Russell Crowe said rather a silly thing in December and the media world has just shaken off its Christmas cheese coma to let the silly sink in.

In the course of an interview with Australian magazine Women’s Weekly, Crowe singled out Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren as exemplary actresses rising above a nitpicking, aging, herd. Already annointed members of Aaron Sorkin’s elite boys’ club , one can scarcely imagine their gratitude…

“To be honest, I think you’ll find that the woman who is saying that (the roles have dried up) is the woman who at 40, 45, 48, still wants to play the ingénue, and can’t understand why she’s not being cast as the 21 year old. 

Meryl Streep will give you 10,000 examples and arguments as to why that’s bullshit, so will Helen Mirren, or whoever it happens to be. If you are willing to live in your own skin, you can work as an actor. If you are trying to pretend that you’re still the young buck when you’re my age, it just doesn’t work.”

Oh Russell Crowe – estranged husband to a female wife, son to a female mother – do not venture an opinion on women in Hollywood until those good womenfolk have schooled you sensible. Citing the example of two leading ladies whose very rarity counters your argument is the only bullshit here.

Have you learned nothing from the wise souls with whom you shared screen time? Need we really run down the many ways in which you are wrong?

Very well.

It would be extremely unrealistic for a 48 year old adult woman to seek to be cast as a 21 year old, yes. Unless that 48 year old woman is a working actress who simply wants to work and seeks that work in an industry where the overwhelming majority of female roles still skew towards appendage, accessory, vixen or victim. Where she is already undermined by the passage of time, her physique, her race and her childbearing choices. Suddenly the (well-crafted, paid in hard cash) ingénue becomes the lesser of five evils.

Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren would probably tag team to kick 10,000 shades of sorry out of you before giving a single example of why that’s bullshit. Because they, like a growing number of contemporary artists, see the bigger picture. A cultural deficit your male privilege makes you impervious to. A dearth of impactful real world roles for women which refracts and plays out on the big screen. The game will only change when the players do.

Russell Crowe Le Mis

You continue to work as an actor because the skin you inhabit is male, Russell. The worry-worn, weather-battered skin of a hard living man who has never had to consider excising the life story from his face with a scalpel in order to perform a year or two longer. Your two sons and marital woes are a footnote not a tabloid splash. You are a young buck in comparison with some elder statesmen of cinema still cantering around playing action hero.

Unfortunately those heroes have a thing for ingénues (as The Vulture memorably illustrated) so the 21 year old roles just keep on comin’.

You cannot presume to speak on these actresses’ behalf when your experience is informed by your success, privilege and ignorance. Instead seek out and consult your common sense, read one of the innumerable diversity reports that will be fired at you in the coming days (I would begin here and here) or simply look to the wise words and lived experiences of these masters of their craft:

“Don’t worry about roles in drama. That’s not your concern. Worry about roles for women in real life, because as night follows day, roles for women in drama will follow.

And when you have a female president of America — which hopefully, maybe you will very soon — when you have female heads of hospitals, of legal firms, of schools, of universities, you will have roles for women in drama.”

Helen Mirren (69) in conversation with NPR’s Melissa Block.

“There are definitely less roles up ’til you’re 50 and then they go down. I’m not the only one. Sometimes I feel a lot of actresses like Sissy Spacek disappeared. She is such an incredible actress. And Michelle Pfeiffer, my God, she was so popular, so revered. So loved and then somehow, she’s working less. They were, are as talented as Meryl Streep.

But there are less roles. And you don’t work as much. My mum went through it. In fact, she went back to the theatre. As a teenager, I remember Mama not on a set, but on stage more than anything.”

Isabella Rossellini (62), daughter of the legendary Ingrid Bergman, speaking to Stephen Milton for

“Do we have to talk about parenthood?” she wonders, after I push her to elaborate. “I don’t mind, but I do think it’s an extremely profound experience, something that’s difficult to encapsulate in a single interview.” Later, she worries that queries about parenting and getting older might be inherently sexist, regardless of intent.

“Men aren’t asked about age,” she points out. “Men aren’t asked about their children. Not that these things aren’t important, but I do feel like it becomes reductive,” she says, returning to the same (not particularly common) word that she used earlier in our conversation, “when a woman’s life becomes, ‘Talk to me about your kids and how you feel about plastic surgery.’?”

Julianne Moore (54) in a 2013 interview with DuJour.

“…we are still understandably unsure of the failure space and the fear that one failure be it box office, critical or creative could end it for me as a woman in film. That I won’t as a female director, producer, writer or actress be given another shot at this and underpinning this I think is the quiet knowledge that we in relation to our male counterparts are still not en masse trusted with big budgets, those large high powered casts to non niche stories – the action movies, the superhero movies.

There is a fear that we can’t fail when these opportunities come our way and there are many massive box office — let’s face it — fuck ups, blunders that seem completely surmountable, and we can justify them when a male counterpart is helming but if a similar misstep is made by a female, given our still relatively low numbers, it’s still feared to be a career killer.”

Cate Blanchett (45) speaking at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards via Melissa Silverstein writing for