I was recently asked to speak about a trending topic for an event. Despite the fact that I speak extemporaneously on a regular basis (half of my job is presenting work to clients), I'd never actually had to get up in front of nearly 200 people and speak. To ease my fear, it made sense to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart -- one which my close friends know I love little more than to wax on about -- feminism and gender equality. In case you didn't notice, I also took the opportunity to coin a word for the occasion -- genderfication. I'm still pretty psyched about that.
We were given a three-minute window to speak and though it sounds like a very short amount of time, it felt like ages when I was up there presenting. Now that it's done, (I survived) it seemed a relevant enough topic to those which I blog about -- dating, gender and advertising -- to warrant a re-post. I had to condense it quite a bit from the original script but here's the unedited spiel. So here it goes.
It's no secret that Hollywood has been making efforts to diversify their representation of women. We're moving into a time where gender equality is at the forefront of people's minds and movie posters featuring the headless women of Hollywood, will just no longer fly. Now, though progress has been made what with femme- centric shows like the Mindy Project The New Girl, Girls and Broad City, we are still encountering a lot of pushback.
Take Ghostbusters for instance. A movie likely to conjure up fond childhood memories, reimagined with an all female cast is the recent subject of lots of dissonance. On the one hand, it's definitely a departure from what people are used to. But is the pushback a result of people's discomfort with change, or is it the fact that the entire movie has been redone with a female cast, comprised of some of the most hilarious women in Hollywood, no less?
What about the other movie franchises? It seems like every time I check the movie listings, there's another Marvel comic movie coming out, from classics like Batman, Superman and Spiderman, to the more esoteric Deadpool, Antman, and Thor.
Take a look at all of these movies and what do you see? There's not a single one with a female lead. Women all play ancillary roles or, are one in a collection of male leads, like the Fantastic Four's Susan or The Avenger's Black Widow. Sure, it's great that they're getting their screen time but at a mere fraction of the representation? Not cool, Hollywood. Not cool.
Or what about the major recent faux pas on Fox's behalf where they just so happened to have their movie poster feature Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique (a character who is more often than not represented sans- clothing, might I add) being strangled by Apocalypse? As though there was literally no other more apt representation of the movie than one where violence against women is being perpetuated. That's a womp womp moment if ever I saw one.
As Hollywood continues to struggle to maintain--and appeal to their female demographic, while still titillating their male audience, they take pains to put forth a valiant effort or two, to show they are listening. Take Margot Robbie's upcoming femme-centric Harley Quinn movie. It's great that the female heroes and villains of comic book lore are finally being considered and there are even rumors that the screenwriter will be a woman (Gasp)! Yay Hollywood. Unfortunately, if Hollywood wants to stop hearing people groan with frustration for every sexist representation or absence of female leads, they need to do a lot more than they're doing. One or two movies a year doesn't quite cut it. And while I applaud them for making efforts, those efforts likely need to be doubled or tripled to really make a dent.
On a positive note, though implementation to the golden screen's a bit slower moving, we'd be remiss to not talk about Game of Throne's incredible season finale. First of all, just look at their tagline -- All Men Must Die? That's some serious girl power. Now, if you remember last year, we ended on a not so high note for the women of Game of Thrones. Sansa was married off to a rapist, Cersei was publicly humiliated -- shamed in fact in front of her entire community, a young princess was murdered and poor Arya was blinded. Not a great way to go out.
In comparison, (spoiler alert ahead so I hope you're all caught up) this season ended with Cersei claiming the throne, Daenarys setting out to conquer the rest of the world, Arya setting back out on her path to vengeance and Sansa coming into her own. It would appear that at least HBO has gotten the memo on women's lib.
Now what about advertising? I'm a part of the community responsible for creating these often-sexist representations of women (after all, who makes the posters but the ad folks). Conferences like the 3 percent conference which states that 97% of creative directors, are male, serve to exemplify the vast disparity of genders in our business. A woman last year got into the news because of her wardrobe choices (black pants, white shirt, all day every day) rather than because of her professional prowess. And it's not just advertising. It's finance. It's medicine. It's never-ending. So I pose to you, readers, to take a step back and look at your industry and think about what you are doing -- and what you can be doing, to bridge this seemingly never-ending gender gap.