Olivia Wilde: ‘It’s very easy to control women by using guilt and shame’


Olivia Wilde covers the latest issue of Vogue, mostly to promote Don’t Worry Darling. I think DWD was originally supposed to come out in early 2022, which would explain the timing of this cover, but the release date was pushed back to September 2022. Much of the Vogue profile is about the film and Olivia-as-director and her journey as an artist and as a woman in full. There are mentions of Harry Styles and she’s not hiding their relationship, but she doesn’t gush and she’s not performatively squirrelly about it either. She genuinely seems to be in a good place in her life and career. And while I’m usually not a fan, I like a lot of what she said here. Some highlights:

Living in LA now: As an East Coast native, she hasn’t totally managed to shake her instinctive skepticism of Los Angeles. “But then this….” She gestures outdoors, letting the pool and the glorious sunshine speak for themselves. “And for kids, it is so much easier. They come home from school and just run out and expend all their energy.”

How the kids handled the pandemic: “It’s wonderful to have them become nomadic in the same way I’ve always been—to feel that whatever country we’re in, they have a routine and a community. They’re best friends, and they have each other.”

The inspiration for Don’t Worry Darling: The idea for the film crystallized shortly after Trump’s election, when Wilde met Gloria Steinem at “this little gathering in New York City.” Wilde was despondent; she asked Steinem what she could do. Stop paying taxes, Steinem told her. Wilde was aghast. “I said, ‘What?’ I own property. I have kids. I don’t think I can do that.” Then it hit her: “This is why nothing will change. That was the beginning of Don’t Worry Darling. I was like, Who’s that person who’s actually willing to destroy the structure that is built entirely for their comfort? That’s a selflessness on a level that I admire but admit is far from the way I live my life.”

Her respect for Harry Styles taking a supporting role: “I cannot tell you how many men read the script and said, ‘Unless it’s a two-hander, unless I’m in as much—or more—of the script than she is, it’s not worth it.’ And it’s not their fault. They’ve been raised with this kind of innate misogyny as a part of their society: ‘If I don’t take up enough space, I won’t seem valuable.’ Actresses—highly trained, highly valuable actresses—have appeared in supporting roles in countless films. We don’t think about it in terms of, ‘My role is not as big as his.’ It’s, ‘Oh, it’s a good role. It’s a role where I have a brain.’ ”

On her relationship with Styles, who is 10 years younger: “It’s obviously really tempting to correct a false narrative. But I think what you realize is that when you’re really happy, it doesn’t matter what strangers think about you. All that matters to you is what’s real, and what you love, and who you love. In the past 10 years, as a society, we have placed so much more value on the opinion of strangers rather than the people closest to us… I’m happier than I’ve ever been. And I’m healthier than I’ve ever been, and it’s just wonderful to feel that.”

Going on vacation with Styles & leaving her kids with Jason: “Parenting forces you to be honest about how you live your life. It puts in sharp, clear focus decisions you’re making. I think we owe it to children to be happy. They sense it. They’re so intuitive. The idea that you can trick your kids into thinking you’re happy is ludicrous.”

How women are controlled: “You can go deep on Cold War influences on family structure, why we all think we need, you know, a two-parent household and a microwave. It’s very easy to control women by using guilt and shame, and I have no time for misplaced guilt and shame. The work I’ve done personally in the last decade has been learning to have a voice, and taking my voice seriously.”

She’s broken free: “[I’m free from] this idealized version of a woman. And I felt really thrilled to get older. It’s great when you get too old to play dumb. As you get older as a woman, you put up with less bullsh-t. I’m only willing to surround myself with people who are positive, and root for others. I choose kindness. I choose joy.”

[From Vogue]

I love what she said about what parents owe their kids and how society controls women. Those are two great comments/ideas. Kids know when their parents are miserable, and kids “need a break” from their parents sometimes as much as parents need a break from their kids. Olivia’s kids were fine, they were their dad, and Olivia enjoyed a lovely kid-free vacation, end of story. And she’s absolutely right about how society imposes shame and guilt on women as a form of control. The Gloria Steinem thing was fascinating too!

Cover & IG courtesy of Vogue.

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47 Responses to “Olivia Wilde: ‘It’s very easy to control women by using guilt and shame’”

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  1. Evening Star says:

    My biggest takeaway is how absolutely peak White Liberal Girlboss it is to openly brag about refusing to pay taxes with no fear of repercussions, and I say that as a White female progressive lol.

    • Pilar says:

      Not only peak white feminism but peak performative feminism.
      She has a whole paragraph about how rare it is to find a male actor ( like Harry styles with one minor role behind him is flippin Daniel Day Lewis) who will play a supporting role in a female led movie and then barely mentions Oscar nominated actress Florence Pugh. Same thing she did in her insta post.
      Her brand of feminism seems to be bigging up white cis gendered men for doing the bare minimum.

      • Cava 24 says:

        I honestly think she threw the Gloria Steinem/ taxes thing in so she could tell everyone she was a a “small gathering” with Steinem so she could boost her “activist” bona fides. She’s not getting much acting work and she seems to be re-entering the “activist as influencer selling things on IG” market.

      • Evening Star says:

        Totally agree on your first point and on the Florence Pugh erasure.

        On male actors not wanting to play supporting to female leads, is that even true anymore by and large? I’m sure there are some who wouldn’t for sexist and/or ego reasons, but it feels like more effort to embiggen Harry as some feminist hero. Just off the top of my head, Chris Pine, Tom Hiddleston, Bo Burnham, Bill Hader, hell even George Clooney have played supporting in female-led films, and they’re all much more established actors than Harry.

      • Kristen says:

        Cava — Her parents are both journalists, and she’s grown up with people like (the late) Christopher Hitchens as friends. These are the people she’s always been around, so I don’t think she’s trying to boost herself as an activist.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        “and then barely mentions Oscar nominated actress Florence Pugh.”

        Did she actually not mention Pugh? Or did the editor of the article not put the entirety of her comments in the article?

    • Léna says:

      Yes I had to re read it to make sure I understood it correctly. WTF what that?

    • NCWoman says:

      I don’t think anyone was bragging about not paying their taxes. It was just a discussion point about how to protest Trump taking office that made her think about how hard it is to do things that could negatively impact your own life in a very direct way even when the cause is good.

    • tealily says:

      I think you misunderstood what she said. Steinem was pointing out to her was that we’re in a position that nothing will ever change in our society if we aren’t willing to take risks and make ourselves vulnerable. Making change happen means making yourself uncomfortable. Dismantling oppressive systems mean dismantling systems that benefit white/cis/hetero people, even if that person is you.

      • Twin falls says:

        Yes, this was my take away as well.

      • Evening Star says:

        If anything, as a rich White woman, not paying or avoiding taxes only benefits her and takes resources away from programs and communities which depend on taxation. No one hyped up Jeff Bezos for “dismantling the system” for not paying his fair share of taxes.

      • tealily says:

        @Evening Star or we take all our tax money and put it exactly where we want it instead of the funneling it through a government that’s going to dole it out as they see fit and give much needed social programs and infrastructure the scraps. Jeff Bezos isn’t running any breakfast programs in city neighborhoods, he taking celebrities on space tours. Anyway, it’s not my point, it’s hers. I think she’s talking big picture and saying something deliberately provocative… if you don’t like what the government is doing with your money, don’t give it to them.

  2. Bettyrose says:

    She’s always rubbed me the wrong way but I feel her here. The post WWII wealth boom in the US did lead to the dream of a single family home with two cars and modern appliances, and that consumer fantasy was tied to a woman in the kitchen who endlessly bought new products to please her family. All 1950s television was basically an ad for that existence. Proctor and Gamble defined womanhood for decades. She’s not wrong although she was born well after that era.

    • observer says:

      not a fan of hers either but like other people pointed out she’s rolling out the white feminist talking points and among the misses maybe there’s one or two hits…i’m white though, so maybe i’m an easy target. but i liked what she said about kids knowing when their parents are unhappy, which has nothing to do with race, it’s universal.

      i also don’t know if it’s relevant to what you said about it, but during the 1950s television was genuinely considered a family activity, everyone would crowd around the tv together and watch the same shows together (hence the birth and massive success of the tv dinner)

      • Twin falls says:

        I also liked the part about being authentic for your kids but then again I’m also divorced and much happier than when I was married so it fits my narrative.

  3. Stef says:

    This is one of her best interviews by far. She sounds grounded, realistic, wise, empowered, and confident in her role as an artist, a mother, and a woman in her prime. I especially like what she said about the patriarchy and feminism without using any of the overused buzz words.

    Her work on Vinyl is my favourite and I kinda fell in love with her a little bit in that role. She just blew me away. I felt like it was really her shinning through in that role, even though her character was based in the 70’s.

    Looking forward to what she does next and Don’t Worry Darling sounds amazing!

  4. OriginalLaLa says:

    The “Don’t pay taxes” statement is gross – not paying taxes is not some feminist statement, its selfish, greedy, rich person behavior….

    • lanne says:

      I don’t really understand that point. The IRS is a boogyman and they will come and get you. Besides, I believe in the importance of things like roads, national parks, public schools, and city parks. Whose going to pay for them otherwise?

    • Bettyrose says:

      It’s almost the antithesis of feminism. Taxes support communities which benefits women and children. The libertarian dream of no taxes and absolute independence is the height of toxic masculinity.

    • observer says:

      seriously, don’t fuck with the IRS. even rich people have to have balls to fuck with the IRS and she herself admitted she’s not that person, soo…what’s the take-away here?

    • Jaded says:

      It’s ridiculous. How will roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, etc. be maintained or get built? How can you have a social support network for the elderly, working poor or unemployed? There are a million worthy things that our tax dollars support so for her, as a rich white woman, to say this is glib and arrogant.

    • Kristen says:

      I mean, Gloria Steinem pays her taxes. I think the point was more about people feeling so comfortable with the status quo that they’re often stuck in inaction.

  5. Red says:

    She’s really tone deaf in the interview, but people who love white girl feminism will love what she says.

  6. Moxylady says:

    I don’t like that they phrased it as she left HER kids with Jason. No, her kids stayed with their dad. Lord. The misogyny

  7. observer says:

    the comment about kids needing a break from their parents sometimes is spot on. i didn’t have very good parents and struggled with depression and anxiety early on. stress always went down when i was afforded a break from one– or both– of them.

  8. likethedirection says:

    “The idea for DON’T WORRY DARLING”?? Lol, she didn’t write it. It was a popular script that she signed on to direct then brought a different writer on for rewrites.

  9. els says:

    I agree completely agree. Women are given so much more expectations about everything, it’s easier to make us feel guilty. I felt that a lot in the workplace.. her interview was great!

  10. ClaireB says:

    Maybe I’m misreading this, but every one of those quotes screams “narcissist justifying their terrible behavior” to me and I am not here for it.

    • observer says:

      i’ve always got the wrong vibes from her but unlike a lot of celebrities i can’t pin down a specific memory that made me go “nope” …

      … also, you know how we have “The Worst Chris”? when will there be “A Decent Olivia”?

    • Oria says:

      Could you expand on that?
      I don’t see it like that, and is interested to understand your way of thinking.
      (no shade, genuinely curious)

      • ClaireB says:

        @Oria, I will try to explain what I’m hearing from her, given what we know of her behavior from gossip reports. My partner grew up with a narcissistic father and has quite a few of those behaviors (that he is working on with a counselor!), so I tend to look for these kinds of things.

        When talking about how her kids handled the pandemic, she didn’t actually say anything about them. She said she liked that they were becoming more like her and implies that she’s not concerned about them leaving friends and stable situations because they should rely on each other.

        When she talks about being away from her kids when they’re with their father (because she left the family), she focuses on her own happiness and how important it is to her children for her to be happy. She doesn’t say, “It’s important for adults to model happy, healthy lives for their children”, she keeps it all about her own happiness.

        When she talks about how women are controlled by guilt and shame, which is true, to me she’s talking about her decision to leave her partner and their children, which is also fine, except that we know from her previous relationships that her M.O. is to find a jumpoff and then absolutely slag off her ex, like they were stifling her freedom. So, to me, the guilt and shame she’s talking about is the blowback she got for her messiness when she had children to think of.

        It’s all very subtle and relies on word choice and the way she structures her sentences: she’s always at the center and her freedom and happiness are extremely important to her. If you haven’t been in this kind of relationship, where someone always centers themselves, it might not ping you the same way it’s doing me, and there’s always the possibility that I’m wrong.

      • Oria says:

        Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to explain that to me, I appreciate that very much.

        You’re making excellent points. And it’s very interesting.
        I’m a therapist myself, and specialize in treating narcissistic behavior and/or other antisocial personality disorders (mostly imprisoned criminals, to tell you the truth). However I’ve worked more with victims and their individual recovery from these individuals in later years.

        Reading this didn’t instantly make my alarmbells go off, so I was very intrigued by your comment. I thought she might have chosen her words for empowerment – and perhaps because her publisists want to angle it in a certain direction, it is after all a specific reason for this article.
        I don’t find her wording very different from how men in general speak, with the emphasis on “I”, we just don’t hold them to same standard of having to include their kids or others in their conversations about themselves. We, as society, are much more comfortable with men speaking this way than women. Women “should” uphold this idea of always doing things for the sake of others, and not think about themselves. So I found some of her wording refreshing.

        Though, I see your point, and again, I think you’re making excellent observations. I don’t know much about her previous behavior or way of expressing herself. I don’t know much about her, to be honest. In the light of what you’re telling me, it adds another layer. It is all very ego-based. (As I find most celebrities are in interviews).

        Thanks again for your reply!
        I wish you and your partner deep healing and peace of mind.

  11. Kristen says:

    The comment about Styles and being happier than she’s ever been is a bit crass and immature considering that her ex and her kids might see this. She could simply say that she’s happy and healthy without making the slight.

    • kerfuffles says:

      Yeah, that comment gave me some cringe. As did the suggestion that she came up with the idea of “Don’t Worry Darling” and that a man taking a supporting role in a woman-led film is some new thing. Neither are true.

      But I liked some of the other things she said and she certainly is beautiful. I always feel weird for commenting anything critical about her because there are some Styles Stans that go WAY over the top bashing here for petty things. She’s definitely not above criticism but she ‘s not some evil succubus either.

    • Korra says:

      I guess it is a step up from when she claimed her lady parts died during her first marriage.

  12. Lionel says:

    WTF, Gloria? Not paying your taxes will land you in prison, how is that supposed to help?

    (Yes, yes… I get the bigger point. Just not sure how the idea of not paying taxes is supporting that point.)

  13. Cava 24 says:

    As gently as possible to the person who said Olivia doesn’t need to boost herself as an activist- it doesn’t matter who she grew up around, she may have absorbed some information from her parents (hopefully not from Hitchens) but even so, isn’t that just more privilege rather than actual activism? Her inclusion of them and her uncle in the Vogue article is another instance of her trying to burnish her image as an activist by attaching herself to someone but none of the 3 members of her family, nor Hitchens are relevant now and they weren’t activists. And she absolutely wants to be a paid activist/influencer, she did an Audi event last week.

  14. Merricat says:

    It’s interesting how many comments here are attempts to shame and or heap guilt on her.
    She is allowed to be happy; it doesn’t take away from her relationship with her children.

  15. duchess of hazard says:

    I really think the styling is odd for this. US Vogue has fallen all the way off.

  16. LynneF says:

    I am struck by how the last two Vogue articles on Olivia Wilde have emphasized how happy and healthy she is since her break-up with Jason. It is such a contrast to the GQ interview with Jason Sudieikis talking about how devastated he was by their split. While Olivia seems to be thriving, I am wondering if she isn’t acknowledging on some level the significance of the break up? They were together for a long time.

    • TJ says:

      Please, he hooked up with Keeley Hazell within weeks (some suspect the 2 already have a fling way before that, I mean Juno Temple’s character was named after her in Ted Lasso, & she got a role too…). Sure, he was devastated.

  17. LynneF says:

    I am struck by how the last two Vogue articles on Olivia Wilde have emphasized how happy and healthy she is since her break-up with Jason. It is such a contrast to the GQ interview with Jason Sudieikis talking about how devastated he was by their split. While Olivia seems to be thriving, I am wondering if she isn’t acknowledging on some level the significance of the break up? They were together for a long time.

    • Cava 24 says:

      Her being happy and sort of past the breakup is consistent with her message that they broke up early in 2020, nearly two years ago, and it was mutual. Jason being unhappy and not over it is consistent with his version that they broke up in November 2020 and it came as a surprise to him. They lived together all through 2020 and neither of them has offered any detail about how that worked if broken up (they decided to stay in the same house for the pandemic or something) or what changed when they did break up, who went to live where so who knows? Seems like it is not that amicable now since they are both taking light shots at each other in interviews.