2017 Honoree

Felicity Huffman

Actor & Producer

“…The world’s three largest democracies, they have different religions: Hindu, Christian, and Muslim. Two of them have already elected women as leaders in their government. You have to look at your vote and your voice.”

What do you feel are the qualities of a Power Woman?

Let me just say, I stand always on the shoulders of those who came before us, other powerful women who came before us. There’s that great Susan Sontag quote which is a paradox: “the only transformation that interests me is total transformation, however minute.” We, or at least I, tend to think it’s all or nothing. And when we’re all trying to hopefully make a difference for women, and therefore everybody, I feel impotent in the space of vast challenges that face us. But, every change is a product of tiny little shifts, so I think a hallmark of a powerful woman is that you can pay attention to the little things that you do yourself, the little things that count, and it’s that thing. You can’t move this enormous ship, but you can be a trinidad and, slowly, you move the ship along. And that’s being a powerful woman—-you can attend to the small transformations that can move glaciers. It’s like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she picked her battles smart. She said, “I know I can’t win that fight, we’re just going to concentrate on this.”

With all the different issues we can focus on, how do you balance your efforts in the dispute of gender equality?

I guess I go back to my original goal in making a difference in the things that are closest, and that is reproductive rights. I cannot wrap my head around why the ERA hasn’t been ratified. And I just can’t believe that the Phyllis Schlafly’s don’t get that what affects one, affects us all. Women’s reproductive rights and health—-that’s where I plant my flag by supporting Planned Parenthood. I think that’s the small part I’ve done.

How do you feel it’s possible to have a government or legislation to look at shifting equal pay and equal wage more recognized for both genders?

I think one needs to step back before you address the issue, you have to address the people who are addressing the issue. I think it gets back to women in government. We need women in government. The world’s three largest democracies have different religions: India, the United States, and Indonesia. So that’s Hindu, Christian, and Muslim. Two of them have already elected women as leaders in their government. You have to look at your vote and your voice. I’m stepping into an area I’m not sure about, but I know complaining doesn’t work. I don’t know how the gay rights movement has done it so well. I don’t know if it has to do with testosterone: “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” and didn’t shut up until they were listened to and got some power. And we’ve been trying to do it since 1923 with the equal rights amendment. I don’t know why we’re lacking the jet fuel that we need. But, I’m pretty sure it’s elected officials and women who run Fortune 500 companies and women like Victoria Alonso, who’s the head of Marvel Comics movies,…I’m pretty sure that’s the way.

Do you feel that you have a personal experience where you felt that a woman had stopped you from having a fair piece of the pie, whether that’s in your acting career or salary comparison?

I don’t right now, and partly that’s because I’m incredibly fortunate. I’ve been to meetings with men who are my partners in different producing things, and they turn to the men for their opinions. I’m used to it. If anything, it adds to my feeling of inadequacy, but I think I have to take responsibility for that and not blame it on someone’s opinion. I was raised with a mom and seven girls. I had one brother and my dad wasn’t really around. I grew up in a very matriarchal household. But, just to circle back again, I think in myself there is an ingrained bread in the bone feeling of being less than and to make yourself smaller. It exists…I think that which is brought to the light becomes the light.

Was there a defining experience or moment that led you to where you are in your life today, professionally?

Isn’t it funny-—the things that define us are sometimes encouraging and also sometimes barriers. The encouragement gives you wings and the barriers make you determined. I watched Zeferelli’s Romeo and Juliet. My sister was sitting behind me because my mom let me go with her, and at the sexy parts she would take her hands and put them over my eyes. I watched a lot of movies with my eyes closed. But, that made me go, “I want to tell stories like that.” Then, I remember when I was about 10, probably a little older, my mother had a friend over who was sort of a psychic and she met with all of the daughters and then came to me and said, “you’re fickle.” And I didn’t even know what that meant. I thought it meant that I was some sort of pickle. And I went to my sister and asked what fickle means. And she said, “it means you do a little of this and a little of that and don’t commit.” And I went to myself, “I’m not going to fucking be fickle.” That’s when I sort of dug in.

If you could be anybody else for one day of your life, who would that person be and why?

This is what came to my mind: Beyonce, because of her dedication to excellence. I wonder what that would feel like. Talk about a feminist. She’s awesome.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

From my mother. She said, “you’re always going to be frightened. Do it anyway.” I sort of wake up and go to sleep in fear, so it’s nice to have someone say that.

If you had a favorite book you would recommend, what would it be?

I would say Call to Action and Strangers in Their Own Land because one would make you an activist and one would make you a unifier.

If you had a favorite place to go to on Earth, where would it be and why?

Colorado because I grew up there and that’s where my family is. Colorado or my bed. My bed in Colorado!

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