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Schumer joins several other comedic actresses for a roundtable discussion of the struggles of being a woman in the television industry

By Andrea Park
Updated May 27, 2015 05:50 PM
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Credit: Andrew Toth/FilmMagic(2); Jamie McCarthy/Getty;

Amy Schumer has a theory about the inherent inequality of women in show business: “I think people hate women.”

In a roundtable of comedic actresses assembled for The Hollywood Reporter‘s latest issue, the Inside Amy Schumer creator and star adds, “I don’t think they want to hear a woman talk for too long. A lot of people project their mom yelling a them.”

Schumer continues, “My [career] has been about tricking people into listening. I’m not saying all men hate women, but there’s such an aggression.”

For the magazine’s June 5 issue, THR sat down with Schumer, Lena Dunham, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Ellie Kemper, Jane the Virgin‘s Gina Rodriguez, Black-ish‘s Tracee Ellis Ross and Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon to discuss the struggles of being a woman in entertainment and the sexism they’ve encountered throughout their careers.

Among other topics of conversation (bad gigs and Hillary Clinton), the women share their experiences receiving degrading comments, as well as having their talent and hard work overshadowed by their appearance. Schumer, 33, even dedicated an entire episode of her show to a parody of 12 Angry Men in which the men debate whether she’s hot enough to be on TV, which Dunham says is “the most important thing that’s happened on TV in a long time.”

“I was up for a role and auditioned in character,” Rodriguez, 30, tells the group. “They’re like, ‘We love her. But can she come back in with a tight black dress?’ I said, ‘That doesn’t make any sense for the character.’ They were like, ‘We need to know if you’re pretty enough to be on the cover of a magazine.’ ”

Dunham, 29, offers up a story of a man who not only body-shamed her, but also refused to take her seriously as creator, writer, producer and star of HBO’s Girls.

“I heard a guy on my show say into his microphone: ‘I hate this job. I can’t wait to be back on a show where there’s a man at the helm,’ ” she says. “Later, that same guy came up to me at lunch and said, ‘You’re really enjoying that buffet, aren’t you?’ ”

With so many professional funny ladies in one place, it was inevitable the conversation would turn to the status-quo replacement of now retired late-night host David Letterman with another white man (albeit an incredibly talented and respected one). Several women, including Schumer, were considered for the role, but the position eventually went to Stephen Colbert, 51.

“I love Stephen Colbert, he’s a genius, but CBS [couldn’t] take the David Letterman slot and hire somebody who represented even an ounce of diversity?” Dunham says. “Also, when they got James Corden – another guy I love – [to replace Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show] there was this joke, ‘We’ve run out of white men here, we have to import them from England.’ ”

She continues, “There is no shortage of established women who’ve been on the comedy circuit for years. It bums me out that someone like Kathy Griffin was relegated to Fashion Police.”

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The women don’t come up with any conclusions as to why women still aren’t getting as many big-ticket jobs as their male counterparts. (No, it’s not “because we get our periods at night,” as Schumer laughingly suggests.)

But Kemper, 35, notes, “The circles in which we run, there’s an understanding that there’s no difference in what women can bring to comedy. But there’s a huge portion of the country that this is still news to. There are a lot of men who fly business class still rooted in the idea that women aren’t funny.”

Ross also references the current reality that women who speak up for themselves are more often seen as bossy and pushy rather than than ambitious.

“I was raised by a woman who has high standards for what she’s worth, which has been called ‘diva behavior,’ ” Ross, 42, says of her mother, singer Diana Ross. “I have witnessed flagrant, disgusting behavior, and that is not my mother. There is a way to be a woman, ask for what we deserve and be able to negotiate.”