As boomer women, we have put up with many things during our 6 decades on the planet. Many of us have been harassed or discriminated against. Almost all of us have been underestimated or held back in one way or another. Now, in 2016, it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Yes, we still have work to do in terms of making sure that women get equal pay for equal work. But, for the most part, women in America are better treated than ever before.
If you want an example of how prevalent sexism used to be, just take a look at the 1975 interview below with Helen Mirren and Michael Parkinson. Let’s watch the video together and then start a conversation.
Here’s how the interview went…
At one point in the interview, Parkinson asks Mirren if she thinks her “equipment” hinders her in the pursuit of being considered a “serious actress.” As if being a beautiful, vibrant lady is somehow at odds with being a talented actress.
Demonstrating the strength and wit that she would become famous for in the coming decades, Mirren asks Parkinson to define which “equipment” he is talking about. She sarcastically asks him whether her fingers are the “assets” to which he is referring.
I’m not sure what is more insulting in resulting exchange… the fact that Parkinson gestures at his chest to clarify exactly which “equipment” he was referring to or the fact that the audience thought that it would be the perfect time to add some laughter into the mix.
Not willing to be shaken in any way by Parkinson’s comments, Mirren reminds her interviewer that each performance stands on its own merits. It’s ridiculous to think that one’s figure might interfere with that.
The interview continues in much the same way with Parkinson avoiding any real substantive discussion of Mirren’s work and, instead, focusing on her family’s financial status. Take a quick look and you’ll see what I mean.
Personally, I think that it’s important to watch old interviews like this to remind ourselves of what used to be considered acceptable. Some people would argue that women are still objectified and, while this is certainly true, we have come a long way since Parkinson interviewed Mirren 41 years ago.
Incidentally, Mirren sat down with Parkinson for a second interview in 2010 and, while he was better behaved, he still couldn’t resist bringing her chest back into the discussion. I guess some things never change! Skip to 4:40 and you’ll see what I mean.
Mirren, decades older and with more practice dealing with men like Michael pushes back strongly, yet with humor and grace. With a smile, she reminds him of his first interview and makes it clear that she thinks his line of questioning was as ridiculous in 1975 as it was in 2006.
I’d love to get your thoughts on this!
As a society, how much progress do you think we have made since 1975 in terms of treating women with the respect that we deserve? How much further do we still have to go? Are you a fan of Helen Mirren? Please join the conversation.