but also race and sexual orientation. The ACLU called for a government investigation into discrimination in hiring practices, particularly when it comes to female directors in the film industry.

Here's a look at the top 15 quotes from powerful women who have spoken about gender equality this year.

15. Lena Dunham on people mistaking her Girls character for her real personality, but not doing the same with male actors and characters.

"It is a confusing thing when people equate the words that come out of your character's mouth with some real-life philosophy that you absolutely don't possess. At the end of the day, I don't think that Larry David or Woody Allen or anyone else playing some version of themselves is walking around with a million people who think that they know and understand them on a deep and abiding level."

14. Gina Rodriguez on the emphases on female beauty in the hiring process.

"I was up for a role and auditioned in character. They're like: 'We love her. But can she come back in with a tight black dress?' ... I said, 'That doesn't make any sense for the character.' They were like, 'We need to know if you're pretty enough to be on the cover of a magazine.'"

13. Reese Witherspoon on the #AskHerMore movement.

"This is a movement to say we're more than just our dresses. It's hard being a woman in Hollywood or in any industry."

12. Zoe Saldana on almost losing a role because she was pregnant.

"I was like, 'Oh, my God, are you kidding me? It's this bad?' Right when I just feel super-duper happy, is that inconvenient for you? That me, as a woman in my thirties, I finally am in love and I am finally starting my life? And it's (screwing) your schedule up? Really?" 

11. Amy Poehler on male Hollywood executives asking about the whereabouts of her children.

"I have these meetings with really powerful men and they ask me all the time, ‘Where are your kids? Are your kids here?’ It’s such a weird question. Never in a million years do I ask guys where their kids are. It would be comparable to me going to a guy, ‘Do you feel like you see your kids enough?’"

10. Kathryn Bigelow on the ACLU calling for an investigation into gender discrimination in Hollywood. 

“I have always firmly believed that every director should be judged solely by their work, and not by their work based on their gender. Hollywood is supposedly a community of forward-thinking and progressive people, yet this horrific situation for women directors persists. Gender discrimination stigmatizes our entire industry. Change is essential. Gender neutral hiring is essential.”

9. Tracee Ellis Ross on feeling humiliated during an audition.

"I tested once for a network show to play a lawyer. A Harvard-educated motherf—in' lawyer, OK? I wore a skirt suit and heels. Seemed appropriate. Then there were many discussions about my hair. They'd printed up all these pictures of me from 15 f—in' years ago and had me in and out of the bathroom trying on clothes. They finally pick a skirt — the shortest I brought. Then got a T-shirt from one of the people in the office. The woman says, 'Hmmm, your boobs.' I was like, 'I didn't bring a bra for this T-shirt.' She screams down the hall, 'Who wears a 34B?' I put on someone else's bra, a size too small, and somehow auditioned. I remember wondering, 'What did I just allow myself to do?' The other actress [who auditioned] was dressed like she was going to a club and got the role. It was one of those moments where you're so confused and humiliated. But that's part of the biz."

8. Sandra Bullock on how women are portrayed in the media.

"I feel like it's become open hunting season in how women are attacked, and it's not because of who we are as people, it's because of how we look or our age. [...] You'd be surprised at the love that you have in our crazy industry. The women have bonded together and have sort of become this tribe of trying to take care of each other and be there for each other, in a way, because the minute you step out, it's an onslaught."

7. Charlize Theron on negotiating equal pay for her role in the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel. 

"We just need to put our foot down. This is a good time for us to bring this to a place of fairness, and girls need to know that being a feminist is a good thing. It doesn’t mean that you hate men. It means equal rights. If you’re doing the same job, you should be compensated and treated in the same way."

6. Meryl Streep on the challenges girls face today, in a discussion with Michelle Obama

"We’re viewed as equals — but we’re still not there yet. [...] The challenge for our girls, I think, is dealing with that resistance. How can we lift and defuse it, how do we make it so our equality is not so threatening? Our girls are going to have to contend with that. I contend with it right now in every realm I operate in." 

5. Shonda Rhimes on how far television has come and how far she hopes it will go, thanks to a "group effort" of women attacking the glass ceiling.

“This moment right here, me standing up here all brown with my boobs and my Thursday night of network television full of women of color, competitive women, strong women, women who own their bodies and whose lives revolve around their work instead of their men, women who are big dogs, that could only be happening right now. [...] Thank you to all the women in this room. Thank you to all the women who never made it to this room. And thank you to all the women who will hopefully fill a room 100 times this size when we are all gone. You are all an inspiration.”

4. Patricia Arquette's Oscars speech called for equal rights for women.

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

3. Amy Schumer on how she gets people to listen to her feminism without realizing it.

"I think people hate women. I don't think they want to hear a woman talk for too long. A lot of people project their mom yelling at them. My [career] has been about tricking people into listening."

2. Kerry Washington embraced the concept of intersectionality in equality for all minorities and how inclusive representation is needed in Hollywood.

"Women, poor people, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, intersex people — we have been pitted against each other and made to feel like there are limited seats at the table for those of us who fall into the category of ‘other.’ As a result, we have become afraid of one another. [...] As others we are taught that to be successful we must reject those others or we will never belong. [...] Having your story told as a woman, as a person of color, as a lesbian, or as a trans person or as any member of any disenfranchised community is sadly often still a radical idea. There is so much power in storytelling, and there is enormous power in inclusive storytelling, in inclusive representations."

1. Emma Watson on the need for men and women to both support feminism.

 “Men think it’s a women’s word. But what it means is that you believe in equality, and if you stand for equality, then you’re a feminist. Sorry to tell you. You’re a feminist. You’re a feminist. That’s it. [...] We're never, ever, ever going to be able to fly as high unless we're both in support of each other."