Loretta Swit on the M*A*S*H boys' club
It's hard to feel heard when you're the only woman around.
M*A*S*H, like war, had a lot of dudes in it. Like, a lot of dudes. The "M" in M*A*S*H might as well stand for "Men." The credits sequence reads like a roll call of guys, especially with all the writers and producers being of the male persuasion as well.
But through it all, there was a beacon on M*A*S*H, a shining light of femininity emanating from the 4077th. Her name, of course, was Loretta Swit, the actress who brought the world Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan. While M*A*S*H undeniably made her a star, the production wasn't all wine and roses, especially for one of the very few women on set. Swit detailed those early difficulties in a 1982 interview with The Journal News.
"I went through a period in my first three years on the show when I would try to make suggestions about my character. Everyone appeared to be listening, but it was more of a "Thank you—next.'"
That kind of dismissal can be super dispiriting in a professional setting. Even if it wasn't necessarily done with malice, nobody likes being spoken over. Nobody likes having their ideas shrugged away like that.
Luckily for Loretta, she had an advocate on set.
"I'll never forget something McLean Stevenson did. I made a suggestion at the rehearsal table one day. One of the producers said no, he didn't think that would work. So 10 minutes later, McLean made the same suggestion, but in a deeper voice—which of course meant he got more respect. The same producer said it was a terrific idea. And McLean said, 'Why didn't' you think so when Loretta said the same thing 10 minutes ago?"
It's nice to know that there was someone standing up for our favorite Major on M*A*S*H.