Someday in a Galaxy far far away women will be allowed to just …be

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Something I wrote on my other site. Non-Outlander, but I’d love to have you read it!

My Writing Place is by a Lake

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I started to write an article about Star Wars the Force Awakens and the positive portrayal of women I witnessed in the film.  I started to write about a woman, Rey, who was allowed to just be herself.  She didn’t have to act like a man or be the object of one.  She was allowed to “run on her own”.  I started to write about seeing women working along side men and even leading men.  I started to.  Sadly, I am not anymore because sexism has reared its ugly head once again and I can’t ignore it.

I’m sure you are aware that actors from the old Star Wars film reprised their characters’ roles.  Watching the film felt like attending a class reunion where you really wanted to see people again!  I was thrilled to see that Hans, Leia, and Luke looked like real people who grow up and age…

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Women’s Image Award…A real reason to be proud of Outlander

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photo credit Daisy Carlos

Hurray, for the women of Outlander! Anne Kenny, Anna Foerster, Toni Graphia, and Caitriona Balfe were recently notified that they had won Women’s Image Network WIN award nominations for film and television.  The nonprofit organization celebrates, “media and deserving individuals who promote gender parity to advance the value of women and girls.”    I believe that this award is something these women, the fans, and the show should be very proud of.

The Hollywood film industry has been around since roughly 1910. In the plus 100 years since, we have seen many changes in the productions produced by the studios located there.  Technology advances alone have enabled show runners to make films that can truly suspend our disbelief and boggle the mind. They have helped us cope with and make sense of the changing world around us. Which makes the issue Hollywood has with women that more puzzling. Few advancements have been made for women in over 60 years. In fact, their record is so dismal that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is reportedly investigating their hiring practices.  How can what is perceived as a progressive or liberal industry be so behind the times when it comes to treating women as  equals?  The disparity is staggering.  Women are paid less then men in all areas of film production and aren’t being hired for positions as “content creators”  in  its inner sanctum of writing, directing, and producing.

There are many who believe that this disparity is part of a much larger issue about women and Hollywood.  It isn’t just employment opportunities and parity in pay, but how films are marketed to women and the portrayal of women in film.  In short, male-dominated Hollywood, those who run the studios, finance, and cast films don’t value women. One female star, Geena Davis, has been voicing her concerns about Hollywood for quite awhile and  has gone beyond just talking about gender bias and created a foundation that studies gender bias in film and advocates for change.  She recognized the power Hollywood has and became concerned that its influence on future generations of women was significant.

Here are some facts gleaned from her institutes’ website

“Founded by Academy Award®-winning actor and advocate Geena Davis, the Institute is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need to dramatically improve, gender balance, reduce stereotyping and create diverse female characters in entertainment targeting children 11 and under.”

Research Facts

  • Males outnumber females 3 to 1 in family films. In contrast, females comprise just over 50% of the population in the United States. Even more staggering is the fact that this ratio, as seen in family films, is the same as it was in 1946.
  • Females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire. Further, females are nearly twice as likely as males to be shown with a diminutive waistline. Generally unrealistic figures are more likely to be seen on females than males.
  • Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female.
  • From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or politics. In these films, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female, which is a contrast to real world statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce.

All facts are supported by research conducted by Stacy Smith, Ph.D. at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

I’m happy to say that since Patricia Arquette’s Academy Awards speech in 2015, other highly visible women in Hollywood are speaking out and calling-out gender bias; Jennifer Lawerence,  Kate Winslet, Sandra Bullock, and others.  Bullock,  in a recent article in VARIETY, expressed her frustration and hopes.

“I always make a joke: ‘Watch, we’re going to walk down the red carpet, I’m going to be asked about my dress and my hair while the man standing next to me will be asked about his performance and political issues,'” she said. “Once we start shifting how we perceive women and stop thinking about them as ‘less than,’ the pay disparity will take care of itself. There’s a much bigger issue at hand. I’m glad Hollywood got caught.”    Sandra Bullock in VARIETY

So, why should we care about this situation.  For the same reason Geena Davis started her institute, because our children are watching.

“We are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space.” Geena Davis

Many reviews of Outlander have included praise for the way women are portrayed and much has been made of the “strong female protagonist” Claire.  Like this. http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/starz-outlander-woos-women-with-strong-female-protagonist-1201277091/  The show has been called ground-breaking for its realistic portrayal of sex and relationships. Given the current climate of self-introspection (hopefully) in Hollywood, I believe this WIN award may give the show some attention that we can be proud of and hopefully, result in more shows with the types of women’s roles found in Outlander.  These women deserve the attention they are getting and more.   Another person who should be getting some credit is Ron Moore.  He recognized that Diana Gabaldon’s story of a strong, smart, resourceful, and kind woman needed to be told and fought for it.  He also deserves credit for hiring these women writers and directors. He is evidently more sensitive to gender equity than most of his peers.

If you were around back when the series was first filmed and then reviewed, you might remember the frustration fans experienced reading write-ups on the series by critics and entertainment journalists.  It was truly a lesson on what the industry thought of a show they knew was being marketed to women.  It was insulting to say the least. They questioned the show’s worth if men couldn’t be convinced to watch it (by the way they are, but that is beside the point).  They stubbornly hung on to the idea that Outlander was a Harlequinesque bodiceripper that would only appeal to middle-age bored love-starved housewives.  We fought back the little that we could, but were frustrated in our efforts when Starz/Sony began a marketing campaign that seemed to reinforce the “Bodiceripping Romance” idea (the kilt drops…really?)  We finally sort of gave up and hoped the story and the production would speak for themselves.  I felt kind of smug when the reviewers seemed surprised by how good it was cuz…we tried to tell them. Outlander is a quality program that presents women as something more than sex objects or stereotypes.

Congrats to Outlander and its talented women.

 

 

 

 

When you are a mother to a woman everyday is “Woman’s Day”

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ea5036cf997e4289135a3b267473a316 I watched my eldest granddaughter play a high school basketball district tournament game over the weekend. They lost.  After the game, parents and grandparents dutifully waited outside the locker room to show our support.  After what seemed like forever, the girls began to tearfully trickle out and flow into the arms of their loved ones. I anxiously waited to see how my girl was faring.  With a tear-stained face she searched the crowd and found me.  Our eyes locked and she climbed the bleachers into my outstretched arms. She came to me first and I think I know why.

There are very few people in my life that I can say loved me unconditionally. Actually, there is only one. My grandmother. Her face lit up every time she saw me and I somehow knew that she was excited to see me for only one reason…because it was me.  She loved me just because I existed and I was hers. It is my hope that my granddaughters believe the same of me.  The hug I gave my granddaughter was without murmured words of sympathy, encouragement or advice. I just hugged her for as long as I sensed she needed and kissed her neck. As I watched her move on, I suddenly realized my role in the family dynamic had changed. I was the bedrock this family of women was built on.  I was the solid and safe place my granddaughters could reach when they needed to be loved unconditionally. I was my grandmother.

I am the mother of one woman and grandmother to six who are rapidly joining the ranks of womanhood.  I’m okay with the role to which I now find myself relegated. The job is a lot easier than the one my daughter has. Raising women is hard work. They are exposed to so many negative messages. I’ve raised the one I was directly responsible for and I did the best I could with the knowledge I had.  I made a conscious effort to make sure my girl knew her worth apart from a man. I was not raised with this expectation.  It was a different time and my mother raised me the best she could with the knowledge she had. Like my mother before me, I didn’t get it all right, but I didn’t get it all wrong either. I know this because I’m seeing my daughter build on my foundation and pick up the ball where I dropped it.  My progeny are reaping the benefits of the women who have gone before them and tried to do better.

My eldest granddaughter just turned sixteen.  When I look at her I see the fruition of the efforts of the generations of women who have gone before. And, not just in my own family.  She is the product of women who had the courage to break out of gender based roles and women who believed being a strong woman didn’t mean having to act like a man. She is smart, tough, kind, compassionate, competitive, and beautiful. I’m not sure she even knows that there are such things as gender bias or glass ceilings.  She just decides what it is she wants and works hard to get there.  I’m pretty sure when she does find a door that is closed to her for reasons related to her gender, she’ll say, “this is bullshit” and knock harder.  In fact, I’m pretty sure she’ll have the courage to knock the door down! The image from the top of the page is something I found on her Pinterest page.  There are many with similar sentiment.

So, I’m raising the metaphorical glass of wine to toast the women in my life past and present.  And, to my daughter, you are doing great at a tough job. To my granddaughters, I’m proud of the women you’re becoming and if you need a hug…your grandma is here…waiting with open arms.   10989146_818646421505854_5383532363011842312_n