It isn’t surprising that Lynda Carter says she was sexually abused while playing Wonder Woman in the iconic ’70s TV show. But it does perfectly capture the sickening hypocrisy of Hollywood, which has played lip service to women’s empowerment for decades — all while systematically exploiting and ensuring their oppression.
In a Daily Beast interview, Carter discussed the personal experiences that have led her to become such an outspoken supporter of the #MeToo movement, which spotlights women chronicling stories of sexual misconduct on social media. A longtime feminist and activist, Carter was the symbol for female power of her time — even as she endured the industry’s rampant sexual abuse and harassment.
Carter didn’t wish to name names or provide details about the worst of her abusers. Because, “he’s already being done in. There’s no advantage in piling on again,” she said. According to the interviewer, she then added emphatically: “I believe every woman in the Bill Cosby case.”
When asked for more information, Carter simply said that this predator violated “a lot of people.”
While expressing admiration for everyone coming forward related to her unnamed predator, Carter didn’t feel it was beneficial for her to do so herself.
“I can’t add anything to it,” she said. “I wish I could. But there’s nothing legally I could add to it, because I looked into it. I’m just another face in the crowd.”
Unable to contribute in a courtroom setting, Carter didn’t want to detract attention from the survivors who could by telling her full story. “It ends up being about me, and not about the people who can talk about it. I don’t want it to be about me, it’s not about me. It’s about him being a scumbag.”
Any consequences he may face legally, Carter said, won’t be sufficient. “Whatever it is, it isn’t enough.”
But he was only one of the many #MeToo experiences Carter survived throughout her career as a young actress. On the very set of Wonder Woman, for instance, she said she discovered that a cameraman had drilled a hole into her dressing room.
In this instance, at least, “They caught him, fired him, and drummed him out of the business.” But clear examples of harassment like that one don’t even begin to cover other more insidious, coercive tactics she regularly “fended off.”
“I’ve been afraid,” Carter said. Even when she’d verbally protest sexual misconduct, the perpetrators would typically laugh it off as a joke, “so there was an element of deniability there.”
Carter described how back then (and to this day), women would have to rely on the “grapevine” to warn each other about which men in the industry they should look out for or avoid working with. “It was everywhere. You’d see girls being shaken in acting classes. And the #MeToo movement is happening not just with actresses but maids and caregivers, everywhere.”
In the wake of the birage of #MeToo stories, people (mainly men, like Woody Allen and Alec Baldwin) have tried to characterize the movement as a witch hunt, implying that the accusations from women have gone too far.
“There is a difference between a guy hitting on you, which everybody has, and a guy assaulting you,” said Carter, describing men who lock women in a room, or corner them. “There is a huge difference when you can’t speak up, or you get blackballed if you say anything. The repercussion of all this has been #MeToo.”
When asked if she had ever formally reported any of these instances, Carter said no. “Who are you going to tell, your agent? Who’s going to believe you? No one’s going to believe you.”
Perhaps this, then, is partially why it’s mostly men who appear at all surprised by the sheer amount of stories coming out about sexual harassment and assault.
But, “Ask any woman, they’re not surprised. It’s been going on for years. It’s not news to us [women], but it is news to you [men]. We’ve been trying to tell you. We’ve been trying to tell you for a long time and you haven’t listened,” she said.
As an icon of female empowerment in the male-dominated system of Hollywood, Carter was forced to navigate playing two contradictory roles. “We were women’s lib, burn the bra. We weren’t going to take any shit from people. So we felt strong in that, but there were still not a lot of parts for us.”
Ultimately, though, a new era allowed for a much greater revolution — and even then Hollywood needed the perfect storm in order to reckon with the reality of #MeToo. “It took powerful women who are famous to yell ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater full of executives that there was one guy [Harvey Weinstein],” she said. “Someone had the courage to take him to task, and then someone else spoke up.”
During the interview, Carter looked back on her part in creating the lifelong icon of female strength that is Wonder Woman.
“You go about and live your life, and feel very fortunate to have had an opportunity to play a great character. She has endured and endured and endured,” Carter said. She has nothing but praise for the way director Patty Jenkins and actress Gal Gadot took up the mantle of Wonder Woman, too.
In a moment where the darkness of the entertainment industry is finally coming to light, we need Wonder Woman’s inner light to show us right from wrong now more than ever.
On March 19, Carter will be narrating, , a three-part series on the Smithsonian Channel. As a history documentary, it will also cover the real-life female warriors who inspired the comic book legends, from Amazon warriors to female gladiators.