Helen Mirren: When men put their arms around their girlfriends, it’s “like ownership”

Posted by
Harriet Hall

Helen Mirren has long been a spokesperson for equal rights. The Oscar-winning actor, 70, has always spoken-out against the misogyny she’s encountered and the things she finds intolerable in society.

Mirren is someone who has experienced public sexism herself (we all remember that infamous Parkinson interview), and regularly makes-known her feelings about inequalities within society, expressing her distaste for words such as ‘feisty’ and ‘sassy’.

This week, the actor has caused controversy by expressing her irritation about men putting their arms around their partners, comparing the act to “ownership.”

Some people have applauded Mirren’s remarks, saying the gesture is possessive, but others see it as a sign of love and have suggested she’s taken things too far.

In the interview with You magazine, Mirren says:

“It annoys me when I see men with an arm slung round their girlfriend’s shoulders. It’s like ownership.”

“Of course, when you’re young, you want the guy to take your hand and look after you but when I see girls being leaned on, I want to say, “Tell him to get his damned arm off your shoulder.”’

The star of The Queen went on to say:

“Women are still toddlers in this modern world, trying to find their position in the age of sexual liberation, birth control, education and financial independence.”

“At 70 years old, if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words “f*** off” much more frequently,” says Mirren.

man woman

A symbol of ownership or a loving gesture?

Author Katy Lette agrees with Mirren’s comments, saying in The Mirror that historically, women have been the property of men, and that “a proprietorial drape of the male arm around a woman’s shoulders can be a reminder of this subservience.”

And journalist and Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan says that the act is one of “passive aggression. Demure possessiveness.”

But Loose Women star, Coleen Nolan, says that she "couldn't disagree more" and Mirren's comments are "feminism going too far."

Mirren went on to discuss the positive elements of growing old for women, saying:

“There’s a huge pressure on young girls to look a certain way these days but, as I age, I’ve lost that incredible insecurity of youth.”

The actor said she doesn’t worry about how she looks anymore and happily gets on the bus without make-up, but that:

“Growing old is not for pussies – you’ve got to have courage. But then, you’ve got to have courage in life anyway.”