Flash Forward: Two years ago I received a desperate email from a lone-woman writer on a new sitcom. She asked my opinion about whether she should file a harassment lawsuit with the EEOC. (P.S. There was no word for harassment when I entered the workplace.) Her complaints? Too much “unnecessary swearing.” The clincher: one of her co-writers shoved her head towards his crotch in a mock blow-me joke. Although I never experienced this particular rudeness, politeness and decorum definitely diminish in a room where comedy is being created and people become punch-drunk from exhaustion. That's why they call it a Frat House.
When she complained about the swearing, it meant she clearly wasn't one of the boys, was too soft for the job and wanted them to play by her rules even though she was in the minority. That said, touching her in any way--especially pushing her head down--was WAY over the line. I suspect she lost the guys' respect long before that.
In 1984, I was on the writing staff of The Cosby Show. We were a writing staff of four--two women and two men. But we still weren't 50% because my writing partner and I were sharing a salary and technically each only counted as half a woman.
So where women are today? The Center for the Study of Women in Television stated,
The percentage of women working as writers on broadcast programs plummeted this season, declining from 29% in 2009-2010 to 15% in 2010-2011.
So, television is still a man’s world. I blame the 18-to-34 dude demographic and the advertisers who love them. It’s always safer to develop a male TV show because women will watch Tosh.O but guys aren’t going to watch The Mindy Project.
Sisters, don’t take sexual discrimination lying down! Here's some advice for women writers to get more TV staffing jobs:
1. Grow a penis
2. Partner with a male writer
3. Show you’re a good sport
4. Write for female/family shows
5. Create your own fabulous show
Back in the day a woman had to be twice as good as a man to succeed in her job. That’s still true. I hope the success of the Lena Dunham generation will send a message to our industry of dunces and dude worshippers that says—if you want good writing, hire a woman. I hope the pool of excellent women writers grows and eventually those women move up and recruit their most talented writer girlfriends and on and on until the Hollywood Old Girls’ Club topples the Old Boys’ Club once and for all.
Karyl Miller is an Emmy-winning writer, author of Having it All in Hollywood and editorial cartoonist. You can find her at her website, MillerReport.com.