Nothing is simple. I recently came upon three sources of information about the inequality of women in the performing arts industry, and needless to say that the statistics reported are shocking. It should be said that while this post is centered on inequality of female actors, directors, playwrights, and screenwriters, I think the conversation about gender inequality in the arts certainly extends to writers, visual artists, and other forms of artistic media, not to mention the role of women in science, medicine, and leadership roles. We'll start with the performing arts here.
1. New York Film Academy's 2013 Infographic on Gender Inequality in Film:
This infographic is pretty clear in reporting the gap between male and female actors, screenwriters, producers, and cinematographers. Just to give you a preview, the released findings of this report reveal that only 10.8 % of film casts are balanced equally with male and female characters, and only 25 % of producers are women as opposed to 75% that are men. And did you know that only 2% of cinematographers are women?
In the last few weeks, I've been hunting for film auditions in Boston to attend, and I've been feeling these statistics in a very real way. If I wish to have a speaking role (however small), do not wish to be nude in the film, and don't feel like wearing sexually revealing clothing, the number of roles available for me to even audition for plummets. It makes me seriously consider focusing more on being a writer/performer, creating my own material in order to feel like I can take a small step towards turning this giant ship around.
2. A review of "The Summit", the first evening in a series hosted by Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. aimed at promoting discussion of the current state of the American theatre: http://www.2amt.com/2014/02/19/climbing-thesummit/
My Facebook page exploded with comments about this evening of discussion held at Arena Stage earlier this month, with women and men friends alike outraged. The conversation was hosted by four men and one woman, all well-known directors in the D.C. theatre community. When the panel addressed the role of women in theatre today and their dedication to be inclusive, one of the panelists stated that he did not believe female writers were being produced more often int he American theatre because there aren't enough plays written by women "in the pipeline". This explanation hinges on the prerequisite that in order for a female playwright to be produced, they need to already be a produced female playwright. It also insults the many women I know who have been diligently writing and sending out their work for years. I am not trying to take this comment out of context or overreact, however, when we combine these words with the fact that since 1998, Arena Stage has produced plays or musicals written by 110 men, but only 35 women, it becomes clear that there is a problem.
3. The Bechdel Test for Film; three simple rules for evaluating gender equality in film:
The Bechdel Test is based on cartoonist's Alison Bechdel's musing about how to determine gender equality in film, using three simple rules. In order to determine if a film passes the test and achieves gender inequality, one should ask:
- Does the film have two or more women in the case, particularly with names?
- Do the women talk to each other at any point in the film?
- Do the women talk to each other at any point in the film about something other than a male character?
That's it. It's amazing how many films with female leads don't pass the test-Breakfast at Tiffany's, Run Lola Run, and the original Star Wars trilogy are just a few. While this test is hardly the authority on gender inequality in films, it's definitely an interesting way to start looking at film and television. In fact, now I can't help but do this when I watch something. For films that do pass the test, check out: http://tribecafilm.com/stories/10-films-that-passed-the-bechdel-test-2013
For me, the upside to all these gloomy numbers is knowing how many incredible, creative women I know that are consistently making new work and doing it without asking permission. The passion and dedication are there, even if we do need to keep pushing for more. How have these trends in the media affected you either as a producer or consumer? How do you feel about the creation of all female theatre companies and production companies? Is there anything that has been very effective for you or your company in not just addressing but taking action in the fight for female equality? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas for change.