Five Ways We Can Get to 50/50 Onscreen


This week heralds the release of Crazy Rich Asians, a film adaptation of the best-selling book by Kevin Kwan. The romantic comedy is a major motion picture with big studio backing and a reported budget of $30 million. For Hollywood it also presents something unique: an all-Asian cast.

As The New York Times reported last week: “The last time a major Hollywood film set in the present day showcased a majority Asian cast was a whopping 25 years ago, with The Joy Luck Club in 1993.” NYT writer Robert Ito called Crazy Rich Asians something of a “cinematic Halley’s comet because—before Joy Luck Club, there was The Flower Drum Song in 1961, and then what?”

The film was not only an incredible opportunity for Asian actors, but also for Asian- and Asian-American moviegoers. The filmmaker and Kwan turned down a lucrative deal with Netflix in order to get to the silver screen. “Ultimately, we decided Netflix is probably the future,” director Jon M. Chu told Vanity Fair. “But right now, it’s not. We’re really focused on the financial victory of people showing up so that other voices can be heard and other stories can be told.”

Despite the big opening predicted for Chu’s film, a recent report from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, “Inequality in 1,100 Popular Films,” revealed some disappointing data for women and particularly women of color in Hollywood.

Of the top 100 films in 2017, two thirds didn’t include a single Asian or Asian-American character. Two-thirds. Among the female leads, only fur actors out of the 33 films that had female leads weren’t white. None were Asian.

Women are rarely in leading roles in film, even now. Women of color, including Asian women, fare even worse. (Infographic via Annenberg Inclusion Initiative)

The smaller screen is no better. A recent study by Asian-American Pacific Islander academics found that 64 percent of television shows do not include one Asian or Asian-American character.

With all the talk in Hollywood of inclusion and diversity, we’d all hoped to see some movement in these numbers over the past few years. But the study reveals just how little top-grossing movies have changed when it comes to the on-screen prevalence and portrayal of females, underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, the LGBT community and individuals with disabilities.

In order to combat ongoing inequality in film, report authors offer several solutions.

#1: Put more women in charge.

The answer to addressing “on-screen diversity deficits may lie behind the scenes,” Dr. Stacy Smith and her co-authors of the Annenberg report write: “The presence of a female in the directing or writing role is associated with more female characters on screen. The same is true for Black directors and Black characters — particularly Black female characters.”

One woman with power agrees. In the September issue of Vogue, Beyoncé told journalist Clover Hope why she insisted on working with “this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell.” At 23, Mitchell is among the youngest photographers to have shot the cover of Vogue. He is also the first African-American photographer to have done it in the magazine’s 125-year history.

“We will all lose” without diversity, Beyoncé says. “If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighborhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own. They will hire the same models, curate the same art, cast the same actors over and over again and we will all lose.”

But first we need to get more women and people of color into those powerful positions. The Annenberg report notes that “few women or people of color have worked as directors on the most popular films across more than a decade. Of 2017’s top-grossing film directors, only 7.3 percent were female, 5.5 percent were Black and 3.7 percent were Asian. Only one woman of color worked on the top movies released last year.”

We need more women onscreen—and off. (Infographic via Annenberg Inclusion Initiative)

#2: Make use of inclusion riders.

Dr. Stacy Smith is the founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California. She and her team have been conducting extensive research on gender equality in entertainment for over a decade. Other organizations, such as the Sundance Institute, the Representation ProjectWomen in Film and the Women’s Media Center, also lead initiatives intended to document the diversity gap and to implement programs to close that gap.

In 2014, Stacy wrote an op-ed in The Hollywood Reporter introducing the concept of equity, or inclusion, riders and talked about it in her 2016 TEDWomen talk (watch below).  A template of the rider is available at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative website.

#3: Set targets for inclusion goals.

One way to move toward measurable change is for companies to set target inclusion goals. These objectives, which should be transparent and public, should specify not only a company’s expectations for inclusion but also the steps it will take to achieve the goals.

One model for how studios and production companies can activate equilibrium change for inclusion comes from powerhouse producer and director Ava Duvernay. She set a goal that she met: 100 percent women directors for her TV series, “Queen Sugar.”

#4: Just add five.

Most of the background speaking roles in film are awarded to men. In order to increase the percentage of women on screen and set a new overall norm for female characters, “directors could add five female speaking characters to every one of the 100 top movies next year.”

Founder of Institute on Gender in Media Geena Davis lays out the process in two easy steps. Besides speaking roles, she encourages parity in crowd scenes and other scenes involving extras. Although you can’t “snap your fingers and suddenly half the Congress is female,” onscreen it’s much easier, she explains. “In the time it takes to make a movie or create a television show, we can change what the future looks like.”

#5: Encourage—and take advantage of—tax incentives that promote diversity.

Lastly, entertainment companies benefit from state tax incentives that subsidize production costs. Earlier this year, Asian-American lawmakers in California pushed through legislation that extended its film and TV tax incentive program and introduced new measures for productions receiving the credit to report on diversity. The Hollywood Reporter notes that even though productions don’t have to meet any quotas to be considered for the credit, the “objective is to motivate change by starting with self-awareness.”

“‘By including reporting on diversity above the line, this bill creates accountability,’ said Dr. Stacy L. Smith. ‘Rather than waiting for reports like mine, content creators have to tabulate their own scores on inclusion, and creating this awareness opens up a space for people to make intentional choices in who is hired, and it forces filmmakers to recognize when they have not made choices toward inclusion.’”

Other states with successful tax incentive programs, such as my home state of Georgia where more films were made last year than in Hollywood and New York, should follow California’s lead and institute inclusion reporting of their own.

Yes, we have a long way to go in getting to gender and racial equality onscreen—to getting closer to the “REEL” world looking like the “real” world—and we can’t wait for the film and TV industry to move in this direction without new strategies and incentives. But another very effective lever for this change is what you and I buy tickets to watch and listen to and what we decide to stream and read. Supporting projects that promote diversity is one very important step in that direction.

Will “Crazy Rich Asians” be another Halley’s Comet or a new constellation that lights up Hollywood?

As actress Constance Wu tweeted, “I know [Crazy Rich Asians] won’t represent every Asian American. So for those who don’t feel seen, I hope there is a story you find soon that does represent you. I am rooting for you. We’re not all the same, but we all have a story.”

It’s a good time to start telling the untold ones.

Originally published on Pat Mitchell’s blog. Republished with author permission.

Pat Mitchell is known for her leadership in the media industry as a CEO, producer and curator. She partners with the TED organization to co-curate and host an annual global TEDWomen conference and is the chair of theWomen’s Media Center and Sundance Institute boards, a founding board member of V-Day, a member of the board of the Acumen Fund and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The first woman president and CEO of PBS, she most recently served as president and CEO of the Paley Center for Media; she is now a senior adviser to the organization. She is also the former president of CNN Productions, where she executive produced hundreds of hours of documentaries and specials, which received 35 Emmy Awards and five Peabody Awards. She was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 2009.

ms. blog digest banner

The post Five Ways We Can Get to 50/50 Onscreen appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.



Source link

Rest in Power: Paying Respect to Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul


“Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, is dead.”

That line plays in my mind like a badly scratched record, hiccupping at one point—is dead, is dead, is dead repeating itself over and over again.

Aretha Franklin performing in the East Room of the White House in 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Aretha’s death marks the passing of a generation of Boomers who grew up singing “Respect”—a song that celebrated women’s independence and became the secular theme song for the Civil Rights Movement—and crying to “Natural Woman,” “Never Loved a Man” and “Until You Come Back to Me.”

But even in the age of Beyoncé and Nikki Minaj, Aretha didn’t disappoint. Her lyrics and melodies were a respite from run-on sentences that didn’t rhyme or words with no cadence or imagery. Aretha reclaimed me with “Forgive but Can’t Forget” and “Wonderful.”

No more nostalgia. If Aretha can die, so can we. Facing mortality is something else. As long as Aretha was alive and crooning, I could ride the rhythms of her lyrics through memory lane, and let them take me back to places of hallway grinds and sweet young boy kisses, men who didn’t do right—people, places, spaces that tried to disrespect me. For every event or encounter, there was an Aretha song.

She was my—our—“Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Seeing Aretha waste away was the first sign that all was not well with the Queen. She’d battled obesity for decades, along with smoking, and later complications from her illness reduced her to just a wisp of herself. Still, she garnered our “Respect.” Regardless of size, Aretha’s voice never faltered, and never failed her or us.

“[Aretha] was like a muse whose songs whispered the strength to continue on,” Rep. John Lewis, an iconic civil rights activist, wrote upon hearing of her death. “Her music gave us a greater sense of determination to never give up or give in, and to keep the faith.”

And now she’s gone.

“The Weight” is upon us. Yes, we have all the songs she wrote and sang—thank God. And all the albums she recorded—hallelujah. And anyone in hearing distance of my house or car is gonna have to suck it up and listen to my Aretha marathon: “Don’t Play that Song Again,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” especially “Respect” and so many more.

For now, just can’t get that scratch out of my head: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, is dead, is dead, is dead…

Gone? Yes. Forgotten? Never.

This piece originally appeared at Insight News. It was republished with author permission.

Irma McClaurin, PhD, is an anthropologist, consultant and freelance writer living in Raleigh, N.C. She is co-chair of the upcoming Seneca Falls Revisited: Women’s Equality Weekend, a prize-winning columnist and former Culture and Education editor for Insight News.

ms. blog digest banner

The post Rest in Power: Paying Respect to Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.



Source link

Rest in Power: Paying Respect to Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul


“Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, is dead.”

That line plays in my mind like a badly scratched record, hiccupping at one point—is dead, is dead, is dead repeating itself over and over again.

Aretha Franklin performing in the East Room of the White House in 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Aretha’s death marks the passing of a generation of Boomers who grew up singing “Respect”—a song that celebrated women’s independence and became the secular theme song for the Civil Rights Movement—and crying to “Natural Woman,” “Never Loved a Man” and “Until You Come Back to Me.”

But even in the age of Beyoncé and Nikki Minaj, Aretha didn’t disappoint. Her lyrics and melodies were a respite from run-on sentences that didn’t rhyme or words with no cadence or imagery. Aretha reclaimed me with “Forgive but Can’t Forget” and “Wonderful.”

No more nostalgia. If Aretha can die, so can we. Facing mortality is something else. As long as Aretha was alive and crooning, I could ride the rhythms of her lyrics through memory lane, and let them take me back to places of hallway grinds and sweet young boy kisses, men who didn’t do right—people, places, spaces that tried to disrespect me. For every event or encounter, there was an Aretha song.

She was my—our—“Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Seeing Aretha waste away was the first sign that all was not well with the Queen. She’d battled obesity for decades, along with smoking, and later complications from her illness reduced her to just a wisp of herself. Still, she garnered our “Respect.” Regardless of size, Aretha’s voice never faltered, and never failed her or us.

“[Aretha] was like a muse whose songs whispered the strength to continue on,” Rep. John Lewis, an iconic civil rights activist, wrote upon hearing of her death. “Her music gave us a greater sense of determination to never give up or give in, and to keep the faith.”

And now she’s gone.

“The Weight” is upon us. Yes, we have all the songs she wrote and sang—thank God. And all the albums she recorded—hallelujah. And anyone in hearing distance of my house or car is gonna have to suck it up and listen to my Aretha marathon: “Don’t Play that Song Again,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” especially “Respect” and so many more.

For now, just can’t get that scratch out of my head: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, is dead, is dead, is dead…

Gone? Yes. Forgotten? Never.

This piece originally appeared at Insight News. It was republished with author permission.

Irma McClaurin, PhD, is an anthropologist, consultant and freelance writer living in Raleigh, N.C. She is co-chair of the upcoming Seneca Falls Revisited: Women’s Equality Weekend, a prize-winning columnist and former Culture and Education editor for Insight News.

ms. blog digest banner

The post Rest in Power: Paying Respect to Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.



Source link

Poems for a New Native Dialogue


The best-selling poetry anthologies from Native American writers are dated (in this order) 1918, 1996, 1988 and 1984. Heid E. Erdrich set out to expand that timeline, and subvert boundaries, by compiling and editing New Poets of Native Nations.

“I did not want to add to the body of literature that allows ‘Indians’ to exist in the past, or in relation to the past,” Erdrich writes, “but remain invisible in the world we all inhabit now.”

Erdrich’s anthology features work from 21 poets whose first books were, fittingly, published at some point during the 21st century—including Tacey M. Atsitty, Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Julian Talamantez Brolaski, Laura Da’, Natalie Diaz, Jennifer Elise Foerster, Eric Gansworth, Gordon Henry, Jr., Sy Hoahwah, LeAnne Howe, Layli Long Soldier, Janet McAdams, Brandy Na -lani McDougall, Margaret Noodin, dg nanouk okpik, Craig Santos Perez, Tommy Pico, Cedar Sigo, M. L. Smoker, Gwen Westerman and Karenne Wood. Work from Erdrich herself, the author of five collections, is also featured.

While the collection has the word “new” in the title, the writers featured are not young or inexperienced. They are former National Artist Fellows from the Native Arts and Culture Foundation and winners of the Lambda Literary Awards, PEN America Awards, Truman Capote Literary Trust Awards, Corson-Browning Poetry Prizes and National Book Critics Circle Awards for Poetry, among many others. Ranging in topics, but connected through a shared language of social justice, they represent some of the best writers in the Americas.

The work within New Poets is challenging and profound; the collection, which ranges from experimental and hybrid poetry to lyrical poems, is teeming with talent. Inside, Layli Long Soldier, whose first book WHERAS came out earlier this year, shares a beautiful, tragic and expertly hopeful piece titled “38” examining the slaughter of 38 Dakota men in 1862—the same week the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by then-President Abraham Lincoln. Tommy Pico, a self-indentified “weirdo NDN faggot,” writes refreshingly, startlingly and powerfully within its pages about his experiences at karaoke bars and on college campuses in moments that swing the reader from intense laughter to harsh and heavy tears.

Once on campus I see a York Peppermint Pattie wrapper on the ground, pick it up, and throw it away.
Yr such a good Indian says some dikl walking to class. So,
I no longer pick up trash.

“These 21 new poets, like their predecessors, are emerging from the Earth or falling from the Sky, from industrial streets, boarding schools, fast cards, all0night tribal or city dances, MFA programs and bureaucratic lines,” feminist and indigenous poet Joy Harjo writes about the collection. “Beauty threads with squalor. This is Earth. What a collection Heid E. Erdich has made of so many original and fresh Native voices, from so many places, gathered here, right here; it is happening, this new Native Nations poetry.”

Cori Bratby-Rudd is an eclectic writer from the Bay Area. She graduated Cum Laude from UCLA’s Gender Studies department, and is a current MFA in Creative Writing at Cal Arts. Cori enjoys incorporating themes of emotional healing and social justice into her works. She is currently living in the Los Angeles area and has been published in UCLA’s FEM Newsmagazine, UCLA’s Westwind Journal of the Arts, Cornell’s Rainy Day Magazine, and she recently won the Editorial Choice Award for her research paper in Audeamus Academic Journal.

ms. blog digest banner

The post Poems for a New Native Dialogue appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.



Source link

Somos Ruidosas: Meet the Feminists Fighting for Gender Equality in the Latin American Music Industry


Words ending in the letter “a” are considered feminine in the Spanish language, and those ending in “o” are considered masculine. The feminine ruidosa means “noisy”—and the feminist collective of the same name is earning its stripes by ringing the alarm about sexism in the Latinx music scene.

Latina legends like Selena Quintanilla, Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan have become household names around the world, but they are outliers in an industry that’s predominantly male-dominated. Across Latin America, women in the music industry are less frequently booked to perform and less likely to be nominated for awards—and far less likely than men to be awarded them. 

That’s why Ruidosa is making so much noise.

Founded by singer-songwriter Francisca Valenzuela, the collective builds community online and off around the work of female musicians. Each year, Ruidosa Fest amplifies the voices of women in music through performances and panels. Online and around the clock, the digital platform Somos Ruidosa showcases the work of women musicians, offers up a directory of Ruidos@s and breaks down data around women’s participation and under-representation in the industry. 

There’s a lot of work to do towards equality within it. “There’s a constant questioning and stigmatization,” Camilla Gonzalez, a journalist and zine creator who recently joined the small Ruidosa team, explained, “about different characteristics that are associated with femininity and being a woman.”

Gonzalez and Giovanna Roa, an activist and designer, agreed in a conversation with Ms. that they want Ruidosa to be a space for feminists but also for women across ideological spectrums—and to spark conversations about gender equality across differently-minded communities. Valenzuela also wants people in power throughout the industry to be inclusive and more self-award about bias and stereotypes within it. Most importantly, they want to foster a culture of women supporting one another instead of competing with each other, in defiance of corporate music industry structures. 

For Valenzuela, who has been working in the music industry for over a decade, Ruidosa is a tool for transforming a society that devalues women’s creative work. “The aspiration is not to make a close academic circle with different language,” Valenzuela told Ms., “but bring the conversation to the ground level.”

Mariela Santos is a freelance journalist. Her writing has appeared thus far on websites including Huffington Post Women and Women’s iLab. She has an M.A. in International Relations and International Communications from Boston University, and sometimes tweets from @WMNSportsWorld.

ms. blog digest banner

The post Somos Ruidosas: Meet the Feminists Fighting for Gender Equality in the Latin American Music Industry appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.



Source link

Closing the Gender Gap in Foreign Policy—One Byline at a Time


A review of foreign policy op-eds by Foreign Policy Interrupted (FPI), an organization dedicated to combating the gender disparity in the field, found that women’s voices remain largely absent in major media conversations about critical issues of peace and security. According to their analysis, only 15 percent of 3,758 articles in the largest newspapers in the U.S. about foreign policy from the last three years had women’s names in the bylines.

“The FPI review shows that the share of women’s bylines has increased by as much as seven percentage points per decade,” report authors Elmira Bayrasli and Elizabeth Radin wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review. “At that rate, we won’t approach parity until 2056, a full professional generation from now.” Without major changes, an echo chamber in the realm of foreign policy will persist until then, with the same men serving as both sources and authors.

This echo chamber doesn’t just reverberate within the world of media. It plagues the entire foreign policy field—and holds women back at every level. Women hold only 29 percent of leadership positions in D.C.’s foreign policy think tanks and only 21 percent of policy-related positions.

Noor Mir at a rally against Trump’s Muslim Ban sponsored by Freedom Muslim American Women’s Policy. (Lorie Shaull / Creative Commons)

“In the foreign policy world, who you know can trump what you know,” foreign policy expert Isobel Coleman explained in The Atlantic, calling out the ‘old boy network’ in her own field. “Getting invited to speak on this panel, or attend that meeting, or serve on that committee—these decisions reflect one’s network as much as anything, and they are self-reinforcing.”

In foreign policy matters, having a diversity of voices at the table is critical. Aside from a matter of principle, closing the gender gap in foreign policy media and leadership is also a pivotal part of ensuring continued success. “Due to a preponderance of men in senior positions at think tanks, they engage in an unconscious cronyism in hiring other men as research fellows or selecting them as participants at workshops,” foreign policy veteran Micah Zenko explained in Foreign Policy. “This imbalance, which deprives the foreign-policy community of much-needed expertise, is detrimental to the U.S. role in world affairs.”

How do we reckon with a field that has become so entrenched in patriarchal values? To start, those in positions of power must recognize the reach they have and their ability to broaden the scope of the discussions within foreign policy. Representation within the field will inspire more women and people of color to take the reins in a historically white, male-dominated space.

Men, in the meantime, must make space for them—and do all they can to equip them for success. “The key to continuing this upward trend is mentoring and training,” Lisa Curtis told The Atlantic. “With an increasingly globalized and complex world demanding creative and varied solutions, there will be more and more opportunities and indeed—requirements—for women to sit at the foreign policy decision-making table.

Rosalind Jones is a writer and global feminist thinker with a focus on international women’s liberation. Her goal is to use her writing and language skills to elevate the voices of gender equality advocates in all corners of the world. She is an Occidental College graduate with a degree Diplomacy and World Affairs and a contributor at Ms.

ms. blog digest banner

The post Closing the Gender Gap in Foreign Policy—One Byline at a Time appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.



Source link