TIME women

I’ve Won a Tony, But I Still Get Announced as Simply the ‘Plus-Size Dancer’

Actress Marissa Jaret Winokur at Brass Ring Awards Dinner 2014 in Beverly Hills, Ca. on Jun. 3, 2014.
Valerie Macon—Getty Images Actress Marissa Jaret Winokur at Brass Ring Awards Dinner 2014 in Beverly Hills, Ca. on Jun. 3, 2014.

"What is it like to be a 'plus-size role model'?"

xojane

I never considered myself “plus-size.” Never. Oh sure, a size 14 was snug, and I was always able to find XL clothes with spandex that worked just fine. Or sometimes, I found those amazing stores that carry XXL or XXXL but sold them in the same section as the “normal clothes,” rather than in the back of the store where the plus-size clothes always live. You know, the place that never gets vacuumed and looks like an explosion of colorful beach cover-ups?

Here’s a quick question: Why do plus-size clothes always have crazy insane colorful large prints? It’s like the designers somehow think, “Oh, that big girl is so gonna want to walk in the room and make sure everyone sees her.” Listen up, plus-size designers, I am here to tell you, “They see us.”

I never really saw myself as plus-size until “Hairspray” opened on Broadway. Playing Tracy Turnblad was the role of a lifetime! It was all my dreams wrapped up in one. I will never forget one of my first interviews about the show. It was on CBS news, and I was sitting across from a very established middle-aged male host. I was so excited I was going to be on TV! I sat during the commercial break putting on new lip gloss and felt so giddy wondering if everyone that I went to high school with was watching.

Then, the interview began.

“Marissa, I have to ask you. What is it like to be a ‘plus-size role model’?” he asked me.

I remember my face getting warm as I blushed and inside I just wanted to scream, “Did you just call me fat?” I don’t remember how I answered that question that day. All I remember is thinking, “Did Jason, a high school boyfriend of mine, just hear that a man called me fat ON TELEVISION? Did everyone hear that?”

Honestly, I wanted to crawl under the chair. I thought to myself, “Tracy Turnblad was a plus-size role model! I’m just the actress playing her! And P.S.: Why did he just call me fat?”

Then every night, outside the stage door of “Hairspray,” young girls of all shapes and sizes would wait for photos or autographs. I would listen to what they were saying and what they weren’t saying. They weren’t saying, “I love your voice you sing so good.” They weren’t saying, “You are the best actress in the world.”

They were saying: “You make me feel so good. You give me hope that I can be an actress when I grow up. We look like sisters. I can’t stop smiling. I cried throughout the whole show. You are my hero.”

What these girls were saying was “You make me feel OK to be me.”

The character I played made them feel like they could get the guy, they could be the leading lady, they were OK! So after the first few months of the show, and thousands of women telling me they felt empowered because of “Hairspray,” a plus-size role model was born.

I didn’t care about the weird passive-aggressive innuendo from that TV reporter. I just thought about those girls and how much they meant to me.

I loved having a platform that sent a healthy message. But I still had this insane inner struggle where secretly I would dream of losing 20 pounds. Not even 5, but 20!

Here’s a secret. In my dressing room, there was a fat suit.

Yes, you read that correctly, a fat suit — for my skinnier understudy. They kept a fat suit in my dressing room so she could be fat like me!

Production didn’t hide it or place it in a trunk under lock and key (where it belonged) — it was proudly displayed in my dressing room. I remember once Liza Minnelli — yes the real Liza Minnelli — came backstage to meet me. She took one look at the fat suit hanging in the room and said, “Oh, I knew you were wearing a fat suit, I didn’t think you were that fat!”

I obviously let her believe I wore the fat suit.

A tightrope walk for me was to want to lose weight while inspiring people to just embrace who they are. I would be doing an interview for a fancy magazine and the reporter would ask me, “How are you so confident?” At the same exact time I would still be hearing that little voice in my head screaming, “Did you just call me fat?”

It wasn’t even the words or the label. It was the assignation of judgment and the undercurrent of superiority that got to me.

I was beginning to wonder, would this same reporter ask Reese Witherspoon why she was so confident? No, of course not. I knew what the question meant. My little voice would ask, “Why is this an OK question?” I would answer in a sweet way but basically I was saying, “Why shouldn’t I be confident? I have a great career, a wonderful boyfriend and a beautiful home.”

And yet still, I wanted to lose 20 pounds.

As life went on, I was so excited to be cast in “Dancing with the Stars” for their sixth season. Once again it was yet another dream role for me. I got to dance with a hot guy, wear sexy dresses, and have amazing hair and make-up! It was, in a word, awesome.

The first announcement of the show went something like this: “The Olympic Gold Medalist, The Football Star, The Oscar Winner and the Plus-Size Dancer.”

That was me. Not the Tony Award-winning actress! The plus-size dancer, I was the plus-size dancer.

I also must note that at this point I had lost the 20 pounds I had wanted to lose for 5 years.

I was actually 30 pounds down from my “Hairspray” days, but “Plus-Size Dancer” was my title and it stuck.

That year, my son was born via surrogate. I am a cancer survivor and could not give birth to my son, but that’s for another story on another day. I remember holding my newborn baby and I was excited when people told me how skinny I looked after just having a child. Just like with Liza Minnelli, I let them believe I gave birth. I am not going to lie, it felt good being praised for looking skinny.

Soon after, I went on a crazy diet. Not the one with magic pills and where you eat only grapefruit (trust me, doesn’t work). It was the crazy diet where you work out 6 hours a day and eat under 1,200 calories every day: no cheat day, no break, no joke!

Now some people will say working out every day and eating 1,200 calories every day is not crazy. It’s healthy and very doable. But for this all-or-nothing girl, it’s CRAZY.

I did it, I was committed! I had just finished shooting the hilariously funny body image rom-com “Muffin Top: A Love Story.” The day we wrapped the film, we shot a scene where I ate a huge piece of chocolate cake, french fries and well, since we were there, a shake as well.

The next morning, after we wrapped “Muffin Top,” I went to the doctor and got some blood work done. My cholesterol was so high that my doctor wanted to start me on medication. I asked him to give me six months to see if through diet and exercise, I could lower my numbers.

Let the diet commence! I don’t even remember the exact year — I want to say it was 2012 — because all I did was work out. Like all the time. I was so in it, and the more I lost the more I wanted to lose. When I started the diet, I was back at my “Hairspray” weight and once I lost the same 30 pounds, the 30 pounds I gained back after “DWTS,” I thought I would be happy!

I wasn’t.

I wanted to lose more and was on such a roll. Then I lost 40 pounds! Then 50 pounds, then — OMG — I lost 60! I lost 60 pounds!

You know when people say they wish they were their wedding weight? Well, I was my junior high weight! I was so skinny and happy! Wait, did I say HAPPY? I wasn’t happy. I felt the same. I always thought Skinny = Happy. Except it doesn’t.

Happy = Happy.

OK, so there I was, a supposedly plus-size role model who lost 60 pounds. There are tons of articles all over the media, quoting me saying, “If I can do it, so can you!” I meant it. I couldn’t believe I lost 60 pounds! But listen, I am sorry to tell you: There was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I would be on talk shows and they would show before and after photos of me. Every time, I thought I looked great in the before shot! I mean, I like the “after” shot too, but why pick on the before shot? The before shot was strong and confident, and I looked great! The after shot just looked skinny and well…skinny. I really did lose the weight for health reasons, but it was making me mentally crazy and I lost my breast size in this crazy act of getting skinny and I loved my breasts!

Because skinny does not equal happy, I slowly gained back 20 pounds. I was really down on myself and felt like I was out of control. I went to Fitness Ridge in Utah to try to get skinny again. I thought THIS time if I lost the weight, I’ll be happy. I just hadn’t known how to deal with it before.

While I was there I met amazing women and this may sound full of myself to say — but I only share it because of what it meant to me — these ladies would go on to tell me stories of how I changed their lives at one point or another.

It was these women who finally got through to me.

They would tell me how seeing me on TV inspired them. Watching me dance made them start Zumba classes. I went to all the lectures and really listened. At the age of 41, I heard what I was being told. It’s not just working out and eating right, it’s that, plus the emotional stuff. I never tapped in to the emotional management. I mean, who would? That is the hardest part.

You think not eating cake is hard? Try asking yourself why you are eating the cake?

AHHHHHHH NOW I WANT CAKE!

I left Fitness Ridge and for the first time in my life practiced saying, “I am enough.” It’s about being healthy, not skinny and whatever HEALTHY means to you!

Now, the movie “Muffin Top: A Love Story” I filmed when I was at my peak weight (and I love how I look) is in select theaters and on Video On Demand. It’s all about self-image and female empowerment. Most importantly, it’s funny. I have been to many screenings of the movie and the feedback I always hear is how nice it is to see a woman in a movie who act and look like real women.

I finally understand that no one is calling me fat. They are truly saying, “Thank you for being you.” “Thank you for loving yourself now, not five pounds from now.”

Ten years ago when that reporter first said, “How does it feel to be a plus-size role model?” He wasn’t calling me fat. He was saying, “You are inspirational,” “You are empowering women everywhere.”

I am proud to be a plus-size role model. I am also glad I didn’t listen to my skinny friends when they told me to throw away my fat jeans.

God, they fit good!

Marissa Jaret Winokur is an actress and dancer. Winokur is best known for the role of Tracy Turnblad in the hit Broadway musical Hairspray, a performance for which she won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME women

I’m a Body-Positive Feminist and I Had Weight Loss Surgery

woman-thumbs-up
Getty Images

The same philosophy that allowed me to find peace with my fat body also allowed me to make the decision to have weight loss surgery

xojane

OK, so this wasn’t really something that “happened” to me. I made an educated decision about my body and my future.

I have always been fat, and for a long time, I really hated it. I spent more than two decades of my life wishing I would magically wake up “normal.” Until I was in my mid-20s, I didn’t know what it felt like to not wear a heavy cloak of shame and insecurity.

Like so many other fat girls with Internet access, I discovered that body positivity was a thing, and that I could feel good about myself and I didn’t really have to give a fuck about what other people thought. I decided to be happy, regardless of my size. I began identifying as a fat feminist. I actually started feeling okay about my body. I was doing okay and there were people who liked me, even loved me, despite my fatness. At some point, I even started kind of liking myself, and then my fatness became somewhat of a non-issue. Eventually I came to be at peace with my body. It was mine and mine alone, and it was beautiful.

As I moved into my 30s, life happened. I was thriving in a supportive community of folks who embraced me as I was. I got a good job; I found my soul mate; I got engaged. My size was a non-issue, and I was happy.

But I wasn’t healthy. I was on medication to prevent my high blood sugar from turning into diabetes. I slept with a machine attached to my face to keep me breathing at night. I didn’t have the stamina I needed to be able to do my work every day. Polycystic ovary syndrome, which is closely tied to what doctors liked to refer to as my “morbid obesity,” meant I might not be able to have babies, and I was more likely to get diabetes or certain kinds of cancer. Physically, I didn’t feel good. Emotionally, I was at a crossroads.

In short: I could continue not caring about my weight and go about business as usual. Or, I could lose weight. I’d struggled with depression and, yes, even suicidal thoughts in the past, but when I started having health problems, I was at a happy place in my life — and I wanted it to stay that way. I wanted to be my best self, and for me, that didn’t just mean being happy with my physical body, it meant having my physical body be healthy.

My decision to have weight loss surgery was not made lightly. I spent a lot of time trying to reconcile my body-positive politics with my desire to live longer and have babies and be able to walk up the flight of stairs to my office without getting winded. I also spent a lot of time trying to lose weight through more conventional methods, like diet and exercise. My medical conditions made that nearly impossible, and no matter what I did, my health kept declining.

Ultimately, the same philosophy that allowed me to find peace with my fat body also allowed me to make the decision to have weight loss surgery.

I made an educated decision about my body. It was mine, and mine alone.

Yes, weight loss surgery can kill you. And yes, I’m an advocate for health at any size. But, real talk: Being fat was actually, actively killing me. For me, the benefits of weight loss surgery outweighed the risks. Having your guts rearranged is not fun, but overall, my improved quality of life has made this process, albeit difficult, worthwhile.

The experience of losing more than 140 pounds in a very short period of time has been socially and emotionally difficult, too. When you lose weight, everyone starts to pay very close attention to your body. People I barely know now find it appropriate to tell me how happy or impressed they are by my change in appearance, while I often feel judged by the fat-positive community in which I once found comfort and acceptance.

My body was nobody’s business before I had surgery, and it’s nobody’s business now.

For me, weight loss surgery was not an “easy way out.” It was a tool that was available to me, and I made the informed decision to use it to take control of my health. I can’t think of much that’s more empowering — or body positive — than that.

Trisha Harms is a writer, social media strategist, and social justice advocate. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME feminism

Emma Watson Is the Top Celebrity Feminist of 2014

"Noah" - UK Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals
Karwai Tang—WireImage Emma Watson attends the UK premiere of "Noah" held at the Odeon Leicester Square on March 31, 2014 in London, England. (Karwai Tang--WireImage)

Laverne Cox and Amy Poehler also made the list

The Ms. Foundation and Cosmopolitan.com have released a list of the top feminist celebrities of the year, and actress Emma Watson is number one.

As a UN Goodwill Ambassador, Watson helped found the He for She program this year and made a rousing speech urging men to take up the feminist mantle, telling them, “gender equality is your issue, too.”

MORE Watch Taylor Swift praise Emma Watson for her UN speech

Here is the full list:

  1. Emma Watson
  2. Laverne Cox
  3. Rachel Maddow
  4. Beyoncé
  5. Cher
  6. Amy Poehler
  7. Tina Fey
  8. Meryl Streep
  9. Mindy Kaling
  10. Ann Curry

“We celebrate all feminists every day, but today we’re giving a hat tip to celebrities who are helping to promote women’s equality,” said Ms. Foundation President Teresa Younger said in a statement. “Every celebrity on the list has either embraced the term ‘feminist,’ spoken out for women’s equal rights or battled against sexist oppression.”

 

TIME faith

Meet the Church of England’s First Ever Female Bishop

Reverend Libby Lane poses for pictures during a photo call following the announcement naming her first woman bishop by The Church of England, after a historic change in its rules, in Stockport, northwest England, on Dec. 17, 2014.
Paul Ellis—AFP/Getty Images Reverend Libby Lane poses for pictures during a photo call following the announcement naming her first woman bishop by The Church of England, after a historic change in its rules, in Stockport, northwest England, on Dec. 17, 2014.

In a historic move, Reverend Libby Lane is the first woman in England to be named a bishop

The Church of England’s stained-glass ceiling has been smashed at last.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Elizabeth Lane was named as the first female bishop in the Church of England, just a month after the church made a change to its canon law to allow female bishops. Beginning on Jan. 26, Lane will serve as Bishop of Stockport, an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Chester.

The Church of England first allowed female priests in 1992 and the battle to have female bishops began shortly after. Female bishops are already common in the Anglican churches in Canada, the U.S. and Australia, but in the Church of England traditionalists argued that only men should serve in the role of bishops, claiming it was sanctioned by scripture. Others argued that allowing female bishops was ethical and necessary to keep the church relevant. In July, the church’s legislative body, known as the General Synod, voted to allow female bishops and formally enacted a change to canon law in late November.

So who is the woman who will be the Church of England’s first female bishop?

Lane — who goes by “Libby” — was ordained as a deacon in 1993 and a priest in 1994 after being educated at the University of Oxford and trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall, a theological college at Durham University in north-east England. Since 2010 she has been the Dean of Women in Ministry for the diocese of Chester, a post created to support other women within the church. As a bishop’s selection advisor since 2003, she has spent the last ten years making recommendations to the church about candidates offering themselves for ordination.

Speaking at a town hall on Wednesday in Stockport, Lane said that it was a “remarkable day for me and a historic day for the Church.” She continued: “On this historic day as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be bishop I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has backed the push for women bishops. He issued a statement about Lane’s appointment on Wednesday, saying: “Her Christ-centered life, calmness and clear determination to serve the Church and the community make her a wonderful choice. She will be bishop in a diocese that has been outstanding in its development of people, and she will make a major contribution.”

Lane’s appointment, which was approved by the Queen, was also endorsed by the U.K.’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who congratulated Lane in a statement on Wednesday, saying: “This is an historic appointment and an important step forward for the Church towards greater equality in its senior positions.”

While Lane’s appointment is being lauded as a moment of progress, the church still has a way to go until it reaches gender equality. As the Guardian reports: “About half of female clergy are unpaid. They are also less likely to hold senior positions… [and] only three of the 44 English cathedrals are run by women today and the overwhelming majority of female clergy are not running their own parishes.”

But having a woman bishop is a significant first step. For her part, Lane seems to believe her new role could lead to further appointments for women, telling the Telegraph: “Today I pray will not be simply about one woman called up a new ministry in the church but much more than that, an opportunity to acknowledge all that has gone before and to look ahead to what is still to be done.” It’s that resolve to look to the future that allows other women to believe Lane won’t be the Church of England’s only female bishop.

TIME feminism

Dear Aaron Sorkin, If You Don’t Think There Are Enough Good Roles for Actresses, Write One Yourself

Aaron Sorkin
Nina Prommer—EPA Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin arrives for the premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1' at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles on Nov. 17, 2014.

Eliana Dockterman is a culture and breaking news reporter for TIME in New York City.

Sorkin's writing celebrates the male mind while making women the objects of lust or scorn

Hollywood cheered on Cate Blanchett last year when she critiqued the gender gap in Hollywood and took to task those studio executives “who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are a niche experience.” But, apparently, Aaron Sorkin was not among those celebrating Blanchett’s feminist speech.

The latest piece of information unearthed in the Sony hack is an email sent by award-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin to New York Times writer Maureen Dowd. On March 4, Dowd wrote a column called “Frozen in a Niche?” which built upon Blanchett’s argument that successful female films—like Bridesmaids, Frozen, Gravity or The Hunger Games—are still seen as flukes in the industry. She cited compelling stats: Even though women comprise 52% of moviegoers, only 15% of protagonists and 30% of speaking characters in the top 100 grossing domestic films in 2013 were female.

Blanchett and Dowd are far from the first to notice this trend: Mega-stars like Meryl Streep and Jodie Foster have complained about the problem, as has Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal whom Dowd quotes saying the “whole system is geared for [female filmmakers] to fail.”

But Sorkin disagrees with all these ladies. He wrote to Dowd on March 6:

That was a great and very interesting column today. I’d only take issue with one thing and that’s the idea that something like Bridesmaids is seen as a fluke and that’s why we don’t see more movies like Bridesmaids. There’s an implication that studio heads have a stack of Bridesmaids-quality scripts on their desk that they’re not making and it’s just not true. The scripts aren’t there.

Fair enough. A major part of the gender gap we see onscreen can be attributed to what’s going on behind the screen: Women made up only 6% of directors, 10% of writers, 15% of executive producers, 17% of editors and 3% of cinematographers in the top 250 films in 2013, according to the Center for the study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. With fewer women writing, directing and producing, we see fewer women’s stories on film.

But there are two very simple ways to solve that problem: Executives can seek out, hire and support more women behind the camera, and male writers who already have major influence in Hollywood (say, for instance, Aaron Sorkin) could write credible, interesting, robust roles for women. And yet Sorkin doesn’t.

It’s no secret that Aaron Sorkin often comes under fire for his thin, idiotic or harpy-esque female characters. Let’s take a quick tour of some of his worst hits.

On Sports Night, acting like a woman was a constant insult that Casey would fling at Dan. In one episode, when Dan asks Casey if he remembers that it is the anniversary of their first show together, Casey responds, “I remember not thinking at the time that you were a woman.” Meanwhile, the main female character, producer Dana, serves almost exclusively as a love interest: She runs in circles as her show crumbles around her (through no fault of her charming male stars). The few times she succeeds, it’s treated as a miracle.

In A Few Good Men, Demi Moore plays a character who might as well be male (save for the sexist jabs that Jack Nicholson shoots at her). Famed critic Roger Ebert even wrote in his review that he thought the character had originally been conceived as a man “and got changed into a woman for Broadway and Hollywood box office reasons, without ever quite being rewritten into a woman.” Sorkin also doesn’t have to worry about this “woman problem” in Moneyball, which takes place in an almost entirely male world.

In The Social Network—for which Sorkin won an Oscar—women are either lunatics (see: Eduardo Saverin’s girlfriend who sets his bed on fire) or flat symbols. Mark Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend is emblematic of everything Zuckerberg cannot have but isn’t fully developed as a character herself.

And then there’s The Newsroom. Most of the show’s main plots revolved around the smarter men man-splaining things to supposedly successful but totally hapless women. (Seriously, MacKenzie reported in war zones but can’t use email?) MacKenzie is obsessed with Will. Maggie is a pathetic waif. Sloan, despite being smart, is strangely socially incompetent. None of Sorkin’s male characters have such flaws. Even in the show’s penultimate episode, a male character man-splains to a female rape victim why he’s “obligated” to believe her “sketchy” alleged rapist instead of her. (One of Sorkin’s writers claimed she was kicked out of the writers’ room for protesting this storyline, which Sorkin essentially confirmed while lambasting her for exposing writers’ room conversations.)

HBOFrom left: Emily Mortimer as MacKenzie McHale and Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy in The Newsroom

In short, Sorkin celebrates the male mind while making women the objects of lust or scorn. The few women who do make it into Sorkin’s scripts are usually in need of rescue by the men in their lives. The one exception might be C.J. Craig from The West Wing, a character for which Allison Janney won four Emmys. C.J. got her own story lines and was allowed to succeed and fail as often as her male compatriots. Unlike the women on The Newsroom, she was there to accomplish her own goals, not simply prop up her male boss and be lectured by him when she screwed up. Why Sorkin hasn’t written a C.J. since is still a mystery.

This trend of misogyny since his C.J. days is doubly frustrating considering the rest of Sorkin’s email. “That’s why year in and year out, the guy who wins the Oscar for Best Actor has a much higher bar to clear than the woman who wins Best Actress,” he writes. Sorkin goes on to compare performances of various nominees. He asserts that Blanchett’s performance in Blue Jasmine was “nothing close to the degree of difficulty” of all five Best Actor nominees, and that Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Natalie Portman (Black Swan) and Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) did not measure up to Daniel Day-Lewis, (Lincoln), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) in the respective years that they won.

“Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep can play with the boys but there just aren’t that many tour-de-force roles out there for women,” he concludes.

It’s nearly impossible to compare the “difficulty” of performances in an objective way: As The Daily Beast points out, was Colin Firth’s performance in The King’s Speech really harder than that of Natalie Portman in Black Swan? Does Blanchett not measure up to some of the other actors nominated last year like Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Christian Bale (American Hustle) or Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)? The answer depends on who you ask.

And if the sexism problem is born from flimsy roles, then why does Sorkin say that only certain actresses, Mirren and Streep, can “play with the boys”? There’s something inherently sexist about Sorkin degrading the talent of other nominees by suggesting only those two women can compete with their male counterparts.

As much as Sorkin’s films can be frustrating, it’s hard to fault the screenwriter for sticking to what he knows. Films like A Few Good Men, Moneyball and The Social Network are lauded because they are interesting, complex depictions of male-dominated worlds. And in between his misogynist comments, Sorkin has indicated that he wants to support female performers and filmmakers. In 2011, Sorkin dedicated his Oscar speech for Best Screenplay (The Social Network) to actresses. “I want to thank all the female nominees tonight for helping demonstrate to my young daughter that elite is not a bad word; it’s an aspirational one,” he concluded. “Honey, look around. Smart girls have more fun, and you’re one of them.”

But this email demonstrates that Sorkin clearly recognizes there’s a sexism problem in Hollywood. And ultimately it’s hard to forgive him for not at least trying to fix it when he is one of very few writers with the power to do so.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

Jennifer Aniston: People Call Me ‘Selfish’ For Not Being a Mom

"Life Of Crime" Premiere - Arrivals - 2013 Toronto International Film Festival
J. Countess—WireImage Actress Jennifer Aniston attends the premiere for "Life Of Crime" at Roy Thomson Hall on September 14, 2013 in Toronto, Canada. ( J. Countess--WireImage)

And correctly defines "feminism"

Even after years of the prying questions and condescending sympathy, it still bothers Jennifer Aniston when people ask her why she’s not a mom.

“I don’t like [the pressure] that people put on me, on women—that you’ve failed yourself as a female because you haven’t procreated,” she told Allure for their January issue. “I don’t think it’s fair. You may not have a child come out of your vagina, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t mothering—dogs, friends, friends’ children.”

The actress, who has gotten critical praise for her role in the upcoming film Cake, explained that she finds the incessant commentary about her maternal status hurtful. “This continually is said about me: that I was so career-driven and focused on myself; that I don’t want to be a mother, and how selfish that is…Even saying it gets me a little tight in my throat.”

Aniston also seemed well-prepared to answer the now-omnipresent questions about feminism–and why it’s such a complicated issue. “Because people overcomplicate it,” she said. “It’s simply believing in equality between men and women. Pretty basic.”

[Allure]

TIME feminism

Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams Isn’t Buying Emma Watson’s ‘First-World Feminism’

"There are bigger things going on in other countries"

Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones, is taking Emma Watson’s feminist proclamations with a grain of salt.

Responding to Emma Watson’s now-famous He for She speech at the UN in September, Maisie Williams told The Guardian she thought the speech was an example of “first world feminism,” explaining that “there are bigger things going on in other countries.”

“A lot of what Emma Watson spoke about, I just think, ‘that doesn’t bother me,'” Williams said. “I know things aren’t perfect for women in the UK and in America, but there are women in the rest of the world who have it far worse.”

MORE: Watch Emma Watson Explain Why She’s a Feminist

Williams also discussed cyber-bullying in the Guardian profile, admitting she’d been taunted online after she first got cast. “People just get kicks out of making other people sad,” she says, “No one ever said anything to my face, ever. It was awful.” She’s starring in a British TV drama called Cyber Bully, in part because of her own experiences with online harassment.

[The Guardian]

 

TIME Music

Watch Beyoncé’s Short Film Celebrating the Anniversary of Her Self-Titled Album

“You can’t put your finger on who I am. I can’t put my finger on who I am.”

Beyoncé’s self-titled visual album — which just this week helped her become the most Grammy-nominated woman in history — turns one tomorrow. In honor of this anniversary, the singer released a cinematic, eleven-minute film called “Yours and Mine.” The short film features Beyoncé’s reflections on fame, family and feminism, narrated over dramatic black and white footage, mostly of Beyoncé herself but occasionally utilizing more abstract visuals.

Reflecting on her megastar status, she says, “I sometimes wish I could just be anonymous and walk down a street just like everyone else.” Of her marriage to Jay-Z, she says that all her successes would be empty without someone to share them with. And on the topic of feminism — a word she’s arguably helping to bring into the mainstream — she admits that the loaded nature of the term used to scare her. Not anymore. “Honestly, it’s very simple,” she says. “It’s just a person that believes in equality for men and women.”

Some might call the video self-indulgent, but Beyoncé’s musings are down-to-earth, if not earth-shattering. The video seems, more than anything, like an opportunity for a woman who is so often seen refracted through the manufactured prism of fame to share a piece of her inner life. “When you’re famous, no one looks at you as a human anymore,” she says. “You become the property of the public.” For these eleven minutes, self-conscious as they are, her humanity shines through.

TIME

Watch Shonda Rhimes’ Amazing Speech on the ‘Glass Ceiling’

"When it was my turn to run," Rhimes said Wednesday, "It didn’t even look like a ceiling anymore."

Shonda Rhimes is a game-changer; there’s really no disputing the fact that she has made an immense impact the portrayals of women in Hollywood. But yesterday, as the executive producer behind some of primetime television’s most popular shows accepted the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment breakfast, she said denied breaking any “glass ceilings.”

In her moving speech, Rhimes jokingly evoked Beyonce to explain why she couldn’t be getting an award simply because she is both a woman and African American.

I come from a very large, very competitive family. Extremely competitive. And by competitive, I mean, my mother says we’re not allowed to play Scrabble anymore when we get together because of the injuries and the tears. One of the rules in my family is you don’t ever get a trophy for participation, you don’t get a trophy for just being you. So getting an award today BECAUSE I’m a woman and an African-American feels…I was born with an awesome vagina and really gorgeous brown skin. I didn’t do anything to make either of those things happen.

To get all Beyonce about it, people: “I woke up like this.”

Rhimes said that the honor, which has also been bestowed upon powerhouses including Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep, was also being given to her because of the “glass ceiling that exists in the face of being a woman and being black in this very male, very white town.”

But in her mind, she hasn’t broken any glass ceilings at all. “When it was my turn to run,” Rhimes said Wednesday, “It didn’t even look like a ceiling anymore.”

How many women had to hit that glass before the first crack appeared? How many cuts did they get, how many bruises? How hard did they have to hit the ceiling? How many women had to hit that glass to ripple it, to send out a thousand hairline fractures? How many women had to hit that glass before the pressure of their effort caused it to evolve from a thick pane of glass into just a thin sheet of splintered ice?

She added, “Making it through the glass ceiling to the other side was simply a matter of running on a path created by every other woman’s footprints. I just hit at exactly the right time in exactly the right spot.”

Rhimes’ speech appears in full on Medium under the title “On Ceilings Made of Glass.” Watch her deliver the speech at Wednesday’s event below.

TIME feminism

I’m So Glad Movember Is Over

Groucho marx glasses
Getty Images

If facial hair is so amazing as to dedicate a whole month to celebrating it, I want in on some of that action

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Dudes, did you participate in Movember? What did you grow? Had you ever grown facial hair before? Did you shave it off after? C’mon, I’m on the edge of my seat, I want all the details. Except, I don’t. I’m actually kind of sick of hearing all about men’s facial hair.

Look, I love everything about the cultural swing toward more facial hair on men. It looks sexy, it’s usually less time-consuming and less expensive to maintain than a shaved face, it flies right in the face of some modern mainstream beauty ideals, and it’s a little easier on the environment. Plus, hey, I have a bias toward more variety in physical appearance. I like your beards – from the George Michael to the ZZ Top. I like your goatees. I like your moustaches – from plush Burt Reynolds push-brooms to high-maintenance hipster handlebars. Sometimes, I even like your ironic mutton chops. (But not your soul patch; soul patches are the rum raisin of facial hair.)

But start a soothing stroke along your scruffy cheek or chin (if you haven’t shaved it yet), because here’s where I ruin it for you. I don’t mean to metaphorically kick you in your probably-also-Movember-worthy nutsack, but I need you to think about some stuff that probably got lost somewhere between when you were torn between choosing a technologically marvelous beard trimmer or a très retro boar bristle brush ‘n mug combo.

Movember is full of problematic and complex socio-cultural ideas that get little attention in any discussion about it, lost like so many freshly-clipped hairs swirling down the drain of the bathroom sink.

Here are three big reasons I’m officially over Movember:

1) It’s very nostalgia-invoking (which is not as harmless as it sounds)

Ah, the good old days. Lumberjacks, sailors, Ernest Hemingway. You know, when “men were men.” The problem with nostalgia is that it dangerously erases what was bad and harmful about the past. It ctrl-alt-deletes right over everything that was wrong “back in the day.”

For example, when “men were men,” (i.e. when we as a society adhered more rigidly to gender-essentialist norms) it was more acceptable for husbands to beat wives, it was more acceptable for a male boss to expect sexual favors from a female secretary, it was more acceptable to pay a man more for doing the same job as a woman. It was also more acceptable for grade school boys to physically bully each other. Meanwhile, it was less acceptable for men to pursue careers in nursing or teaching.

In glorifying the “good old days,” you are essentially saying the world was better when marginalized people had it worse. As a sometimes-marginalized-person, it feels lousy to hear someone talk lovingly about an era when I would have had to choose between lying/hiding the fact that I’m queer, or face real legal, life-or-death consequences. It’s totally OK to feel love for parts of the past, but you have to accept the complexity and reality of the past. When “men were men” and sailed great distances to make a living, some of those sailors were also part of the triangle trade.

The history and evolution of male facial hair is fascinating and absolutely worth reading, writing and talking about. At the same time, it doesn’t stand apart from history. As Billy Joel has taught us, “the good old days weren’t always good.” Remember all of this when you are moustache-waxing poetic about the golden age of facial hair to someone who might not have had it so great in the 1890s.

2) It re-enforces gender-based appearance norms (that I find annoying and inconvenient)

Beards are natural. Real. Authentic and timeless. If you dig deep back into your high school biology memory bank, you’ll recall that one of the anatomical features that distinguishes us mammals from all other classes is that we grow hair all over our bodies (also some middle ear bones, mammary glands, and a neocortex, but who’s counting?).

In this regard, some of us are class-ier than others, right? I mean, I’m definitely some kind of super-mammal (and I haven’t even been struck by lightning, touched anything radioactive, or had any other super-power-forming experience.)

So, body hair – including facial hair – is part of our mammalian birthright. Except when it isn’t. Please take a moment for a simple addition problem: count how many times you saw hair on the face (no, eyebrows and eyelashes do not count), legs, armpits – essentially anywhere not on the head – on a woman in the month of November. Second addition exercise: same addition problem but count up the men you encountered in November with hair in those locations. Moving on to subtraction: subtract the second number from the first. If you live in the United States and you don’t have a negative number, I will buy you your own yacht, complete with a tastelessly misogynistic moniker plastered on the back.

If body hair is so natural, so essential to being a mammal, why do some of us feel significantly more comfortable existing in more natural states than others? The reality is that in the U.S., there is enormous pressure on women to remove or reduce visible, non-cranial-covering body hair. Removing body hair takes time, energy, and money – all things that most women could stand to have more of, not less.

Sure, some guys take flak for having a back that’s “too hairy,” or pluck out from under a unibrow, or wax something (or somethings). I get it, you are not immune to the pressures of our appearance-based culture. At the same time, some of these more modern manscaping grooming habits come under scrutiny as emasculating. They peg manscapers as being “too much like women” (which is supposed to be an insult, right?).

The mere fact that we have added words like “manscaping” and “metrosexual” to our lexicon means that they are marked as different, unexpected from the norm. Another way to say this is to ask what you call a woman who removes or reduces any body hair. Well, what do you call her? Stumped. We don’t have a special word for a woman who removes or reduces body hair because it’s “just what women do,” right?

Essentially, you get to have it both ways. If you want to remove some body hair, you can be seen as “taking care of yourself.” If you want to eschew a blade forever, you can cast aspersions on the shavers with complete impunity – or even with some admiration for your gender-essentialist curmudgeonliness (think of Ron Swanson on Parks and Rec). The fact that some assholes in high school made it really unappealing to take off your shirt at the beach does not erase that hairy is the default expectation for men.

It’s worth taking a moment to consider why hairless is the default expected appearance for women. Even in the midst of perpetual peril.

3) It silences and erases the reality of women with facial hair (or, when will I get MY month of facial hair celebration?)

I hate to break the well-plucked wall of secrecy on this but, guys, women have facial hair. It’s not just Agatha Fratelli from The Goonies. It’s called hirsutism and it means “excessive hair growth.” Basically, how your hair follicles respond to testosterone (not necessarily the level of testosterone in your body) determines your overall outward hairiness. It’s people like me. And, it can be treated! Wait, what?

When we talk about hirsutism, we are talking about a benign, cosmetic abnormality. Historically, we have a bias toward “correcting” benign, cosmetic abnormalities for the sake of feeling more comfortable or safer out in the world; it is easier to change our own appearance than to expect acceptance from the rest of the world. Take a minute to let that one sink in.

There are numerous drugs available to “treat” hirsuitism; you can ingest or apply any number of drugs to “correct” something that is a totally harmless genetic attribute. If this doesn’t seem weird to you, consider a world where it was normal to chop off a few centimeters of toe to “correct” Morton’s Toe, another harmless genetic abnormality (abnormal because it only occurs in about 10% of the population).

In a minority of cases, these drugs aren’t used to counter hirsutism; they’re used as part of a treatment plan for transgender women. I am not going to dismiss or downplay the importance of passing in a transphobic society, but suffice to say, in an ideal world, a transgender woman with facial hair would face the same level of discrimination as a non-transgender woman: none.

But this goes back to everything I brought up earlier: body hair, including facial hair is not generally accepted as normal for women. We are reminded of this regularly. From Harnaam Kaur (the 20-something Sikh woman who was “caught” at the airport by a surreptitious photographer) to the RA who encouraged residents to engage in a no-shave November (and in doing so was labeled as a “weird feminist”). While some of these stories push the narrative toward the story that body hair is normal, I still don’t feel comfortable going out into the world like this.

As if being a hairy, lady-identified individual didn’t cause me enough stress, I also have alopecia areata. This means I have random bald patches that spring up. Depending on the body location – too much hair is not-OK and hairlessness is also not-OK. And even though there are drugs, creams, lotions, shampoos, and surgical procedures to “correct” naturally-occurring baldness in men (implying that baldness is not OK), consider difference in response to a bald man vs. a hairy-legged woman. Consider that there is a counter-narrative of virility and sex appeal for bald men to lean on to remind them that they are accepted by society as-is.

In short, there is too much to ‘splain, so let me sum up: it is utterly frustrating and rage-inducing to watch mainstream media spend a month celebrating widely-accepted-and-considered-normal facial hair on men while saying, at best, nothing about women’s facial hair and, at worst, “Eww, gross.” If facial hair is so amazing as to dedicate a whole month to celebrating it, I want in on some of that action.

OK, are your eyebrows furrowed in some righteous sense of injustice? Wanna know what can you do?

Great. I’m so glad you are open to thinking about how you can cultivate your facial follicular garden and help everyone else who is not similarly encouraged. Those aren’t mutually exclusive activities! I am excited to have you on board as an ally.

First, don’t judge women by the choices we make about our body hair. If body hair on women isn’t your thing, that’s OK (but also, maybe do some reflecting on how you came to have that preference; it’s an active, not a neutral preference).

In the non-vanilla sex world, there’s a saying: “not my kink.” It’s a short-hand way to say, “I don’t particularly care to do that but I am also simultaneously capable of not judging the fact that you like to do that.” That’s easy, that one’s all in your head. If you see a really attractive-to-you woman take a long stretch, revealing her hairy armpits, can you work through the process of seeing it as a choice she made rather than, “Eww gross?”

Leveling up, can you call out other people for judging women with body hair? When you hear “Eww gross,” can you challenge Judgy McJudgerson to see body hair as a choice as if all choices are valid regardless of whether or not they’re personally appealing to you?

When I was younger, if I saw totally-freaky-to-me-weirdo my reaction was, “Eww, what a weirdo.” Now, my response is, “Thanks pal. Every visible, unapologetic weirdo makes the world safer for weirdos.” As a visible, unapologetic weirdo myself, I am invested in a safer world for weirdos and therefore thankful for other visible, unapologetic weirdos going about their daily business in the midst of non-weirdos.

The point is, I think even Judgy wants to be able to go to class in yoga pants and Uggs sometimes without experiencing ego-eroding derision.

Last, let’s say you prefer body hair on women. Let’s say it’s a total turn-on for you. Own it. Don’t be afraid to express that preference if you’re asked or if it comes up in conversation. Respond to that “eww gross” with “Actually, I think leg hair on women is pretty sexy.” Don’t be that guy in high school with a “secret girlfriend.”

My gram used to say “That goes to show ya, there’s a club for everyone.” It’s OK to be in the club of people who prefer some amount of body hair on women. I assure you plenty of other people are walking around with membership cards tucked into their wallets.

Anyway, I’m dying to get this conversation started. More than anything I want to be talking about gender and body hair instead of carrying on like nothing’s going on under the surface. Do your gender identity and level of body hair collide? Do you feel like they match? Should body hair be a gender marker? If you are female-identified, what’s your body hair level like? Are you comfortable with it? If your sexual preference includes female-identified partners, do you have a body hair preference on partners? How are we going to include people of all genders in Movember next year? LET’S TALK ABOUT IT!

* Yes, I realize that my generalizations about society and culture are specifically rooted in the United States, current day. Yes, I am aware that there are other parts of the world and other times in human history with different stories to tell about women and body hair.

Amy Mendosa wrote this story for xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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