Martha Plimpton: Why Hollywood Activism Matters (Guest Column)

Martha Plimpton

"I got a bangin' new shower cap at the HBO party. Swag, mofos!"

In a piece penned for THR, the Emmy winner -- called everything from "slut" to "idiot" for speaking out -- defends her right to do so: "Being an actress is a huge part of me. But it is not all of me."

I sometimes regret that I am not in the habit of saving some of the tweets I get in response to my activism in regard to women’s right to physical autonomy. Truth be told, it’s only because of an opportunity like this, to talk about why I choose to be active in defending my rights in writing, that I miss having them on hand. In everyday life, they’re the last thing I want to hang on to. So I am a prodigious blocker on Twitter, by necessity.

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Most, no, all of the more insulting, misogynist tweets I get are naturally from people who disagree with me. People who are vehemently, I guess, “Conservative” – although I think the term has become somewhat elastic – and who make their disagreement known in very, well, colorful terms. I’ve been called every name in the book. “Slut” is a good standby. “Idiot,” somewhat more stinging, though considering the sources, not too. But “Why don’t you shut up and act, has been?” is an interesting one. It pops out. Not only because it’s humorously confused (If I’m a “has been,” how can I continue to “act,” thereby having a reason to “shut up?”) but also because, ironically, nine times out of 10 the person saying this to me has only been made aware of my tweet by another, perhaps more improbably right wing, celebrity.

The short answer to this clearly rhetorical question, “Why don’t you shut up?” -– which generally goes unanswered – is that I am a citizen of the United States. Therefore, I have not only a right, but a responsibility to be engaged in discussions of policy and matters that effect my life and the lives of others. I am fortunate to be currently employed. This definitely affords a certain visibility I might not otherwise have. And that can be a double-edged sword. Sure, being a publicly known person, some expectation of ridicule or insult is required. That’s how we do things here. But that is not such a bad thing. It forces me to be more considered in my thinking. And I can do more, and more quickly, than some others not so easily recognized.

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Yet really, it changes nothing. I have no more or less reason, or desire, to speak my piece because of it. That is merely, entirely, my right and privilege as an American. Being an actress is a huge part of me. But it is not all of me. Artists of all kinds have always done what they could to change the world, one story at a time. And as a human being, too, I am part of the story.

Martha Plimpton is an Emmy-winning actress and co-founder of A is For.