Women In Film Speech
June 12, 1992, 1:00am

By Barbra Streisand

JUNE 12, 1992

Welcome to the year of the woman. We’ve come a long way. Not too long ago we were called dolls, tomatoes, chicks, babes and broads. We’ve graduated to being called tough cookies, foxes, bitches, and witches. I guess that’s progress. Language gives us an insight into the way women are viewed in a male dominated society. Take our business for example. Though I’m sure this would hold true for women in positions of power in any field.

A man is commanding – a woman is demanding.
A man is forceful – a woman is pushy.
A man is uncompromising – a woman is a ballbreaker.
A man is a perfectionist – a woman’s a pain in the ass.
He’s assertive – she’s aggressive.
He strategizes – she manipulates.
He shows leadership – she’s controlling.
He’s committed – she’s obsessed.
He’s persevering – she’s relentless.
He sticks to his guns – she’s stubborn.
If a man wants to get it right, he’s looked up to and respected.
If a woman wants to get it right, she’s difficult and impossible.

If he acts, produces and directs, he’s called multi-talented. If she does the same thing, she’s called vain and egotistical.

It’s been said that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Why can’t that be true for a woman?

All this to say that, clearly, men and women are measured by a different yardstick and that makes me angry. Of course, I’m not supposed to be angry. A woman should be soft-spoken, agreeable, ladylike, understated. In other words, stifled…Come to think of it, a lot of things make me angry.

I’m angry about the depletion of the ozone layer – toxic waste.
I’m angry about how they treated Anita Hill.
I’m angry about what happened to Rodney King.

I’m angry that the right of a woman to control her own body is even being questioned.

I’m angry at people who take cheap shots at the only viable Democratic candidate for President instead of focusing on his policies.

And I’m really angry that there aren’t more women in politics. Hopefully that’s changing. It’s about time!

Women represent 52% of the country. The absence of women in government means that over half of the population is unrepresented. Until there is a critical mass of women, whether it be as Senators, CEOs or film directors, we’re not going to be able to make a difference – to effect any real change. Can you imagine the difference it would have made if our one female Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski were sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Clarence Thomas?

I’ll never forget the picture of the seven women Representatives who marched over to the Senate demanding that Anita Hill be heard. It was one of the clearest demonstrations of the power of women united in a common purpose.

We are a remarkable breed. We are the girls in the ‘hood – sisterhood that is. We contain the power of the feminine. Intuition, a deep wisdom. Nature designed us to be creators – to give life. I think we have an obligation to reflect that in our work. Speaking for myself, I feel a deep commitment to making films about positive transformations and the unlimited potential for human growth.

And I look forward to a society that is color and gender blind, that judges us by the value of our work, not the length of our legs. That accepts the face that a woman can be many, many things: strong and vulnerable, intelligent and sexy, opinionated and flexible, angry and forgiving. Deep thinking as well as deep feeling. They can get PhDs and manicures, they can contain the masculine and the feminine. Of course, all of this applies to men as well.

Even in light of some setbacks – some backlash – we must never pass up an opportunity to celebrate. Let us not treat lightly the fact that the number of women who can even be honored is growing steadily. When Women In Film began in 1974, there were 7 women directors who made films that year. This year we are recognizing the work of 31.

I’m here today because I think we have to recommit ourselves to supporting one another. To being more generous with each other. And whenever there is an opportunity to make a movie about something uplifting, life-affirming, let’s take it. Not that everything has to be soft and fluffy, but let’s create images that show life not only as it is, but how it could be. Let’s use our collective female energy to make films that reflect our nurturing instincts and put that out into the world, because the world surely needs it. Thank you.