A few things over the past few weeks have made me so irate/disturbed that I have been forced to actually shake my fist and shake my head at the same time. As regular blog readers will know, the importance of good female role models, especially in Hollywood, is something I commonly talk about/rant about. And that is part of what has made me irate recently. But it isn’t just our celebrities, it is also our politicians – or more correctly our political media – in good old fair and equitable New Zealand. But I am getting ahead of myself…
It all started with the release a few months back of a new study about the representation of females in Hollywood. No surprise, the picture is pretty dire. Women filled only 26% of the key roles like director, exec producer, writer (with only 23% of the films surveyed being directed by a woman). To quote the Guardian: ‘in the top 100 domestic US grossing films, women comprised 15% of protagonists, 29% of major characters and 30% of speaking characters – a degree of marginalisation largely unchanged since the 1940s’. And females directed only 6% – yes I said 6% – of big studio productions. For all of the hubbub there has been about the success of female led films like Bridesmaids and The Hunger Games, these are very much still the exception rather than the rule. The most excellent Helen O’Hara from Empire Magazine – herself a statistic herself in that she appears to be one of very few women on the Empire writing staff – did this fantastic analysis of the situation of women in Hollywood, speculating that one day a woman would indeed direct a Star Wars film – but we have a LONG way to go to get there. And, given how much I myself was moulded by the female role models I read about and watched as a kid and teenager – that disturbs me greatly.
Irating (new word) incident number 2 was a local one. I had popped into the local dairy the week after the election and happened to see a headline on the front page of the Sunday Star Times. It was to do with the Labour leadership battle and Jacinda Adern’s involvement. I assume there was also another female MP involved but it made me so angry just from the headline that I stormed out of the shop without reading any further (I paid for my stuff first though, don’t worry ;-)). Jacinda has been plagued by this for a while of course – being a young, pretty, up and coming MP. Her battle with her National equivalent Nikki Kaye for Auckland Central was deemed ‘Battle of the Babes’. SERIOUSLY media? SERIOUSLY? When did this become ok? Have we ever had two young, good looking male MPs battling for an electorate and called it Battle of the Studs? No, of course not. But somehow, when they are female, it seems to be acceptable to focus on their looks, which of course is an issue Helen Clark battled with for years. Just for the record – it is not acceptable. We choose MPs because they represent similar values as we do, not because they have nicely symmetrical features. I will refer you again to a link I have shared before, I surprisingly erudite and fantastic bit of scripting from generally soapy show Scandal – about the treatment of women in politics. What Lisa Kudrow said, basically.
And the final thing that made my simmering anger about how women are still being portrayed these days flow over onto boiling point? Well, it was a shocker. I was channel surfing the other night and came across the new Edge TV – the radio station’s attempt at a MTV-like channel. As a teen I used to spend hours on Saturday morning – when I was allowed – watching music videos. I loved it. But I can’t helped but wonder what 13 year old me would have thought of the latest Jennifer Lopez/Iggy Azalea video ‘Booty’. If you haven’t seen it – consider yourself lucky. I am not going to link to it as that would be doing it a favour. What is it then? Basically, for conservative old me anyway, it was porn disguised as a music video. And, with music videos being primarily consumed by teens, what will seeing this kind of thing – and this is not an exception, Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda video recently was just as disturbing – do for how they perceive females? Or themselves if they are females? The sexualisation of young adults freaks the hell out of me – as an aunt of three young girls. And what can we do about it? Block them from ever watching music videos? No, we have to stand up and say – NO. This is not cool. J Lo waving her butt around while being lathered in soap is not cool. Miley Cyrus gyrating on stage is not cool. Beyoncé dancing like a porn star at the Grammys is not cool. I am not saying there is no place for sex in music, I am just saying – be mindful of your audience ladies. And think about the impact you are having.
But, for all of my ranting, it is not like we are in some dark days of misogynistic activity. Feminism is coming out from under a shadow and is now something that young, hip role models like Taylor Swift, Lorde and Lena Dunham are embracing and shouting from the roof tops. Dunham in particular is bringing a whole new, real, refreshing voice to Hollywood. Little old Hermione (Emma Watson) got up at the UN the other day and launched their He for She campaign, designed to get men engaged, and speaking up, about women’s rights issues – as it isn’t just a women’s issue. As always happens with such things, questions were raised about why a young Hollywood actress was the face of this, but if you want young people to engage with an issue there is no better way than to put a celebrity face on it. And with the grounded Watson they choose a good one. So yes, there are some good steps being made, but I would argue not nearly fast enough. Demand more. Be better. Be louder. Have opinions. It’s your right after all.