As women gather to march on Washington D.C. this weekend, there are thousands more joining protest marches across the country.
Many members of the creative community are in Park City, Utah for the weekend during the Sundance Film Festival, and I'd like to share with you a few reasons several of us are joining in a march on Main Street at the fest.
The conversation in Hollywood has opened up during the past couple years about the lack of women both in front of and behind the camera. But for all the talk, women still comprise just 7 percent of all directors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films in 2016, a decline of two percentage points from 2015's 9 percent, according a San Diego State's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film cited by the Hollywood Reporter.
While there are many causes behind the dismal numbers, I believe part of the problem has been the historic lack of health coverage options available for artist and entrepreneurs. Pursuing a freelance writing or directing career often requires many years of unpaid effort, frequently at the expense of being able to work a steady desk job that offers traditional healthcare benefits.
In the the era before the ACA, I experienced what's called "job lock" -- the worry that leaving any of my industry desk jobs would result in the loss of healthcare. Not only was healthcare outrageously expensive, as a woman, it cost me as much as 30 percent more when compared to my male counterparts. Would I have received any extra benefits for that extra cost? Nope. And don't forget that extra $800-a-month rider if I considered getting pregnant -- which I didn't because it was simply too expensive.
Then along comes the ACA. It was far from perfect -- pricey premiums, steep deductibles and I made too much to qualify for subsidies. But it's solid enough to make me feel comfortable enough that an injury, sickness or pregnancy wouldn't completely derail me financially. I was able to comfortably transition into creative freelance work.
Of course, creative freelancing involves a lot of risk but I shouldn't have to wager my life and wellbeing. This relief doesn't just extend to entertainment workers, it also applies to myriad other entrepreneurial women in fields like technology, where our gender is also woefully underrepresented.
And while you may not be a freelance or contract worker, it's highly likely your kids or grandkids will join the freelance economy soon -- about 40 percent of American workers are expected to be freelance or contract workers by 2020.
Repealing the ACA could make insurance outrageously unaffordable to all of us who operate in the gig economy, which is a huge swath of the creative industry. In the first year, insurance premiums would jump by 20 percent to 25 percent for individual policies purchased directly or through the Obamacare marketplace, according to the most recent numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
If you really want female writers, directors and entrepreneurs, then access to healthcare is part of the equation.
But this is far from the only reason so many women are gathering in Park City.
Susan Cartsonis, producer of The Duff and Deidra & Laney Rob a Train, told me recently that access to Planned Parenthood was one of her top concerns.
"When I had no money and needed reproductive health care, I went to Planned Parenthood, Cartsonis says. "I want women of every economic level to have Planned Parenthood available to them as we go forward. I also think everyone should have access to healthcare without being denied for a pre-existing condition and the notion of dismantling our system without a plan is a travesty."
For others the march is about solidarity with all women.
"I will be there to show America that we need to stand up for Civil Rights," producer and actress Miranda Bailey of Cold Iron Pictures and The Film Arcade tells me. "For me, this isn't about protesting the new administration, it is demonstrating with our voices and bodies that we stand in solidarity in demanding equal pay and reproductive freedom for all women. We also must end violence towards women and girls. Too many have been mistreated and trafficked. I am standing up for those who no longer can for themselves."
Others are highlighting their concern for diversity.
"It's important for our country to understand that women's rights and civil rights should not be diminished. They should be protected and cherished as women and minorities are part of the fabric of what makes the USA the country it is," says Hilda Somarriba, publicist at Prism Media Group.
And women aren't the only ones with skin in the game. Men are marching as well. My husband, Scott Bridges, is joining the cause, partly because I offered him brunch, but he has some more idealistic reasons of his own.
"The wage gap is not only our shame as a nation, but an embarrassment of such magnitude that history will not judge us kindly," he says about his reason to march. "Our healthcare system, particularly with regard to reproductive rights, meanwhile, was supposed to have been settled law but it appears that every generation will have to vigilantly fight to protect encroachment upon women's rights to and within their own bodies. We are witnessing the most devastating reversal of human progress in this country that I've seen in my lifetime, and possibly in the more than 240 years of our grand experiment in self-governance."
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