“When I became president of WIF seven years ago, I literally couldn’t even get a story about the gender problems in Hollywood printed… and now, this movie has been an incredible example of a movement — a movement that’s working.” —Cathy Schulman, Women In Film Board President, The Wrap
Schulman’s enthusiasm was inspired by Wonder Woman’s recent opening weekend success when the Warner Bros./DC Films release had the biggest box office opening for a female-directed movie ever.
We’ve sure come a long way, baby!
And, WIF sees it as an enormous step forward for women. But the non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equal opportunities for women and encouraging creative projects by women, also realizes we’ve got an even longer way to go.
Which is why one of WIF’s more intriguing new initiatives is a digital series and social media campaign called Flip the Script, which focuses on the daily sexism women experience in the film, advertising and related industries. Well, it’s more than just sexism. Using the tagline “This really happened...only the genders have been switched,” the Flip the Script stories very cleverly parody real-life scenarios, and hilariously switch the gender roles. The result is jaw-dropping in its portrayal of indifferent dismissiveness, uncaring condescension, and banal “chauvinism.” As a male, it’s embarrassing to see the tables turned, and see men going through what women regularly experience.
I wrote in a previous HuffPost story of mine about how a female CEO of a startup came crashing up against “the glass ceiling of the tech world” and how her real life stories underscored that the gender war is unfortunately alive and the tech community’s frat boy culture is in inverse proportion to a progressively moving industry.
While, I’ve personally never heard any of my gym pals talking about “pussy grabbing” in the locker room, the Flip the Script series has “women” parodying the winking and leering that certain men think normal.
The series was written and created by WIF member Ally Iseman, produced by WIF’s Meredith Riley Stewart, and executive produced by WIF’s Tessa Bell. While a sterling list of Hollywood actors also pitched in, including actor/director/award-winning writer Lake Bell, Jeff Garlin, Yvonne Orji, Rob Huebel, Jerrika Hinton, Amy Landecker, Michaela Watkins, Keiko Agena, and Ian Harding.
Tessa Bell, who began her career in media at CBS Sixty Minutes and CBS, Evening News, is the Chair of the WIF Social Advocacy and PSA Production Program. She explains how Flip the Script kicked off:
WIF was deeply involved in reframing the way studio executives understand gender bias, so I was looking for a property that would allow us to show that bias in a palatable way without knocking anybody over the head with it. I wanted to take a comedic approach to a potentially divisive subject. No one likes to hear that they are indeed prejudiced or biased. Sure enough Meredith Riley Stewart brought me this cool property that showed real experiences but with the genders switched, hence sharing what it's like to be a woman by making it a man's experience instead. With Ally Iseman writing, we shaped the concept, and also had a champion in Debbie Liebling who knows comedy and who saw the possibilities and she helped us get it in front of Cathy Schulman.
The series launched on YouTube on June 14 (Diva Director) with the second episode (Mad Women) dropping on June 16. The rollout continued with episodes released on June 21 (Shelf Life) and June 28 (Market Value). You have to see them, have your eyes opened and also be entertained as women parodying men, do their Trumpian nudge, nudge, wink, leer.
Tessa gives her own stories from the frontlines, stories that so many WIF members share:
When I worked for a very prestigious TV news organization, one of the then very famous anchors actually pinched my nipple in the office. He wanted to test my resolve. Seriously. And that is the easy stuff to fight off. It's the more subtle prejudices that make the playing field far from level. So little has changed since then in spite of a great number of women coming into the business and a few women making it to the top — like the women involved in Wonder Woman as a joyous example. But we are still treated horrifically. I don't use that term lightly. We are second-class and less than at every turn.
And she explains what she and her colleagues are attempting with FTS:
We’re trying to get men to feel what it's like to be a woman in the hopes that some men at least will have a literal change of heart and then that gets their brains cracked open to the possibility that we have it all wrong in our culture. We hope young men in particular will watch these and have an epiphany that there are core prejudices that are ancient and useless. Women are the choir and we don't need to preach to them. There's not a woman who's in the biz who hasn't had one of these experiences. This stuff happens every day. In spades. We didn't do the one about the ‘casting couch’ but only because it's too risqué for WIF.
She adds positively:
Quite literally, a woman writer was told by a manager that a woman's story has no value in the market place. So when you see an African American woman telling a white guy his story has no value and you identify with the guy, yeah no embellishment. That's exactly what it's like to be a woman. So ask yourself ‘Why?’ That's what we hope to accomplish. Because if men ask that question they may find the answers are more liberating than the boxes that confine us.
And, if you haven’t yet watched Wonder Woman, you might leave the theater happily entertained and singing the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” which may be the essential message of this women-driven blockbuster, and also of our “mean” socio-political times.