In her new movie, Molly's Game, out next week, Jessica Chastain plays a former skier who runs high-stakes poker games, a woman making her way in a very male-dominated crime world. The sexism there is a little more extreme than what actresses experience in Hollywood, but Chastain has been outspoken about the progress her industry still needs to make in treating women as equals. Particularly when it comes to the sexual harassment uncovered in the #MeToo movement, the actress says it's about time for more men to step up and do better.
When Time magazine asked Chastain whether she felt like every revelation that's come since the Harvey Weinstein exposé has made men in Hollywood ask what they're doing wrong, she didn't sugarcoat her answer.
"Some. But a lot are quiet," she said. "That’s what’s so devastating. I know they are probably afraid because they don’t know what to say. And sometimes the problem is so close to your face, you just become blind to it. But now we all need to acknowledge and blow up this cycle of abuse."
"I'm sick of the media demanding only women speak up," she wrote. "What about the men? Perhaps many are afraid to look at their own behavior....."
This is something that we need to repeat again and again until it sinks in. Instead of messages about women being strong and independent and saying "#MeToo" in the face of abuse and sexual harassment, we need more men to hold each other accountable for their actions.
The actress said in October that she was initially afraid to speak out against predators like Weinstein, but then she decided her career was worth sacrificing, if necessary. It's too bad more men don't feel the same way.
Chastain has also been a champion for ending another aspect of sexism in movies: the dearth of female storytellers. At the Cannes Film Festival this year, she told reporters that what she learned from sitting on the jury and watching so many movies in a row was that the lack of movies made by women leads to unrealistic depictions of women on screen.
"When we include more female storytellers, we will have more of the women I recognise in my day-to-day life — ones that are proactive, have their own agencies, don’t just react to the men around them,” she said in a press conference.
While white male Aaron Sorkin is the writer and director behind Molly's Game, Chastain said she feels he took a step in the right direction by choosing to tell this true story. She also approves of the way he wrote Molly Bloom's rape.
"I have a problem with filmmakers who use violence against women, and especially rape, to make a woman stronger," she told Time. "And the way the scene was shot, it was not a phoenix-rising moment. She didn’t come out of it a different person or stronger because of it."
Still, as with sexual harassment, Chastain doesn't feel we're there yet.
"We have grown up watching women be used as props on a man’s journey," she said. "It’s not our fault that that’s what we saw as children. But we need to acknowledge that and do better."
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.
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