Television screenwriter Linda Bloodworth-Thomason has been in show business for a long time, most notably creating the celebrated sitcom Designing Women. With the ongoing sexism and harassment in Hollywood finally coming to light, her experience is invaluable. She penned an essay for the Hollywood Reporter that brings these issues painfully to light, and makes the way the industry fails women crystal-clear.
Bloodworth-Thomason writes: "Harvey Weinstein may have been at the top of the sexual predator food chain, but these kinds of atrocities against women routinely go unreported and unpunished in the entertainment industry. The No. 1 casting criterion in Hollywood is that, above all else, an actress must be "hot and fuckable." The late blockbuster movie producer Don Simpson had his own way of measuring hotness when he bragged about which actresses' butts he was able to bounce a dime off of."
"Hot and fuckable." This is something we know innately, but hearing it from a women screenwriter, right now, at this time, during this moment, makes it feel more potent than before. Actresses in film don't just tell stories, they influence culture and put a fine point on our biggest priorities. They exemplify rigid beauty standards set by a small, insular group. They imply we must look like them, even if the characters they play are not.
This brings Bloodworth-Thomason to another point. She notes that actresses often, at some point in their career, will play a sex worker. Specifically, a full-service sex worker. "If you are among the lucky 15 percent of actresses who do periodically find employment, chances are you'll be stepping into the world's oldest profession. In 89 years of Academy Awards, 25 women have been nominated for playing a [sex worker]," she writes. Sex workers are tantalizing to Hollywood because they represent the exact opposite of the glamorous, beautifully poised ideal we have — sex workers are seen as dirty. It's just one more way that women are devalued for their work. And women are seen as lacking in value, they become at risk for harassment.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).