It’s Not Just Adam Sandler: Rose McGowan Calls Out Hollywood’s Pervasive Sexism

The comedian’s sexist casting call is a symptom of a larger problem.

Rose McGowan in New York City on June 18. (Photo: ESBP/Star Max/Getty Images)

Jun 24, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

When conjuring an image of Rose McGowan, one might picture a pouty pinup star who fell prey to Hollywood’s pervasive sexualized vision of women. But the 41-year-old actor is no longer willing to be anyone’s object. Now, when McGowan sees examples of sexism in her industry, she’s armed and ready to call them out.

McGowan took Adam Sandler and his crew to task last week for a casting call that explicitly called for push-up bras, skintight clothes, and a rather condescending reminder for the auditioning ladies to read the script before they got to the audition.

After her tweet gained traction—with many calling out Sandler for his wrongdoing—McGowan set the record straight. She isn’t trying to “vilify” the comedian—instead she is pointing to a larger problem throughout the industry.

“It’s institutionally okay,” McGowan told Entertainment Weekly on Tuesday.

“I was offended by the fact that it went through so many people’s hands and nobody red-flagged it,” the actor explained. “This is normal to so many people. It was probably even a girl that had to type it up.”

Other actors can attest to that. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gina Rodriguez, and Tracee Ellis Ross recently dished about misogynistic audition stories in which they were asked to sex it up, come back in a tighter outfit, or just given a plain old “You’re not pretty enough” as a reason for not getting the role.

So, Why Should You Care? What happens in the casting call is augmented on the screen. Female characters are twice as likely as men to appear nude or wear sexually explicit clothing. They’re five times more likely to hear comments about their looks in the film, according to a report from the Geena Davis Institute on the top films from 2010 to 2012.

What that says to both male and female audience members is that a woman’s appearance matters more than that of her male peers, perpetuating the idea of women being sexual objects on and off the screen.

McGowan admits that in past roles she was subject to this sort of objectification. “I was looking back on my own career, and I realized that I was turned into a commodity,” She said in an interview with Vice in June.

In part, that’s why McGowan recently transitioned her career into a behind-the-scenes role, directing the short film Dawn. As a director, she is able to avert the male gaze and focus on storytelling and the way women see themselves and each other—and that means no mandatory cleavage at casting calls.