Agent Carter's Hayley Atwell Has the Perfect Response to Anyone Who Thinks Sexism Is Over

Agent Carter's Hayley Atwell Has the Perfect Response to Anyone Who Thinks Sexism Is Over

For a show set in the 1940s, Agent Carter has a lot to say about sexism in 2015.

The ABC show stars Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, a highly skilled spy who must contend with less-than-progressive bosses by day and unravel a conspiracy as a secret agent by night. When asked in a recent HitFix interview if the true villain of the show is sexism itself, Atwell made some razor-sharp points.

While sexism may have been more obvious in the 1940s, Atwell said that today it's "a lot more subtle. Like, if a woman is in a high position, she finds herself being called a bitch or accused of being difficult. I think it's much harder these days to identify moments of sexism, because they just have very sophisticated ways of hiding themselves."

Atwell is right, and her comments speak to the broader conversation about sexism's modern, less overt forms. Of course, women across the country and the world continue to face explicit instances of misogyny, but the more "subtle" sexism also deserves attention. Such sexism undeniably hurts women, enabling things like street harassmentslut-shaming and campus rape to persist and contributing to a lack of female leadership in the workplace. In order to combat this harder-to-see sexism, women are told to do things like lean in, overcome the confidence gap and "ban bossy." 

Speaking about sexism in the 1940s Atwell said, "It was more on the surface. So now looking back on it we can identify moments of misogyny or sexism. We can see them happening." Indeed, viewers of the show watch her character face daily displays of sexism that, though taking place nearly 70 years ago, resonate with many women today. For example, Carter faces a stigma about being single while also enduring lurid suggestions that she slept her way to the top, and her bosses both undermine and condescend to her — hardly uncommon experiences even in 2015. Although some have questioned how progressive Agent Carter truly is, others, like Mic's Esther Bergdahl, argue that the show is feminist and clearly trying to start a conversation about sexism in line with Atwell's observation. 

Atwell has her own thoughts on how to overcome modern sexism. "I think prejudice is always going be there. We just have to trump it," she told HitFix. "We just have to keep on exposing it and trumping it and revealing it and naming it and making it clear and bringing it out into the light, out into the open to see it for what it really is. And then it really, truly has no power."