Elisabeth Moss on Why She Became a Feminist: ‘Our Generation Has Taken Our Rights for Granted’ (Video)

Power Women Breakfast in DC: “The Handmaid’s Tale” actor joined author Margaret Atwood, White House journalists and arts leaders at TheWrap event

Award-winning actress Elisabeth Moss said the threat to women’s rights was turning her generation into feminists and activists, in an interview at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

“I think our generation has taken our rights for granted,” she said, speaking beside author Margaret Atwood at the W Hotel across from the White House in Washington, D.C.

“The idea that they would be taken away didn’t occur to us for a very long time. And I think that for sure there’s a rise in my generation of feminism. The wave is coming back as we’re faced with things being taken away from us that we thought we would always have – reproductive rights and all that. For me I’ve definitely become more aware and more active in the last few years.”

Moss and Atwood appeared at the breakfast to talk about the upcoming Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on Atwood’s 1985 best-selling novel. Moss plays a woman who is forced into slavelike service to bear children in a futuristic society where most women no longer can.

Sales of the dystopian “Handmaid’s Tale” have soared since the election of President Trump. Moss said that when Trump won, she was shooting the series in Canada and it was a “very strange feeling” that she felt a “sense of dread.”

“The Canadian crew was like, “‘Are you OK?’” Moss said.

Elisabeth Moss, Margaret Atwood, Power Women Breakfast


The event also featured  a panel discussion on “Covering Trump: The Women on the Front Line” with Carrie Budoff Brown, the editor of Politico; Cecilia Vega, Senior White House Correspondent for ABC News and Christina Wilkie, White House reporter for The Huffington Post, moderated by Recode Executive Editor Kara Swisher.

Kara Swisher, Carrie Budoff Brown, Cecilia Vega and Christina Wilkie at Power Women Breakfast

A panel titled “Public Funding for the Arts: The New Priorities” featured  SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris; Robin Bronk, CEO of the Creative Coalition; and Romina Boccia, the Grover M. Hermann Research Fellow for budgetary affairs at the Heritage Foundation.

A lively argument among the panelists raised the question of whether government should fund the arts at all. Said Boccia: “Do we really want [the] Trump administration influencing art?” Bronk countered: ” “We’re talking about the federal government funding arts, not the government making judgments on what is art.”

The event was livestreamed on Facebook and drew more than 20,000 viewers in real time.

The room filled with full women leaders across government and media made feminism the focal point of the conversation. Atwood told TheWrap’s  Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman, who moderated the session, about the term.

Atwood defined her version of feminism, saying,  “Mine starts with human beings are women and women are human beings.”

Asked if she was worried about women’s rights in the age of Trump, the 77-year-old Atwood said, “Of course I worry about it,” and added: “You should worry about it more, because you’re younger.” 

“When the pill arrived for people who were not married, that’s when the 60s took off… And without pantyhose you wouldn’t have mini skirts and without miniskirts the 60s wouldn’t have been the 60s,” she said.

Public Funding of the Arts Power Women Breakfast Washington DC

Atwood then mentioned the iconic scene of Peggy, played by Moss, walking into McCann Erickson with a cigarette in her mouth is an example of how feminism stormed into the 1970s.

Recode’s Swisher asked about a scene in the Hulu show when Moss’ character is forced to take off revealing clothing that was based on part of Atwood’s novel.

Moss describes the scene as the “beginning of the end” for women and said it’s a “great representation of something that is very interesting… which is this idea of women dressing attractively and how that means they can be criticized or come on to.”

“The Handmaid’s Tale” star called it a “great representation of the modern reality that is in the show and in the book that does exist.”

Atwood explained that “women are always in the minority” of any populace, but “the continuance of the population depends on them.”

This is the second year the Power Women Breakfast series has come to the nation’s capital to connect the most influential women across government, media, entertainment and policy.

The Power Women Breakfast series brings together influential women of entertainment, media, technology and brands in key cities to network and connect. The franchise is now in four cities Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Previous speakers at TheWrap’s Power Women breakfast series have included Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren, comedian Chelsea Handler, “Game of Thrones’” actress Emilia Clarke, activist-actress Selma Hayek, “Billions” star Malin Akerman, producer and entrepreneur Gail Berman, California Senator Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd, media executive Nancy Tellem and digital executive Susan Lyne.

The event was sponsored Hulu, Discovery, SAG-AFTRA and Creative Future. An auction raised money to support the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF).

Video of Margaret Atwood here: