The feminist Hollywood whistleblower you need to know about

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Harriet Hall
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The actor and director, Rose McGowan, is the latest woman to call-out Hollywood’s blatant misogyny.

McGowan, 41, is best known for her roles in witching-hour drama, Charmed, her role in Scream, and the Grindhouse films by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Her career was launched after appearing in Gregg Araki’s 1995 film The Doom Generation.

Her directorial debut, Dawn, is a critically acclaimed 15 minute short (watch it here) about a young teenage girl navigating the real world after a sheltered upbringing, and her first feature-length film, The Pines, is out later this year.

McGowan made the headlines this week after being dropped by her agent for taking to Twitter to blow the whistle on a sexist casting call she received for an Adam Sandler movie. 

The request that McGowan received required that she wear a “form-fitting tank that shows off cleavage (push-up bras encouraged)”.

The actor then tweeted on the 18th June: 

A mere week after posting the tweet, on 25th June, McGowan was reportedly dropped by her agents, tweeting:

The Hollywood Reporter named the agents at Innovative Artists as Sheila Wenzel and Steve Muller, but McGowan later commented that Sheila was not involved in the incident and had left the agency before any of the comments had been made, on June 17th. The Dawn director has since praised Wenzel for her work.

On discussing her reasons for making the comments, McGowan told Entertainment Weekly: "It was just so dumb. I was offended by the stupidity more than anything. I was offended by the fact that went through so many people's hands and nobody red flagged it. This is normal to so many people. It was probably even a girl that had to type it up. It's institutionally OK."

McGowan went on to say: "The wardrobe part was dumb enough. The part that made me laugh was where it said, 'Make sure you read the script so you understand the context of the scene. That was the part that made me laugh the hardest."

The agency have yet to comment on the matter. 

Adam Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison, have denied all responsibility for the note, reported by Variety as saying: “They were not aware the casting director sent this note out. They felt it was completely inappropriate and have made sure that it has not been sent out again.”

Zero Dark Thirty actor, Jessica Chastain took to twitter in support of McGowan saying:

This kind of contemptible chauvinism is becoming less and less tolerated amongst both men and women working in Hollywood with people exposing it almost daily now – in films such as Celluloid Ceilings that investigates the lack of women directors in Hollywood (watch it here) and relating to women’s roles, such as in the most recent criticism surrounding Jurassic World.

But McGowan is no ingénue when it comes to whistleblowing Hollywood sexism. The outspoken filmmaker has always been very vocal, using her platform to call-out sexism in the industry for over two decades.

Here are some of McGowan's best feminist moments:

1) Earlier this year, at the New York Film Critics Circle awards, McGowan accepted the award for Best First Film for The Babadook (aside: if you haven’t seen this film you should – it’s been hailed as a feminist horror and it tackles the issues surrounding being a single mother) on behalf of director, Jennifer Kent, and she took to the stage to speak about the lack of female perspective in film, saying:

“I am not being served and I am not being heard. I ask you to take up the hand of the female director until we no longer say 'female director.' It is a unisex term. I am a director. Jennifer Kent is a director. Let’s do smart, let’s bring it.”

2) In an interview with Defamer, the actor said “I’m stepping up because no one else is. There are some, they’re starting to get louder, but I realised as an artist you’re in an un-firable position,” She said. “We can be fired from our jobs, we can not be hired for a job, but we can’t be fired. We’re us. And we’re legion. And it’s an amazing feeling and an amazing, empowered feeling."

3) In an interview with Dazed magazine she said: “A big producer once told me that I always had to play the bad girl because I have dark hair and light skin. I was like, ‘Oh, that makes sense completely!’ It’s called Hollywood. If the only thing that the public or anybody has ever heard from you is what a man has written for you, you’re only seen in that slim, narrow window of what you’re allowed to be seen as. It just doesn’t suit me.”

4) She told Entertainment Weekly: “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 fuck me and hire me. That was said to a 17-year-old.”

5) In October last year, she joined American Psycho author, Bret Easton Ellis, on his podcast in a discussion about women in film, saying:

“When I grew breasts, the world became extremely loud. From walking down the street as a child to all of a sudden men sticking their tongues out of a window with their ‘v’ between it…”

Speaking of shooting her first film, The Doom Generation, McGowan said there was a male co-star: “he would mess up his lines and say ‘it’s that bitch you found on the street’.”

It's always brilliant to hear about a woman standing up and risking it all to fight the good fight. More power to ya, Rose!

Images: Rex Features

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Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall is a former Stylist contributor.