This past weekend at the Nantucket Film Festival, EPIX presented a panel called Women Behind The Words that offered “stories from Hollywood’s frontlines.” Mystelle Brabbée, the executive director of the festival, introduced the panel by saying, “It’s a timely conversation.” Indeed it is: a gender quake in Hollywood is at long last starting to erupt. Actresses Jacqueline Bisset and Lili Taylor, writer and director Leslye Headland, Variety’s TV editor Cynthia Littleton, USC Professor Stacy L. Smith and A&E Networks President and CEO Nancy Dubuc participated in the panel, which was moderated by NPR host Ophira Eisenberg.
When the panelists were asked about receiving backhanded compliments, Dubuc shared her frustrations about being described as “tough,” “demanding” and “difficult” instead of “powerful” and “strong.” Rather than concerning herself with these sexist descriptors, Dubuc said the mentality she’s embraced is, “I’m the boss. Deal with it.” She also revealed that as a PA she asked for a promotion and was told, “Why would I do that? You’re just going to have kids and leave, anyway.” Cue audible gasps from the audience.
Another highlight was Headland telling a hilarious story about the process of making her upcoming romantic comedy “Sleeping With Other People.” A “white male” financier tried to tell her about what women want — and in bed, no less. He objected to a storyboard she presented of a sex scene by saying, “Women don’t like that kind of sex.”
The panel was chock-full of inspiring and infuriating anecdotes. Smith brought hard data to the table in the form of her academic research. What is notably absent from the discussion, though, were the perspectives of women of color, as all of the panelists were white. We are so on board with events like this one, but when we tell stories from Hollywood’s frontlines, it’s essential to be inclusive.
Watch the panel in full below.