Laura Dern: ‘Every woman knows abuse, not just as a small statistic’


Laura Dern and the women of Big Little Lies were interviewed for five separate covers for the June issue of InStyle. Season two is coming June 9th and I have to admit I haven’t watched the first season yet. So many of you have and recommend it so maybe I’ll marathon the first season. Laura pulled no punches in this interview. She’s matter-of-fact, she knows her mind and she expressed herself quite bluntly. There’s nothing wrong with that, it makes my job easier and she makes good copy. She talked about being her own person, about not wanting to dim herself or change for a man, and about how things were different for women when she was growing up. It’s a good read, but I’m a bit iffy on on one part. You’ll see what I mean when you read it.

On being a single mom
The more I learn about my mistakes as a mother, the deeper I enjoy how fully I love my children [son Ellery, 17, and daughter Jaya, 14]. Because I can let them know I really screw up sometimes. I hide from blame in a lot of areas in my life, but I’m trying not to do that as a mom. This is the first time in my life that I am being ambitious because I am a single parent. Raising kids gave me enough street cred to feel like I deserved the right to make money. This moment in my life is so sexy and freeing because I’ve had many relationships, I’ve had a marriage, I have my amazing children, so I’m not hiding who I am to get somebody who is willing to have kids or be married.

On protecting other women in the industry
[My mother] recently saw a talented young actress at a university play. When she went backstage and told her how good she was, the young girl said a filmmaker had sent her a script after seeing the play and wanted to meet. My mom said, “Great. I’m your manager. I’m going with you.” [When she told me this] I said, “You’re Diane Ladd. They’re going to know who you are when you get there.” She’s like, “I don’t care. I can say I’m managing a few people now. She ain’t going alone.” And I just thought, “That’s what we’re [supposed to be] doing for each other: lifting up other voices, giving women shots they haven’t had, and protecting them in the room.” It’s one thing to say, “Young actors should always protect themselves.” But here is what you never do: Don’t go to a hotel room by yourself. Make sure a casting director is always in the room. We’ve learned what we learned. Now we have to educate others.

On what she’s learned from working with the other women on Pretty Little Lies
I’ve learned that self-care is key and not selfish but compassionate. I’ve learned that gossip needs to be ignored. I’ve learned that divorce is tough no matter who you are. I’ve learned that heartbreak hits everyone and stays with you your whole life. I’ve learned that every woman knows abuse — not just as a small statistic of some kind. That was an incredible insight that came from doing this show together, because domestic violence, sexual assault, and psychological abuse are all part of the conversation. It runs the gamut, so we’ve talked about it through the work, with the press, and with women who come up to us. We realize that everywhere we turn, being female means you’ve had some experience [of that]. I did not know that. Because they isolate us.

[From In Style]

Years ago, before I came to certain realizations about myself, I wouldn’t agree that every woman knows abuse. Now I get her meaning and I agree to an extent. Sometimes we don’t recognize the forms that it can take and how it’s been right in front of us the whole time. While it’s true we need to look out for each other, I didn’t like her emphasis on telling other actresses to never go to casting rooms alone. That’s decent advice in general, but there’s always so much focus on the victims and what we should have done differently. Cara DeLevingne and Lupita Nyong’o's encounters with Weinstein show that even with another woman there we’re not necessarily safe. I don’t think she’s victim blaming I just wish she’d framed that better. Maybe she’s quoting her mom, but I’ve heard that same statement used to make a different point.

Also check out the cover above. She’s rocking that bustier and now I want one just like Helena Christensen’s. We talk about that on the podcast coming out Monday. I wore one as outerwear in the 90s!

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Photos credit: WENN and via Instagram

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15 Responses to “Laura Dern: ‘Every woman knows abuse, not just as a small statistic’”

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  1. Anastasia says:

    Sadly, I have yet to meet a woman who hasn’t been verbally abused, sexually abused, physically abused, sexually assaulted, molested, raped, sexually harassed, or some combination of the above at some point in her life. (It goes without saying by a man.)

    Including my daughter. And my mother. And my 14 year old niece. Both my sisters in law. All of my close friends. Co-workers. My neighbor. You name it.

    Smash the patriarchy, y’all.

    • Embee says:

      Amen. My daughter’s only 9 so she hasn’t been assaulted yet but I fully embrace what I will need to do when it does happen. And I am trying to prepare her in advance — not with BJJ skills or anything like that–but mentally and emotionally lay the groundwork so she understands it’s not her fault. SMASH

      • Anastasia says:

        “My daughter’s only 9 so she hasn’t been assaulted yet…”

        Got to be one of the saddest things ever written.

  2. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    For me, there’s always going to be faults within any discussion concerning harrassment, abuse, lines being crossed because the discussions can’t help but trigger and be monumentally and subjectively digested. It’s just so f&cking personal. I’ve had friends and other women protecting me. I’ve protected and handled situations for other women. But not one of us can be all things to everyone, including ourselves, every second of every day. At some point we find ourselves in a situation. It’s easily recallable. It hurts. And we remember every second of the palpitations. The discussions have evolved so thoroughly and that makes me so very happy.

    Now. I don’t mind older women and the bustier thang. But, BUT, I can’t hop on the lace ones. They beg for something else imo. A solid one, however…

    • Celebitchy says:

      I appreciate your explanation and VV’s explanation below. That’s a good way to frame it, that the discussions are triggering and maybe that’s what I was responding to in a way.

  3. Valiantly Varnished says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with what she said. She’s right. This isn’t about victim-blaming or anything. It’s about giving young actresses the tools and confidence to say no to situations that they may feel they can’t say no to or that they don’t feel they have the capital to say no to. So many actresses I’ve known have been in situations that they knew didnt feel quite right but that they went into anyway because no one was really around to tell them they didn’t have to do that. If an older more experienced and successful woman in the industry can say to them no you don’t have to do that. Or take someone with you. If that protects one young woman then that’s the goal. We all know the ultimate goal is to create a world where men who do things like what Weinstein did no longer exist and are no longer protected by the industry – but that’s not the current reality.

    • Tracym says:

      Perfectly encapsulated what I wanted to say. We have to work with what tools we have now. If that’s just one person willing to be a mentor, more power to them.

    • Jess says:

      That’s how i read it too – not victim blaming but letting women know they don’t have to accept certain situations AND also stepping up to support our fellow women (even if means just physically being in a room with them). And I love the idea of Diane Ladd saying she’ll be the “manager” for this young woman just to protect her in this situation. That’s awesome.

    • lucy2 says:

      Exactly. She wasn’t blaming the victims and saying “oh those women never should have gone to the hotel room”, she’s saying, “look, this is what happened and what we’ve all learned from it, and let’s share it far and wide so the next generation doesn’t have to put up with it.”

      From that story, her mom sounds awesome – watching university theater, taking the time to compliment the actress, AND then going the extra mile to be a protector.

    • Some chick says:

      I agree. I admire the hell out of Diane Ladd for literally *literally* standing up. And I think it’s great that Laura is saying these things. Time’s UP, mofos.

    • Sue Denim says:

      Agree, I think it’s good advice, one thing women can do to prevent abuse, but obv not the only thing. And btw if a guy doesn’t like it or pushes back, you probably have good info on what he’s really about… Don’t ever let anyone manipulate you into doing something that doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts, and know your worth… Sorry to get preachy, I work w a lot of young people and this is something I always want to tell them…

  4. otaku fairy... says:

    It’s good that she included psychological abuse in there too- it’s easily forgotten, and it really strengthens her point about all women knowing abuse on some level. We sometimes get so used to exposure to the ways women and girls we know and don’t know have been brutalized and violently abused from the beginning of time to now (which, some say, is psychologically and emotionally abusive enough) that it can be easy to forget about abuse that doesn’t come in the form of an individual doing something so physical, and to forget dehumanization doesn’t always start with bodily harm.

  5. Carol says:

    I understand what Laura is trying to say, that women are often mistreated or dismissed but Im not sure I agree that EVERY woman has been abused. if she is including physical or verbal, I would argue that everyone has been abused in some form at some point. Especially as kids – verbally at the very least. My dad was verbally abusive to me but also to my brother. I had some jerk yell something to me about being a woman (he claimed I cut in line but I didnt) but he also yelled at an old man.

    But I do appreciate that Laura advocates for women and she always comes across as a girls’ girl in her interviews.

    • Some chick says:

      Someone yelling at an old man does not negate his also being abusive to women.

      The point is that we are seen as lesser/weaker, so people feel free to dish it out.

      I’m sure most elders have also experienced abuse.

      The near universality of it doesn’t make it any less WRONG.

  6. Liz says:

    Context is everything in Laura’s advice — she is an experienced professional, speaking from a place of expertise and authority in the business. Her intent is to educate on what should be the professional norms in these meetings. Part of the insidiousness of the problem is that there is a grey zone about what is appropriate conduct in the business, and this gets exploited. A young actress (or actor) may wonder “should or shouldn’t I?” Without guidance, she may feel uncomfortable refusing a one on one meeting, not wanting to appear inflexible, un-hip, or unable to hang with the big shots. With someone like Laura Dern laying it on the line, the issue clarifies. She is NOT an outsider gawking in at the situation trying to shame women; she’s putting out a professional guideline.