Betty Gilpin always wanted to write a book, and the three-time Emmy-nominated Glow actress discovered that when the world’s metaphorical record player screeched to a stop in 2020, there was no better time than the present to finally put her thoughts on the page.
All the Women in My Brain: And Other Concerns is a series of essays that tell Gilpin’s story through cleverly-worded metaphors and hard-learned truths about the modern societal woman—topics that Gilpin has reflected on perhaps more than her female actor counterparts, taking inspiration from her career.
Instead of writing a “typical actor memoir,” Gilpin told Newsweek she wanted more people to be able to understand and relate to her words through the universal female experience.
“Nowadays, I think it’s a different game where you don’t need to know who I am to enjoy this book. It’s probably better if you don’t,” she said. “I just wanted to sort of write in general about how being an actress is the perfect allegory for being a woman today where you have to cycle through yourselves to give whoever is in front of you the girl they want, feeling like you have to audition for the job you already have, and sort of running out a version of yourself to outrun a sort of, demon-darker version of yourself waiting to eat you alive when you’re too tired to run anymore.”
Much of the way Gilpin has perceived herself over the years has been compartmentalized into different versions; in the book, she describes the multi-leveled woman who must constantly choose to be either a “Salem” (a chaotic version of one’s authentic self) or a “Barbie” (the version that society expects to see).
“Women, in particular, there’s a lot of vacillating between those two things,” she said. “And I’m finding that as I’m starting to age out of the Barbie stuff, I’m getting closer to just having more access to that id, which is a relief.”
Oscillating between tales of girlhood and adulthood, Gilpin’s essays also discuss the actualization of the dreams she carried for so long.
“I try to write also about how you can have this feeling of having this buried version of yourself inside you, like a childhood dream or a specific idea or something spectacular within you that’s buried in all this self-loathing, and wouldn’t that be amazing if that thing came and floated out into the room at some point in your life?” she said.
Having gone from high school plays to acting school, to finally landing early roles on television where she played characters like “Blonde Chick” and “Young Model” very early on in her career, Gilpin said she has found a sense of relief and unity in being able to verbalize the ways the patriarchy has hindered her over the years.
“Part of what has been keeping us controlled and silenced is this idea that the dark things that you feel alone in your car or bathroom are your weird curse alone, and no one else feels that way,” said Gilpin. “And I think that in starting to say these things out loud, finding the unity and those feelings that we thought were our weird scarlet letter, there’s so much power in that.”
After becoming a mother and saying goodbye to her character, Debbie “Liberty Belle” Eagan, in Netflix’s prematurely canceled dramedy series GLOW, Gilpin has found that her next role will let her embrace more of her “authentic Salem self.”
She will soon play Lina, a mother-of-two in the TV adaptation of Lisa Taddeo’s bestseller Three Women alongside Shailene Woodley and DeWanda Wise.
“I’ve spent a lot of time publicly eye-rolling and poking fun at the fact that in order to be on screen, it has to be after two hours of the patriarchy carwash where I look like a complete fantasy version of myself,” she joked. “Go Three Women, I look like myself.”
Embracing the other, less airbrushed versions of oneself is the hope that Gilpin has for others, especially those reading All the Women in My Brain.
“I hope people laugh and I hope they see themselves in the book,” she said, “But I think that I tried to talk about how we are quick to sell the merch of a feminist victory before having the victory itself. And the thing that we don’t talk about enough is that it’s just going to take the other side so long to disable the tenants of the patriarchy [that have] been installed for hundreds of years. It’s just going to be quicker if we destroy the shame calls coming in from inside the brain house.”
In her book, Gilpin said, “I tried to make fun of and be honest about the ways in which I am unkind to myself and then the mortifying ways in which I believe in myself and that, you know, you can find peace in your brain regardless if the world is clapping or not.”
All the Women in My Brain: And Other Concerns by Betty Gilpin will be released on September 6.