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Posts Tagged ‘Women’s Media Center’

Not gonna lie, I will be glued to the tube like most of you for the next two weeks: swimming and soccer and sprinting, oh my!  Really, I can’t wait.

And like you, I am reveling in the fact that this has been dubbed the “year of the woman”.  As NPR reported, via the Associated Press:

For the first time, there are more women on the U.S. team than men, 269 to 261, and Russia’s team, which is nearly as big, is also majority-female. Saudi Arabia has sent its first two women to the competition, and the games feature what in all likelihood is the most pregnant athlete to compete in an Olympics: Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, who is due to give birth to a girl any day now.

Even Britain’s poster athlete for the Games is a woman — heptathlete Jessica Ennis, who in addition to appearing on countless London billboards also beams up at arriving visitors from a field along the Heathrow airport flight path. A 173-by-264-foot likeness of the telegenic star is painted on the grass there.

Good stuff, right? But while we’re busy patting ourselves on the back, especially here in the U.S. where the women Olympians outnumber the men, I’ve collected a few instances of sexism skulking around the “you go, girl” edges.  (Please don’t accuse me of whinging, which is colorful Britspeak for whining) And so, in the interests of feminists everywhere, I thought I’d bring up a few of the most telling examples to show that, well, our work is not quite done.

1. Back of the Bus, little ladies:  The Independent reports that both Japan and Australia are in the hot seat for flying its male athletes business-class while the women were stuck back in coach:

Japan’s world champion women’s football team took exception to flying economy while their male counterparts sat in business class on a flight to Europe for the Olympics. The Japan Football Association said the men flew in business because they are professionals.

As for Australia, it was all about basketball.  The males were up in front, even though the women’s team was the better one.  Again, from the Independent:

Former Australian women’s basketball captain Robyn Maher said the Australian women’s team had repeatedly asked Basketball Australia to justify the inequity.

“Over the years it’s been a multitude of (reasons given) — the men get better funding, so they’ve been able to do it; the men are bigger so they need more space,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It’s been a bit of a sore spot, especially since the women are much more successful.”

Ya think?

2.  Pin-up Babes?  Yep, that’s how the Scotland’s Daily Record described the the U.S. women’s soccer team as they arrived in Glasgow this week.  Without a mention that the U.S. women’s soccer team is one of the world’s best, the story frames our girls in terms of sex. Insulting, much?  It starts like this:

ALL of a sudden, the Olympics have got sexy. Really sexy.

The pin-up babes of the US Olympic football team arrived for their first training session in Glasgow yesterday.

And although the rain was pouring down, you would hardly have noticed as stars such as glamour-girl keeper Hope Solo, 32, and strike stunner Alex Morgan, 23, hit the pitch.

The story segues into a condom count – according to the Record, 150,000 – and includes a quote from Solo about sex.  But not word one about, you know, soccer.

3.  Bar codes on … the bum?  You heard that right.  Salon, via Bitch Media, reports that some enterprising advertiser bought space on the backs of two UK beach Volleyball players’ bikinis during the qualifying rounds this spring – allowing creepsters with sharp eyes and quick phones to scan the QR codes and be taken to the advertiser’s website.  Ew.  The Olympics committee nixed the codes for the actual games, but according to Salon, the images were already all over the internet.  If that doesn’t creep you out, how about the Brit nickname for beach volleyball: “Baywatch with balls.”

Even Yahoo! sports has gotten into the act, with reporter Martin Rogers writing in wink, wink mode that Prince Harry, the “self-style Playboy Prince” is “most excited” about attending the beach volleyball event.

4.  And then there’s Go Daddy.  Which we wish would just, well, go. USA Today reports that Go Daddy, the bad boy of Super Bowl ads, is back again with a few commercials that will air during the Olympics that supposedly tone down the “naughtiness.”  You be the judge.  One features a sexy chic stripping off her trenchcoat to descend into a bubblebath.  Another shows a woman with a come-hither look in her eye stroking an otter resting just beneath her rather large chest.  The theme of the ads, which juxtapose pretty girls with geeks, is “beauty on the  outside, but brains on the inside.”  Whatever.  What’s interesting is that I read somewhere that, unlike the Super Bowl, the majority of the Olympics audience is made up of women and families.

5.  Finally, there’s the press corps:  The The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games estimates that some 21,000 journalists will be covering the London games and what I’d like to know is how many of them will be women, this being the year of the woman.  The numbers are almost impossible to come by, at least today, but here’s an estimate from my pal Mark Purdy, currently in London covering the Olympics (his twelfth) for the San Jose Mercury News:

Educated guess: Among USA journalism contingent, probably 75-25 men vs. women. Among international contingent, probably 95-5 men vs. women. Although that’s only print journalists; we work in a separate building and in separate parts of the venues from the broadcasters. There seem to be more women in that field, though I couldn’t give you a real guess.

Those lop-sided numbers?  Not really surprising, considering that according to a 2012 Women’s Media Center report, 11.4% of sports editors, 10% of sports columnists, and 7% of sports reporters were women.  But still, it makes you wonder.  Is that gender inequity one reason why, research has shown, that the gap between Olympic coverage of men’s versus women’s sports has widened? But more importantly: does that impact the way the stories are framed?

Don’t know, can’t answer.  But it might be fun to pay attention.  As for right now, I’m just anxious for the games to begin.  When it comes to the medal count, my money’s on the girls.

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Surely you’ve heard about that million dollar lawsuit against Amazon filed by an anonymous actress who claims that Internet Movie Database (which is owned by Amazon) damaged her ability to get work because it published her age.  According to the Daily Dot, the lawsuit claimed:

“If one is perceived to be ‘over-the-hill,’ i.e., approaching 40, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress, such as the plaintiff, to get work as she is thought to have less of an ‘upside,’ therefore, casting directors, producers, directors, agents-manager, etc. do not give her the same opportunities, regardless of her appearance or talent…”

I know nothing about the woman, other than that she is an Asian from Texas who claims to look young for her age.  I know nothing about her resume.  I have no idea whether she has talent.  I don’t know whether it’s a legitimate lawsuit or she’s just out to make a quick buck.  I don’t even know how old she is.

But what I do know is this. Put a man of a certain age up on the big screen and he’s not only viable as an actor, but might generate some fantasies: George Clooney is 50.  Richard Gere is 62.  Pierce Brosnan: 58.  Sean Connery was named the sexiest man of the year by people magazine back in 1999 when he was, I believe, 68.  Viggo Mortensen is 58. Colin Firth and Hugh Grant: Both 50. And Jeremy Irons?  You may not find him especially sexy, but as Pope Alexander VI in the TV series The Borgias, he gets more than his share of action.  He is 62.

Now let’s turn the tables: Who are the leading ladies of the same age, with the same kind of currency, the same box office draw?  Can’t think of many, can you?  Not necessarily because they aren’t equally talented as actors, or equally sexy, but because they just don’t get the parts.

There could be any number of reasons for this, none of them especially pleasant to contemplate, but what we want to focus on today is just one of them: the gender make-up of Hollywood itself.

For years we have decried the fact that the old guy always gets the cute girl in the movies. We have for years ranted: about the schlubby guys on TV who have the slim trim wives; about the loser guys who end up with, you know, Katherine Heigl; about the sweet young things who are wooed by the guys old enough to be their grandpas.

You have to ask yourself: who writes this stuff?  And the answer, as we discovered when we researched our book, is this: predominantly men.  Back in 2009, the Hollywood Writers Report found that women and minorities had not made any significant hiring gains since 2005, with women writers making up roughly one-quarter of the field: 28 percent of TV writers and 18 percent of film writers.Their salaries also showed a discrepancy: White men $98,875, versus women $57,151—for a whopping wage gap of $41,724.40.

When we checked in with the their latest report, released a few months ago, we found that women’s share had actually declined:

 The present report shows that women writers remain stuck at 28 percent of television employment, while their share of film employment actually declined a percentage point since the last report to 17 percent. Although the minority share of television employment increased a percentage point to 10 percent (matching the shares evident in years immediately prior to the 2007 nadir), the group’s share of film employment declined to just 5 percent – the lowest figure in at least ten years.

Another study, this one by the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television found that:

In 2010, women comprised 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of 1 percentage point from 1998 and is even with 2009 figures.

Women accounted for 7% of directors in 2010, the same percentage as in 2009. This figure represents a decline of two percentage points from 1998.

Likewise, a 2011 study by USC’s Annenberg Center found that when it came to creative positions in general, including directing or producing, women were again grossly outnumbered.  In a piece on the study for the Women’s Media Center, the researchers for that study, Stacy L. Smith and Marc Choueiti, wrote:

Turning to behind-the-camera employees, the gender gap is far more problematic.  For every one working female director, writer, or producer, there are 4.9 working males in the same above-the-line gate-keeping positions.  Stated in another way, only 8 percent of directors, 13.6 percent of writers, and 19.1 percent of producers were female across the 100 top-grossing films in 2008.  These numbers are unsettling, as one way to diversify images on screen may be to vary the personnel responsible for making the content.  In fact, this is exactly what our results showed.  When one or more females are involved directing, writing, or producing, the number of females on screen increases substantially (see Figure 1).  In the case of screenwriters, the presence of at least one female on the writing team was associated with a 14.3 percent increase in the percentage of female characters on screen.

All of this has an impact — three words for you:  The Playboy Club, which fortunately just met its timely demise — as the reseachers noted, not the least of which is the fact that when there’s no diversity behind the camera, the women we see in front of it are not only showing a lot of skin, but often unrealistically young.  (Backstage reports that women over 40 account for a mere 8 percent of characters in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 TV seasons to date).

That impact goes far beyond the silver screen, as Jennifer Seibel Newsom, producer of Miss Representation points out:

And really what our culture is communicating to us is vis-a-vis the media, which is this pedagogical force of communication in our culture, is that a woman’s value lies in her youth, her beauty, and her sexuality and not in her capacity to lead…

Back in 2010 when Meryl Streep — the exception who proves the rule? — made news by starring as a sexual being in “It’s Complicated”, she was the subject of a cover story in Vanity Fair, which dug into the stereotypical way in which the media treat women of a certain age:

Any inhibitions notwithstanding, a vibrant sexuality has remained a crucial aspect of Streep’s appeal, despite her advancing years and the limitations that others might try to impose in response. When Clint Eastwood cast her to star opposite him in The Bridges of Madison County, which won Streep an Oscar nomination for best actress, in 1996, his reason was simple: “She’s the greatest actress in the world,” he said with a shrug.

That said, Streep reports, “There was a big fight over how I was too old to play the part, even though Clint was nearly 20 years older than me. The part was for a 45-year-old woman, and Clint said, ‘This is a 45-year-old woman.’”

Old news, perhaps.  But have things changed in the past 15 years?  Probably not, which brings us back to that Amazon lawsuit.  Frivolous or not, it makes you wonder about the biggest question of all: Does Hollywood reflect our reality — or determine it?

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Funny the stuff you find on Facebook that you would never find on your own.

For example, I discovered that Beyonce has this new video for her song, “Run the World (Girls)”.  Have you seen it?  If not, what you see are a bunch of strong, in charge, kick ass girls who are, um, running the world.  Lyrics?

Who run the world? Girls!
Who run this motha? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!

Powerful images of take-no-prisoners girls.  Big hair, big heels, unabashedly sexy.  Great images, right?

Or not so much.  Because on Facebook, via Jemhu Greene —  a political commentator, social justice organizer, and former president of the Women’s Media Center — we find the perfect counterpoint video from Nineteen Percent that explains exactly what’s wrong with such media images of powerful, dominant, got-it-together women.  They’re lies.  Take a watch below:

Her point?  Such media images lull us into a fall sense of achievement, and distract us from “the work it takes to actually run the world.”  Shall we count the way in which we don’t?  Pay equity is one: seventy-seven cents on the dollar, anyone?  Or how about workplace structures that have not yet shifted to accommodate the fact that the majority of the workplace is made up of women, many of them with kids, and almost always without a housewife at home to drive the carpool?  Or there’s the maternal wall: the fact that women are often discriminated against in the workplace simply because of their gender.  Kids?  Uh-oh: flight risk.  No kids yet?  Yeah, but maybe someday…  Or maybe not ever.  In which case, um, outside the norm.  And then there’s this:  As Nineteen percent points out, women are the only American group classified as a minority — that makes up the majority of the population.  Go figure.

Sure it’s nice to see female doctors and lawyers on TV, but as Nineteen Percent says on the video:

Lady humans can work outside the home – but a simple survey of reality will reveal we don’t run anything – and pretending we do will get us nowhere…

So true.  The images won’t get us anywhere until there’s some actual change behind them.  You know, the kind of change that will result in a shift in policy and values, and in workplace structures.  Pretending otherwise, well, it just lulls us into a false sense of complacency.  We’ve gone here before:

Tell everyone the problem’s been solved already, and maybe it’ll go away. Move along, nothing to see here… Nothing, of course, but those inequalities listed … below:

  • A Girl Scouts study found that young women avoid leadership roles for fear they’ll be labeled ‘bossy’;
  • women are four times less likely than men to negotiate a starting salary…
  • which is probably for the best, as a Harvard study found that women who demand more money are perceived as “less nice” (=less likely to be hired).

As infuriating as all of that may be — and, duh, it is — even more so is the fact that no one seems to be pissed off about it. And, I’d venture to say, there are even some among us who read those stats, who are familiar with the surveys and the survey results, and yet, somehow, can’t quite bring ourselves to believe it.

Susan Douglas would diagnose that as a classic case of “Enlightened Sexism,” and her new book on the subject makes a compelling case that, because of all the advances that we have made — and because of a lopsided accentuating of the positives (so sugar and spiced and everything niced are we!), the stereotypes, inequities, and biases that would have once been called sexist go unnoticed. Turn on the TV, she says: there are women doctors, women lawyers, women detectives and DAs and Hillary Clinton and Oprah to show you: See? We have come a long way, baby! But all that rose-colored imagery doesn’t exactly reflect reality. For instance, here’s something you might not have realized:

The four most common female professions today are: secretary, registered nurse, teacher, and cashier–low-paying, “pink collar” jobs that employ 43 percent of all women. Swap “domestic help” for nurse, and you’d be looking at the top female jobs from 1960, back when want ads were segregated by gender.

Ahem.  So sure, I like big hair and big shoes and the image of kick-ass girls as much as the next, well, kick-ass girl.  And maybe I even like Beyonce.  But let’s not kid ourselves.  We’ve still got a way to go.  And pretending that we don’t — well, that’s one sure way to keep us in our place.

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