“Women Don’t…”

The television and film industry awards season is in full swing, and one question keeps coming up in the days after each award show: Where are the women? 

It’s been this way for a while but ever since Kathryn Bigelow won her landmark Best Director Oscar, it seems to come up more frequently. Or maybe just more people are taking to their blogs and social media to protest and discuss the dearth of women involved with television and film projects. This year, the conversations started right after an infographic demonstrated that last year, movies that passed the Bechdel Test tended to be more successful than those that didn’t.

Not a month before the infographic made its debut, animation executive Paul Dini made waves by claiming that cartoons aren’t made for girls. When pressed for an explanation, he said it was because girls don’t play with the same toys boys do, so animation executives didn’t want girls watching because they couldn’t sell them toys. (As a lifelong animation fan whose Glamour Gals regularly stole Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder and resented that they couldn’t steal Brad Turner’s bike, I was really offended.)

And while rabid animation fans raked Dini over the grill, someone made a comment (I don’t know where this one started. Sorry. If you do, link it in the comments.) about women not writing horror. ScripChix rose to the challenge by offering tongue-in-cheek apologies on Twitter to every single woman they knew who writes horror they could for “miscategorizing” their work, linking to the slighted writer with each apology. Needless to say, the list was impressive.

Lest you think it’s only motion pictures and animation that are having all the fun, an unfortunate SFWA incident last year that demonstrated women’s struggles to be recognized within science fiction inspired Lightspeed Magazine to put out a call for submissions (Deadline: February 14. Get writing!) for a women-only special issue they are putting together to demonstrate that women do, in fact, write science fiction. (Just to be clear, Lightspeed Media has published both men and women authors; and Skyboat Media, who produces Lightspeed’s podcast, has employed women narrators. This is not new territory for either company.)

So, in the past few months, we’ve heard a lot of what women don’t do…only to find that it’s not that women don’t do it. It’s that the gatekeepers don’t necessarily notice it, deliberately or subconsciously. But profits show that women do produce (well); and that women characters are not a turn-off, and are in fact a potential indicator for success when employed correctly. Perhaps industries and genres should focus less on what they think women can’t do, and focus more on getting out of the way and letting women do.

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