Gender equality

Actress Amber Tamblyn says sexism in Hollywood is frightening, as evidenced by James Woods

I have been afraid of speaking out or asking things of men in positions of power for years, writes actress after social media exchange involving actor James Woods in which she accused him of trying to pick her up when she was 16

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 10:40am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 11:41am

Amber Tamblyn has worked in Hollywood since she was a child.

Tamblyn first gained fame as a 16-year-old actress on the daytime soap opera General Hospital. From there, she scooped up roles in hot shows such as House, Two and a Half Men and Inside Amy Schumer. On the path to becoming one of Hollywood’s young stars, the now 34-year-old Tamblyn struggled against the sexism she said pervades the industry.

“I have been afraid of speaking out or asking things of men in positions of power for years,” the actress wrote in an essay in The New York Times. “What I have experienced as an actress working in a business whose business is to objectify women is frightening.”

The most public example occurred last week, when actor James Woods called her a liar on Twitter, which she discussed in the essay – though she was quick to point out that the rift was emblematic of a larger issue, which she dubbed “Woods Culture”.

“This is less about what just happened with Woods and more about Woods Culture and how we can end it,” she wrote on Twitter.

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It began when Woods tweeted about Call Me by Your Name, an upcoming movie centred on a romantic relationship between a 17-year-old boy and a 24-year-old man.

“As they quietly chip away the last barriers of decency,” Woods wrote about the movie.

Actor Armie Hammer, who stars in the film, defended it by tweeting back at Woods, “Didn’t you date a 19 year old when you were 60...?”

Tamblyn joined in, claiming that Woods “tried to pick me and my friend up at a restaurant once. He wanted to take us to Vegas. ‘I’m 16’ I said. ‘Even better’ he said.”

For women in America who come forward with stories of harassment, abuse and sexual assault, there are not two sides to every story ... They get ... an interrogation
Amber Tamblyn

Woods immediately denied the accusations, saying in a tweet that was liked nearly 2,000 times that Tamblyn was lying. “The first is illegal. The second is a lie,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Calling me a liar, James?” Tamblyn tweeted back the next afternoon. “This is now far from over. That I can promise.”

“What would I get out of accusing this person of such an action, almost 20 years after the fact? Notoriety, power or respect?” Tamblyn wrote, adding that she is “more than confident with my quota of all three”.

She claimed the experience resurfaced some unpleasant memories, and sent her “back to all the days I’ve spent in the offices of men; of feeling unsure, uneasy, questioned and disbelieved, no matter the conversation”.

Specifically, she recalled an experience she had when starring in a television show when she was 21 years old. As she described it, a crew member began appearing at her home unannounced, trespassing in her trailer and staring at her while she tried to work.

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She felt unsafe, so she nervously met with the show’s producer to report it. According to Tamblyn, he replied: “Well, there are two sides to every story.”

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“For women in America who come forward with stories of harassment, abuse and sexual assault, there are not two sides to every story, however noble that principle might seem,” she wrote. “Women do not get to have a side. They get to have an interrogation.”

Tamblyn pointed out that between 2006 to 2010, 65 per cent of sexual assaults were unreported, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“What’s the point, if you won’t be believed?” she wrote.

She added that this is particularly problematic when the man in question is powerful or famous. And she’s done keeping quiet, she wrote.

“The women I know, myself included, are done, though, playing the credentials game. We are learning that the more we open our mouths, the more we become a choir,” she wrote. “And the more we are a choir, the more the tune is forced to change.”

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Tamblyn also published an open letter to Woods in Teen Vogue last week in which she asked the actor to “look in the mirror” and consider why he called her a liar.

She added: “The saddest part of this story doesn’t even concern me but concerns the universal woman’s story. The nation’s harmful narrative of disbelieving women first, above all else.”

Woods did not speak out publicly about either of Tamblyn’s letters, but many people shared their support of the actress on Twitter.

“Snap snap snap, this woman is telling some serious truth,” tweeted actress Olivia Wilde.