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Rose McGowan’s Seven Bold Tips for Fighting Sexism in the Film Industry

Rose McGowan's Seven Bold Tips for Fighting Sexism in the Film Industry

The following speech was originally delivered on April 21 to the Sisterhood of Traveling Producers, a small, invite-only group of young female executives and producers founded three years ago by Stacy Keppler.

To the wonderful women in this business of film: Your welcoming kindness last night meant a lot to me. As an actress, I’ve been treated as property or as a competitor. There is very little camaraderie on my side of the business. Your warmth was a new experience for me. How wonderful that you women have each other, and how wonderful that we got to meet. 

I’ve been thinking about what I said last night. I feel inspired to expand on last night’s topic, that of Being Progressive. 

Historically, artists have had patrons to finance and shepherd their work. To me, that is what anyone working on your side of the business is: a patron of the arts. We artists need you to be our protectors and our warriors. Not that we need coddling — quite the opposite — but we need fighters. Washington, D.C., accuses us of having an agenda. Damn right we do. We have a responsibility to push for our world to be better. We all know the power of media. Let’s use it to our benefit. As I said last night, we count as audience members, too. 


Here are a few actions you can take to improve and change the role of women in film and the role of film in society.

–Just because a writer or director “succeeded” at something before doesn’t mean they should do it again.

–If you know certain directors (men) behave reprehensibly, fight against their hire and offer up alternatives. BE BOLD. If someone is a known dickhead, stop their hire. If they are misogynists, stop their hire. These are not the people we need to reward. Stand up and stop perpetuating the cycle. We are responsible. Stop protecting evil. We didn’t join the Mafia when we joined this business. We owe no one our vow of silence.  

–Suggest traditional men’s roles be turned into ones for women. It will instantly make your work more layered. Anyone from the lead to the sidekick to a character with one line — turn them into women. It is imperative that we start seeing women on film in other roles than The Wife or The Sexpot. How boring. Let’s reflect on film what society ACTUALLY looks like: 50% female. Women are in all kinds of jobs and have complex lives, so put that on the screen. I’m curious about the plumber who says two words on film if she’s a woman. What’s her story? How’d she get there? People love relating to othe rpeople onscreen. So why aren’t we women allowed to relate to our own lives? Where is our representation? Let’s take action to change these tropes. It is time. 

–Put female writers and directors on the TOP of your lists. Do it every time. If asked why, say why not, smile and walk away. Give them something to think about. It’s about time to see women in films as equals. This is a simple way to start. Remember: Just because it’s been done a certain way doesn’t mean it should still be done that way. The sad fact is, Hollywood is out of date. Let’s bring our town into the modern world. Dwindling ticket sales are a reflection of how largely passé Hollywood films are. Let’s be better, let’s do better.

–Stop rewarding males that do half-ass jobs. Hire women instead of men. Be bold when you hire. Go with your gut. Go with someone interesting and not someone “safe.” 

–If someone yells at you or puts you down, stop them in their tracks. Retrain them. If someone says your name wrong, you correct them, so why don’t we do it when mistreated? Correct bad behavior as it happens. If Scott Rudin throws a phone at your head, throw one back and throw it harder. No one gets to abuse you. If someone is a misogynist, an abuser of talent and crew, or worse, DO NOT LET THEM GET HIRED.

–Finally, please stop viewing film and TV as product. It is not product. You and I are making documented history. We are creating a time capsule. Choose what you put in it wisely. 

We can be the change we want to see. Let’s go, let’s have an agenda, and let’s do this. 

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Doll Alexander

Kudos!!! Kudos!!! Kudos!!! We need people to tell the truth. We need to be outraged enough to e-mail..write letters…make phone calls…and contact sponsors who buy airtime. Quote these people. Give the outrage a name! Name their products that you use…tell what you will buy instead. Tell the network, film company that you won’t be supporting them and you will post this on social media. Remember that 1 complaint represents 50 people. Support Rose and others who stand up for us all.


Ms McGowan’s points are spot on. But, like male hollywood producers/directors, she makes no mention of cultural diversity. There’s a lot of reasons why the movie industry is becoming passe, and I’d like to add one more possible issue to the mix: Maybe your audience is tired of seeing programs that only deal with white actors, and we’re just waiting for someone to have the courage to add some color to the mix. And not just "comedy". How about casting a person of color in a feature length film who isn’t a hooker, a thief, stupid, unstable, violent, submissive, and all the other standard criteria that makes it hard for actors of color to gain any real traction in the industry. Hollywood (and that includes most female directors) would rather spend their energies on the next explosion/gore-fest/"I’m so confused/romantic comedy tripe, and seem (in my humble opinion) to lack the courage to try anything that steps out of the "white" comfort zone. I’m all for equal pay, but if you’re going to fight for that, why not be more inclusive and artistically daring in the process??


Is there a list somewhere, or can someone start an anonymous list of Director’s to boycott? Just like the Seven day Adventists had a list ever since the 80s of food/companies that pump GMOs? You kinda can tell by analyzing some people’s work but is there a list somewhere? Why find out in a tell all memoir that will be written 30 or 40 years from now when we can start that process now.


I loved what Rose had to say but disappointed that she delivered it to an "invite only" group. It’s almost contradictive, we women should support each other in this very difficult industry…yet this Sisterhood of Traveling Producers group excludes women they don’t seem fit. Oh the hypocrisy. Thank you for adding to the exclusivity of the industry STP.

Victoria Alexander

As son as actresses reach 40 the cries about no good roles for women over 40 start. Well, why not take another approach? Did Julia Roberts at the height of her career demand a 50 year old actress be hired to play her best friend? What is Angelina Jolie doing to cast older actresses? She’s a director now and has the power to do it. Someday Anne Hathaway is going to be complaining there are no roles for her as she reaches 50. So why not help out older actresses now?
Truth is, not that many over 50 in real life have exciting lives and do dangerous things. Liam Neeson can play an old killer, but no one is going to cast Sharon Stone as an aging thief on the run. Another reason is actresses who already have had 20 year careers refuse to play their true age.
Madonna could have a movie career if she accepted that everyone knows she’s over 50.
So Rose, call out your fellow actresses. Did you ever campaign for an older actress to get a part in one of your (past relationships) boyfriend’s films?



Female characters are generally seen as disposable in stories. They’re the glamorous corpses in murder mysteries. They’re the girlfriends and wives and brief flings who get killed off before the man finds his way in life and overcomes his weaknesses so he can be more protective of people in future. They’re the sideline characters you think are charming and attractive who get killed off in graphic ways for shock value. Every television programme and film maker wants pretty female corpses. Sir David Hare and Helen Mirren have spoken out against this.

We need more women making films and dramas and more respect for the roles of women within storylines so their characters are treated with respect and allowed to contribute to the stories in valuable, imaginative ways that represent what women are capable of in our real society.


Fabulous and bravo to Rose M. If these were followed, there would be a lot less sexism and a better representation of women in the arts and media.


She’s always been a huge inspiration. – And this are words everyone involved in the film industry should live by. Thank you Rose!

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