Amber Tamblyn is no stranger to the particular pressures Hollywood inflicts on women. After all, she's been acting for nearly two decades.
As the Golden Globe nominee celebrated the debut of her first novel, Any Man, Tuesday night in conversation with New York Times journalist Jodi Kantor, the women got to talking about the state of society on the heels of the #MeToo movement and resulting Time's Up initiative, the star's inspiration for her new book and how her experiences and national events have impacted her as an artist and person.
At one point in the chat, Tamblyn recalled one particular conversation she had with her agent on the heels of the successful Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. According to the actress, a Warner Bros. executive called her agent to say that she was going to be a huge star, but she needed to lose some weight.
"I think at that point I was 128 pounds and I'm 5-7. I remember my agent saying to me and she was a woman, 'You have a real choice here. You can either be Nicole Kidman or you can be a character actress,'" Tamblyn recalled. "And at that time, I was like 21 years old, so if you look at that and use that as an example and imagine that for over two decades, forms of that from when you're a child to all the way up, it does something to you."
For Tamblyn, the conversation was an example of the violating experiences she faced.
"They were always different forms of being shut out of conversations or being boxed out of different places in which I know my voice should exist or being told under certain circumstances I had to look a certain way or I was going to fail," she told Kantor after the journalist asked how she has been violated.
This isn't the first time the star has spoken out about the criticisms she endured over her weight. In a New York Times op-ed she penned in January, Tamblyn recalled a director asking her to lose five pounds before they began shooting.
"He said the film studio would provide a trainer and a meal plan for me," she wrote. "I was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed just 120 pounds. I remember this number precisely because five pounds lighter would make me 115 pounds, which is the number I ended up achieving after I spent two weeks eating only the deli meat off Subway sandwiches and skipping dinners altogether."
Fortunately, the conversation about women and their bodies has shifted since the #MeToo movement reemerged last year with actresses like Tamblyn exposing their experiences publicly and demanding more diversity in female roles.
Amid the national reckoning, tangible change is in progress thanks to the efforts of those participating in the Time's Up initiative—including Tamblyn, one of the organization's founding members—to combat systemic gender inequality and harassment in the workplace across industries.
The organization has also developed a Legal Defense Fund to help individuals hold wrongdoers accountable. The actress said the fund has helped assign 300 cases of workplace harassment to attorneys.
As for her newest written work—which revolves around the victims of a female rapist—Tamblyn hopes the book will encourage readers to open up about their own experiences. It has for her own friends. She told Kantor two thirds of her heterosexual male friends revealed they had been sexually assaulted after they read it.
—Reporting by Taylor Bryant