It was most definitely considered a man’s world when Dolly Parton was coming up in the ranks of show business. And while great strides have been made and a revolution for women is underway, there’s still a lot of work to be done, according to the icon.
But you can always count on Parton to do her part to empower womankind.
“My first single on RCA Records back in the ’60s was called ’Just Because I’m a Woman,’ and it addressed the issues we are addressing now,” Parton told Sky News during a recent on-camera interview.
“All through the years, I’ve written these songs to strengthen and empower women, but also just people in general.”
The Sky News piece was for a bit of press to promote the London opening of her Broadway production 9 to 5: The Musical at the famed West End theatre district. The musical adheres to the storyline of the classic 1980 film starring Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda as women in the workplace who take action against their boss’ toxic chauvinism and sexism. While a part of the musical’s special message means taking a stand against the offenders, it’s not at the expense of a good man’s dignity.
“In the new musical, my first line in the new song that took the place of the fantasy scene, is ’I love men, don’t get me wrong / I’ve always one of my own / Many good men I have known but then there’s you,’ meaning Mr. Hart [the bad boss]. And I’ve known a few them. But I’ve known more good men in my life than I have bad ones,” Parton said.
One truth is undisputed: that 9 to 5, whether in the movie or musical format, is an iconic piece of work that stands the test of time and multiple generations. For Parton, the relevancy of the film from nearly 40 years back is proof that there is still work to be done for gender equality in our society.
“I think there’s gonna always a long way to go,” she said. “It’s a work in progress as life itself is, especially for women in the workplace. I really think that’s why we are here now, with the #MeToo Movement. It brought up the subject again with harassment in the workplace and the fact that women are still not getting a chance to do as much they can and paid equally for the work that they do. There are still all those issues.”
Parton went on to discuss her own experience in the business as a young woman, and of course, she says there were times she was hit on.
“I never did anything to try to get ahead in the business,” she said. “I never slept with anybody unless I wanted to. I’ve never put myself in a position, or I tried to stay out of those positions. And if I found myself in that, I was lucky that I had a great personality and sense of humor that I could joke my way out of a lot of it. And if I couldn’t, I have enough temper and backbone to get out of it some other way.”
Oh, we believe her. And for Parton, the current dialogue and discourse in our country over women’s rights is only moving the issue in the right direction, maybe even to the White House one day. When asked if she ever thought she’d live to see a female president elected, her response was serious.
“I think there could be. There very well could be,” she said. “But she needs to be smart. She needs to know what she’s doing. She doesn’t need to be just trying to take it just to prove a point because she’s a woman. She needs to have the goods. She needs to have the knowledge. She needs to have the backbone to be able to run a country. I don’t think we’re ever going to have a woman president if we don’t really feel like she’s capable of saving the country or saving the world for that matter.”
So, she’s just going to go ahead to run…right?
Other gems mined from Parton’s conversation with Sky News:
On watching her music from the audience:
“My songs are like my kids. It’s kind of like seeing my kids in recital.”
On dishing advice to other artists:
“I don’t try to tell other people what do. People are always saying, ’What kind of advice would you give?’ I say, ’I don’t give advice.’ I have some information if you want to know some facts and sometimes how I dealt with something.”
On artistic image:
“Everybody has a right to be themselves. Everybody has their own path and their own road to walk. And everybody’s talent is different.”
On bad attitudes in every gender:
“There’s a lot of bad women in this world, too. I’ve worked with a lot of women who were bitches as bitchy as any boss could be. It’s just about the person. It’s about treating each other with respect.”
On making her late parents proud:
“I think my mom and dad would be very proud of me. I always think they’re looking down and saying, ’You go girl. We knew you could do it and we love you.'”