In their new memoir She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy, Transparent creator Jill Soloway reflects on the harassment allegations that dogged star Jeffrey Tambor and how it led to the show’s demise. Here, Soloway talks about sexual dynamics and why they didn’t opt to criticize the actor in their book.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In your book, you recall how you yelled “Topple the patriarchy” during an Emmy acceptance speech and how you even didn’t remember saying it twice. Did you even plan to say that?
JILL SOLOWAY: I think I did plan to say it once. I definitely had been talking about this idea of all the best kinds of people coming together to topple the patriarchy, whether it’s queer people or people of color. Whenever you get Jill Soloway on the stage I’m usually talking about stuff like that. I think I probably did plan to say it once.
What did you set out to achieve when writing this book? There are several narrative threads in the book — being genderqueer, your trials of Hollywood, and your experience on Transparent, which could have been its own story.
I think I was still married and straight when I sold the book, so I was a little bit nervous. I got permission to write the story as it was unfolding. Talking about being non binary was absolutely, positively not part of the plan two years or three years ago but having gotten closer to publishing the book I realized, well, this is going have to be part of it. I started to realize about a year ago that it was going to be a coming out story as well. I surprised myself.
You straight up ask in the book if it was your job to help Jeffery Tambor understand his power on the set. So, what is the answer? Did you think it was your job?
I think men who are in power right now are really confused. I think I understand why they’re confused because they have been living in a world that has taught them they have a right to [push boundaries]. These are all things that women knew, pre-#MeToo, that you have to put up with certain things that men do, especially men in power. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes they might throw a temper, sometimes they’re men who think they’re complimenting you when they’re telling you something about your body and they don’t really recognize that saying those things are power at play.
You get into a really interesting discussion about the male-female dynamic and the meaning of consent without really tearing down Jeffrey, which I happen to think you were entitled to do because it led to the end of your show. Why did you refrain from taking down Jeffrey?
Because it’s such a dangerous time right now. I just wanted to really reveal the places where I felt like I didn’t stand up and be the best person I should be. I really wanted to take responsibility for my own behavior and not be in a place where I’m going after people. Going after people can be exhilarating. It’s not enough to just be angry at men. It isn’t going to get us anywhere.
So do you feel responsible for the downfall of the show?
I don’t feel responsible for Jeffrey’s behavior. He’s responsible for his behavior. I feel responsible for creating a workplace where people feel safe. I feel responsible in regards to helping [people] understand what threatening behavior means. I think what a lot of people don’t understand is they want to say things like, anybody can sexually harass anybody. With harassment, power is the power card. Being inappropriate is one thing that can happen at any point between any two people whether you’re in a bar, an office, on the train. People will say inappropriate things. They will ask you out when you didn’t want to be asked out. Harassment means that power is at play and I don’t think we truly understand how to talk to people with the most power. I really want to use this moment to invite men to ask themselves about scenarios they participated in that were not consensual.
Transparent will end with a two-hour musical installment that’ll air next fall.