Written by Renee Huffman, Photos by Hugo Arturi
1. At what point in your life did you first identify as a feminist and when did you become aware that a culture existed that devalued and debased women?
I didn’t really learn about feminism until I went to college. My mother was always a feminist but I don’t remember the word being used all that much. I associated it with burning bras and the seventies. At Vassar, I learned about feminism and it explained so much about the self-consciousness I felt about my body. That in fact, when I was objectified and hooted at just walking down the street, I wasn’t crazy for feeling creeped out. There was nothing wrong with me. We live in a patriarchy, which for too long was the status quo. But now women are waking up, speaking up and insisting on equality and respect which starts with intersectionality.
2. How was your column, The J-Spot ,born?
I was an actress living in Hollywood and the sexist culture was shocking. I went from taking feminist classes at Vassar to wearing push up bra to auditions. It was like some hyped up sexual wild wild west. I was propositioned for sex multiple times. And then even when I landed roles, they were all about objectification. I was once cast ( for what I thought was my quirky humor) but was told on set “just act like a ditzy blonde.” It was very depressing so I wrote short stories about it. I wrote about men who abused their power and even how, at times, I played into the stereotypes prescribed to me. A writer friend of mine read one of my stories and gave me a column in New York Natives called Starf*cked. Six months later, the former editor in chief of the Observer responded to my writing, asked me to pitch him my ideas and then offered me the sex column at the Observer. It was formerly Candace Bushnell’s column Sex and the City so I had big shoes to fill. But I couldn’t look at it that way or I would have freaked out ,so I made it my own and called it The J-Spot, for you know, Jasmine.
3. You wrote anonymously about your past experience with Harvey, four years ago in your column the J-Spot. You recently named as your assaulter. Four years ago, what happened that made you feel ready to open up about what you experienced and did seeing all of these other highly esteemed women come forward with their owns about Harvey, make you feel comfortable to name him?
Four years ago, I wrote about Harvey but didn’t name him. He had so much power back then and would have come after me and I didn’t have the resources to fight back. But I knew I had to tell my story and I also believed there were so many men like him. I saw him as an archetype, a powerful man dangling his golden carrot. But it was an illusion. Even top actresses who worked with him were harassed. When I first published his story, so many people reached out and said, “That's Harvey Weinstein.” His behavior was common knowledge. It’s sad, it took so long to condemn his rampant behavior. When brave actresses started naming him in October, I found the courage to name him.
4. Universal just optioned The J-Spot for series. What excites you the most about this new venture and what role will you play with the series going forward? I’m excited to see my struggles, relationships, hopes and dreams come to life on the screen. If the show gets picked up, I’ll be co-executive producer, a consultant and maybe more!
5. At this year’s Golden Globes women wore black in solidarity to support Time’s Up and Me Too, except for three who received much criticism on social media. Do you think men are harder on women or women are harder on other women when it comes to criticism and passing moral judgements?
I think we should all judge less and love more. Women can certainly be as judgmental as men, but I think women are realizing when we come together, nothing can stop us. We’re a force.
6. Is it surprising to you the backlash the Me Too and Time’s Up movements have received, specifically in France, which is a very liberal country, where more than 100 actresses and writers (most notably Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve) signed a letter published in the French newspaper Le Monde, claiming sexual freedom is under attack due to the ongoing sexual harassment allegations and is resulting in a witch hunt against men? [Link].
I think that it’s interesting many of these women (Bardot and Deneuve) were great beauties and known for their sex appeal. It’s as though they’re worried the “me too” movement will make their careers and experiences invalid or wrong. But that’s a real shame because many women have had moments where they’ve relied on their sex appeal, but that doesn’t negate the fact that women want more than that—Women want respect.
7. Do you think the movements in the long term will have a positive effect on Hollywood or will it make male producers/screenwriters/directors, in an effort to avoid looking at their own behavior, write less leading roles for women and hire fewer women. Their logic being, “Oh she’s a woman and they may talk.”
I think the movement will have a positive effect. There may be moments of backlash but overall, I believe we are moving forwards by leaps and bounds.
8. Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment history goes back more than 30 years, with more than 80 women coming forward. Why do you think it’s taken so long for women to feel comfort to speak out? Does having President in office, who has been accused of sexual harassment and with all the role backs on women’s health care finally made women say enough?
Absolutely. I think so many people have felt helpless about Trump’s sexist antics, that they are reeling for change and action. Women were calling out Weinstein years ago but their voices fell on silent ears. Yet, every voice built up so that when the time was right, it was like an avalanche.
9. Being a writer yourself, do you have a speech prepared if you ever run into President Trump?
Since he only seems to listen to accolades and everything else is fake news, I can’t imagine he would want to hear what I have to say. He’s an example of a man who functions from a place of ego, the quintessential patriarch. In my mind, he stands for nearly everything that is wrong with the world. And yet, I would thank him. Because of his polarizing, hate-mongering, he’s stirred the pot, and as a culture, we are now facing head on-a cancer that was once mostly dormant but certainly present. People are rising up now, speaking their truths and while I wish it didn’t come about this way, I hope it’s only a temporary step backwards so we can take many steps forwards. It’s a painful process, but I’m optimistic. I am hopeful that the future is not just female but feminine, so men and women alike, benefit from a more integrated, empathetic society.
10. You’re such an energetic, optimistic person. What keeps you going when times are hard and when you face disappointments?
I allow myself to feel my feelings even if they’re uncomfortable and then look at the bigger picture. I try to meditate daily which helps and I love Arianna Huffington’s quote “failure is not the opposite of success; Its part of success.” Not always easy words to live by, but I do my best to see the silver lining in situations.
Clothes Credits: 1 Tee: Prabal Gurung, Skirt: Gucci, 2 Dress: Balmain, Necklace: Barbara Godfrey Cass, 3 Dress: Alexander McQueen 4 Jacket: Burberry, Top: Alexander McQueen, Pants: Cushnie et Ochs 5 Jacket: Gucci, Shirt: Gucci, Pants: Gucci 6 Dress: Calvin Klein, Necklace: Tuleste