“I don’t think that any woman in this industry hasn’t [experienced sexism] – I think we all have in various ways, and sometimes you can’t even tell that it’s happening because it’s so ingrained in the way things are structured,” Maslany tells PEOPLE. “Seventy or 80 percent of the people on set are male – directors, writers, producers, people in positions of power, but that’s shifting too.”
The actress says she “can’t even name the number of times” she’s personally experienced sexism working in Hollywood.
“Like being told, ‘Let’s not talk about that, sweetheart,’ if I have an issue with being hit on by a 50-year-old when I was 17 and on set,” she recalls. “It’s never ending. Being put into this little outfit that showed my midriff in a scene where I’m supposed to be grieving the death of a family member, and it’s like, ‘Make sure that her belly button is showing’ – it’s just pathetic. It’s so pathetic.”
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On whether she’s ever been asked to change her physical appearance, Maslany recalls being asked to shave her armpits.
“And wax my mustache, which I refused to do! I’ll do it if the part calls for it and it makes sense,” says Maslany.
So what happens is she says no? According to the actress, there’s a power struggle “for sure.”
“Sometimes it’s not worth being political about it. There’s a point where I have to separate my own political values versus the character I’m playing.”
But Maslany has hope that a positive social shift is in the works.
“I can’t imagine that it’s going to stay stuck like this. I hope not! People are too upset, people are too pissed off and too many strong voices are now being heard,” she says. “There is a big shift happening, and I think we are at the messy puberty stages of it right now, but I hope that at some point it becomes the default that every racial group has their own stories that are being told that aren’t stereotypical.”
“It’s just about bringing that sensitivity, your emotional life and your understanding of humanity that women have that s different to men.”
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For more on Tatiana Maslany and more of this year’s Emmy-nominated actresses, including exclusive portraits, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE