The Thinkerry dives into America’s rising groundswell of female empowerment: from #MeToo to #TimesUp, have women simply had #EnoughAlready?
In September 2017, the movie Battle of the Sexes was released, starring Emma Stone as tennis great Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as her nemesis Bobby Riggs. It was based on a real life event that took place in 1973, when a taunting Riggs threw down the gauntlet for a tennis match against any woman who would take the bait.
Billie Jean King accepted the challenge and went on to pulverize the aging Bobby in a televised match that was watched by millions. A new age of gender equality was ushered in, and over the next four decades, America went on to elect its first female president, see hundreds of Fortune 500 companies headed by women, and watch as one beaming female after another grabbed the Best Director Oscar at the Academy Awards.
A closer look at the gains made by women in the 21st Century reveals that while 1970’s women may have celebrated ad slogans like “You’ve come a long way, baby,” today’s professional women still haven’t reached anything close to gender parity in many industries. Only 8 female directors made the Top 100 Box Office movie list in 2017, according to the Hollywood Reporter. And women make up only 7.4% of total directors in Hollywood (up two percentage points from 2015). The ratio of male to female directors remains at 22:1. But 2017 was also a breakthrough year, where Wonder Woman made over $100 million opening weekend in the U.S., a record number for a female directed movie.
The struggle for equality at the top is by no means limited to the Entertainment industry. According to Fortune, there were only 32 female CEO’s among the Fortune 500 companies in 2017, or 6.4% of the total. Although miniscule, this number of women is the largest since Fortune 500 began compiling the list 63 years ago.
It was the Entertainment industry, nonetheless, that blew the lid off the pent up outrage that women are feeling about the glacial pace of achieving gender parity in America.
Over the past few months, the anger has morphed from #MeToo to #TimesUp; from the horrifyingly abusive behavior of Harvey Weinstein, to the uncomfortably coercive behavior of Aziz Ansari, to the repeated criminal behavior of Larry Nassar.
That evolution of the dialogue isn’t without debate among women. Some well-respected female media personalities recently came forward to point out that the piece in Babe detailing Ansari’s behavior isn’t about #MeToo at all, and may even diminished the magnitude of what women harassed in the workplace have endured.
They’re not wrong; “Grace” wasn’t coerced into sexual activity with a superior in order to get (or keep) a job. Nuance is important, and to call Ansari’s behavior sexual assault is to willfully ignore the parameters of criminal behavior.
At the same time, shaming Grace misses an important point: Grace was upset that she was ignored, that a first date came with the expectation of sex. Upset that even after leaving, her feminist-torch bearing date still somehow hadn’t picked up on her discomfort. She wasn’t upset about a bad date. She wasn’t dismayed over a “bad date.” She was dismayed because that kind of date is normal. And American society accepts that it should be.
Women were taking to the streets by the millions last January, long before Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo began trending. Women weren’t just marching to avoid getting sexually harrassed, although certainly some were. They were marching because they were collectively tired of not being heard.
#MeToo exists in that context. The tangible feeling that women are done being dismissed. Done being harassed. Done being coerced. And done defending they’re worthy of respect.
In that vein, #MeToo is about so much more than workplace harassment.
It’s about being overlooked for a director’s position, because it’s hard to be a “good fit” when 92% of your colleagues don’t worry about the tradeoff of working and recovering from childbirth.
It’s about being perceived as a charity case instead of a business case, when Pitch Perfect, Bad Moms, Wonder Woman, and Bridesmaids just aren’t exceptions.
It’s about encountering subconscious bias, hearing that you don’t have “that thing” or aren’t qualified enough, when your resume and pedigree is identical to that of preferred male candidates. (If you’re not familiar with the social psychology resume test and unconscious gender bias, here’s a great example.)
It’s about finding out that a male lead gets paid more than his female co-lead with as much screen time, and that no studio or agency is being held accountable for allowing that to happen during negotiations.
It’s about pre-teen and teenage girls being ignored when they tell their parents that a doctor touched them inappropriately. And it taking a lineup of 100+ elite athletes and Olympic gold medalists to come forward and put the perpetrator in prison for life.
It’s about a 23-year old photographer having to share uncomfortably personal details about a date with a celebrity, and famous actresses needing to all wear the same colors to the Golden Globes, before we start talking seriously about what we’re going to do about men treating sex as an entitlement.
It’s an underlying feeling of being tired of the absurdity, exhausted by the energy it requires to simply defend our worth as a gender. Whether your entry point is the sexual harassment of #MeToo, the male-skewed unconcious bias in the workplace, an unsettling experience when a date thinks he deserves sex after buying you dinner, or the outright physical harm of sexual assault, the collective concious of women seems to be saying, Enough. Just, Enough.
The question is, what are we going to do about it? At Research Narrative, we are a 100% female owned company with a female majority management team. That’s a start. Others in our industry are stepping up proactively as well:
These are fantastic, encouraging examples. But they require support from the rest of us – across all industries and all disciplines. So, to all of you reading, whatever your area, ask yourself: what are you going to do today to be part of the solution? Because, #EnoughAlready. Let’s come up with a #SolutionAlready.
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