Horrifying stories of Hollywood sexism that will make you want to scream


By Mahalia Chang
Emmy Rossum.

It’s no secret that, even in 2017, Hollywood is still a terrible and volatile place to be a woman. From experiences of on-set sexual assault, to character assassination in the press, to over-scrutinising of physical appearances and pay gaps — women are unfairly treated even in the most public industry in the world. And don’t even get us started on the ageism, ableism, homophobia and Islamophobia that affects celebrity women.

But, that being said, it is — like most industries in the world — evolving slowly but surely. Pay gaps are being closed, a more diverse variety of women are being welcomed into spaces and frank discussions of personal experiences are being encouraged.

This open environment means that more and more women are coming forward to talk about working, living and growing in a male-dominated world—even if those stories are sometimes horrifying and saddening.

Here we celebrate women coming forward with their enraging and eye-opening stories of sexism in the industry.

Emmy Rossum

On a humiliating audition: “My agent called me and was like, ‘I’m so embarrassed to make this call, but there’s a big movie and they’re going to offer it to you. They really love your work on the show. But the director wants you to come into his office in a bikini. There’s no audition. That’s all you have to do,’” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

“He wanted to know if I was fat now,” she said. “That was basically the question… not in a bikini in the movie, not naked in the movie. ‘We really love your work, but we just want to see how tight your ass is.’ Are you f-cking kidding me? Last time I checked, I’m not a f-cking model.”

Kaya Scodelario

On being cast as a love interest for men twice her age: “It’s like there’s this expiry date for us and it’s such bullsh-t, because my mind isn’t going to change. If anything, I will grow and I will learn and I will be better.”

“But, yeah, nine out of 10 times, if I read a script, it will be me being with a guy that is twice my age, which is really f-cking weird,” she told The Guardian.

Alison Brie

On being asked to audition topless: "Early in my career, I auditioned for three lines on an episode of Entourage that I had to go on in a bikini! Or like shorts and the tiniest shorts. And they were like, ‘Okay, can you take your top off now?'"

Elizabeth Banks

On being told to ‘get a boob job’: “The first agent I ever met in this industry told me to get a boob job. I was so grateful that I didn’t have enough money at the time to follow his advice. I also did not sign with him despite that.”

Goldie Hawn

On the casting couch: “I was 19. I went up for the ‘meet,’ and it was so scary. [Al Capp] took off his business clothes and came in in, like, a dressing gown. I got the picture, and I thought, ‘I’m in trouble. Where’s the door?’”

“I went, ‘Wait a minute. He knows what he’s talking about.’ I said, ‘Okay, so I’ll do it, like, more quiet, more real.’ Then he wanted me to show my legs, and I said, ‘You know, Mr. Capp, I don’t know. I don’t think so,’ and then I sat down and he wanted me to give him a kiss, and I went, ‘I don’t do this. I’m sorry.’”

“I was crying and I didn’t have any money to go back to the [1964 New York] World’s Fair, where I was dancing, and so he threw me $20 for a taxicab. It wasn’t a good day,” she told People.

Debra Messing

On being told to ‘get a nose job’: “I’d never been on a film before. I was doing a love scene with Keanu Reeves. We started filming and the very famous director screamed ‘Cut’ and said, ‘How quickly can we get a plastic surgeon in here? Her nose is ruining my movie.'”

“It was a shock. I was so confident coming out of graduate school with my masters in acting. I’d studied in London and I was so well-equipped with skill sets, and then to walk on set and have that happen—I was reduced to an un-Hollywood nose.”

Kate Beckinsale

On being ‘pretty, but not too pretty’: “I don’t think I fitted the type of actress Michael Bay the director had met before. I think he was baffled by me because my boobs weren’t bigger than my head, and I wasn’t blonde.”

“When we were promoting [Pearl Harbor], Michael was asked why he had chosen Ben [Affleck] and Josh [Hartnett], and he said, ‘I have worked with Ben before and I love him, and Josh is so manly and a wonderful actor.’ Then when he was asked about me, he’d say, ‘Kate wasn’t so attractive that she would alienate the female audience.' He kept saying it everywhere we went, and we went to a lot of places,” she said on the Graham Norton Show.

Mila Kunis

On being asked to pose topless: “‘You’ll never work in this town again.’ A cliché to be sure, but also what a producer threatened when I refused to pose semi-naked on the cover of a men’s magazine to promote our film. I was no longer willing to subject myself to a naïve compromise that I had previously been willing to. ‘I will never work in this town again?’ I was livid, I felt objectified, and for the first time in my career I said ‘no.’”

“And guess what? The world didn’t end. The film made a lot of money and I did work in this town again, and again, and again. What this producer may never realize is that he spoke aloud the exact fear every woman feels when confronted with gender bias in the workplace,” she explained in a personal essay.

Maggie Gyllenhaal

On being ‘too old’: “There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time. I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh,” she told The Wrap.

America Ferrera

On being being ‘unrealistic’: “I had just won [a top award at Sundance], and [my manager] wanted me to audition for the Latina chubby girl in a pilot. She wasn’t even the lead; she was just the sidekick, with the same joke in every scene.”

“I said, "I’m not going in for that." When I ultimately left him, he [told] another of my reps, "Somebody should tell that girl that she has an unrealistic idea of what she can accomplish in this industry." That was someone I was paying to represent me,” she told The New York Times.

Zoe Saldana

On being cast for her looks: "That story is true. A producer once told me he hired me for the way I held a gun while wearing panties, not for my opinions. I wish I'd recorded it, so I could play it for every girl in elementary school and tell them never to let anybody treat them that way," she told Philly.Com.

Rose McGowan

On being f-ckable: "When I did my first film, I was told by my agent that I would need to have long hair so men in this town would want to f-ck me and hire me. That was said to a 17-year-old." Entertainment Weekly.

Gina Rodriguez

On being objectified: “I was up for a role and auditioned in character,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “They’re like: We love her. But can she come back in with a tight black dress?’ I said, ‘That doesn’t make any sense for the character.’ They were like, ‘We need to know if you’re pretty enough to be on the cover of a magazine.'”