Los Angeles – My daughter Rafaella Angelica’s T-shirt, said it all, “Girls just wanna have FUN-damental human rights!”
It was Jan. 20. It was her birthday. But she was not just celebrating her special day. She was also celebrating women, girls, her aunts, grandmothers and every woman who has found her voice.
Last year, the first Women’s March had 500,000 women (and men) in Los Angeles march from Pershing Square to Grand Park to City Hall as part of a worldwide protest to advocate legislation and policies on human’s rights including women’s rights, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, healthcare, and other issues.
This year, the second Women’s March had 700,000 women (and men) march the streets of downtown Los Angeles with celebrities donning pink “pussy” hats, placards and grabbing microphones to speak out and be heard.
After a black-gowns-only showing on the red carpet at the recently held Golden Globes, Viola Davis, Natalie Portman, and Allison Janney now led their colleagues Marisa Tomei, Scarlett Johansson, Alyssa Milano, Mira Sorvino among others, to City Hall in their casual outfits with fighting voices and inspirational messages to their pink pussy hat wearer-followers.
Viola said in her booming voice, “Freedom is certainly not free. We only move forward when it doesn’t cost us anything. But I’m here today saying that no one and nothing can be great unless it costs you something.”
Women carrying placards that read “What Oprah said” referring to the “Queen of TV’s” very powerful and inspirational acceptance speech that “A new day is on the horizon” were being carried.
From sunny Los Angeles to freezing and snowing Salt Lake City, women also gathered and made their voices heard at the Sundance Film Festival where the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) continued their series of special events in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Golden Globe Awards by hosting a special “Women Breaking Barriers” panel featuring accomplished women from various fields in the film industry, moderated by HFPA member Elisabeth Sereda, who opened the session by announcing a $50.000 HFPA grant to the Sundance Institute Women’s programs.
Panelists included Tina Lifford (Award-winning actress currently starring in “Queen Sugar” and founder and motivational speaker of The Inner Fitness Project), Reed Morano (Award-winning cinematographer and director; “I Think We’re Alone Now”), Sandra Oh (Golden Globe-winner; starring in and associate producer of BBC America’s “Killing Eve”), Cathy Schulman (Award-winning producer and president of Women in Film), and Octavia Spencer (Golden Globe-winner; currently starring in “The Shape Of Water”). The panel was held at the Sundance TV headquarters.
The talk touched on personal experiences and practical aspects in achieving equality for women in the entertainment business from in-access, on-set morale, treatment and pay.
“Seven years ago, I would call the trades and beg them to cover our issues and I couldn’t get a single article published,” said Cathy. “Now there isn’t a minute, a day, week or month that goes by that we don’t talk about women’s issues. The most important thing is that we don’t get all excited and then just brush everything under the rug again.”
With the abuse of power and sexual abuse incidents that are going on in Hollywood, the panelists concurred that it has been an important moment in starting the conversation but that the problem is more systemic than the abuse, which has come to light.
Octavia expressed a sentiment on many people’s mind when she suggested quietly listening as an important first step.
“This is a wonderful moment that’s happening right now. It is making us confront deep-seated cultural issues, it’s a paradigm shift. That can be frightening but we just need to take baby steps, put one foot front of the other. It’s not going be easy but we’ll get there.”
Tina added, “I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of conversation. Human beings tend to be afraid of change period. When we’re talking about huge cultural relationship changes it’s going to make everyone afraid. We need to create a space where everyone can express their feelings then we can move on to some sort of cooperation.”
Sandra concluded on a positive note. “There is a new generation of women who have less heaviness on them and I’m sure there are lot of women in this room who have a clear creative vision and will put it out there and they inspire me tremendously.