Last night I was one of four people who received a Susan B. Anthony Award from the NYC chapter of the National Organization for Women. It was a great event. I was really humbled by the other women and the work they do: Sara Ziff who founded the Model Alliance which fights for rights of child models; Michelle Cortez, uberactivist for her community of Far Rockaway in the wake of Superstorm Sandy; and Naheed Bahram of Women for Afghan Women who advocates for women in Afghanistan and here.
I've been asked to share my remarks and here is an abridged version.
I guess I could blame all of this on Barbara Streisand. While she has no clue who I am, I was a teenage girl who wanted to be a singer - and there are some people here who have heard me perform and that is why I am retired - and when I discovered her I was enchanted. As I write in the introduction to In Her Voice: Women Directors Talk Directing, I made my parents drive me on a snowy December evening in 1983 to see Yentl. I was the youngest there by probably 30 years but it didn't matter to me. I was transfixed. Something made me watch the credits -which I don't usually care about - and I noticed something bizarre- this woman- Barbra Streisand, had basically done every single job on the film. She was the co-writer, the singer, the lead, the producer and of course the director. What she accomplished on that film has still not been repeated. But for me it was the first time I noticed that a woman had directed a film.
I didn't really know what that meant at the time but fast forward to a couple of decades later and I discovered the blogosphere around the same time I realized that there was a vacuum in feminist writing about entertainment. Not having any clue what I was doing but armed with a lifetime of entertainment facts stuck in my head, Women and Hollywood was born.
The site has come a long way from being a place full of links on blogger to now living on the Indiewire platform for the last couple of years. There is a news editor, Kerensa Cadenas, who lives in LA and gets up at the crack of dawn to help bring the stories of what's going on regarding women in the entertainment business to all of you. We have an Oscar and a TV columnist and publish many guest posts from all around the world.
The goal of Women and Hollywood is simple, yet so complicated, we advocate, educate and agitate for gender parity in the entertainment business. And most of you know that we are far away from parity. Women only make up 18% of behind the scenes positions in the top 250 grossing films in 2012, which is only up 1 percent since 1998. Women directors are only at 9% and women screenwriters are at 15%.
At Women and Hollywood we do the boring but essential posts that are not sexy and don't drive the page views because page views aren't all we care about- though we'd love to have more of them. We count the number of women directors at festivals, the number of women nominated for awards, the number of women who win. We call out the egregious, the sexist, the stupid. We celebrate the visionaries, the ones who make it, the ones who are struggling, the ones who inspire. We are the watchers. We hold people accountable.
I am humbled by the support that the site gets from the readers. While page views are not everything, they matter, so I wanted to share with you that from Sept 1, 2012 to Aug 31, 2013 there were 549,398 unique visitors to Women and Hollywood. That's almost 550,000 separate people who read the work of women and Hollywood and there were over 1,155,893 page views.
I reached out to people who read the site in anticipation of this evening to get other people's thoughts on what Women and Hollywood meant to them and I wanted to share a comment from screenwriter Karen Croner who recently wrote the Tina Fey film Admission:
"For me Women and Hollywood is like the Daily Show, in that it gives me a behind the scenes look at the news that matters in a way I won't get anywhere else. There is so much entertainment news about box office, scandals, etc., but this is the only website that carefully, thoughtfully charts women's progress or lack of progress in the business. Like Elizabeth Warren, Melissa Silverstein, over and over again, points out issues that matter to women in this business. And cuts through the BS."
I can't beat being compared to Jon Stewart and Elizabeth Warren.
The reason why I do this is because culture matters. The entertainment business is in crisis. They try and tell us that women don't see movies or that we don't see them on their timetable, or that our stories are not as important and valid, but that is all crap. Women do go see movies and buy half the tickets. And men will go and see women onscreen – look at the $55 million that Gravity made last weekend. The economic message that Hollywood tries to sell us just doesn't add up.
We all know that culture is a way we communicate and connect. On Monday morning at work, people talk about sports and they talk about the movies they saw that weekend. It matters when the movies that get talked about don't have women either on the screen or behind the scenes. We live in a diverse world and we should have a diversity of voices and visions onscreen. Women are over 50% of the population yet we are told our stories don't count or matter in the same way. This must change.
Thanks to all of you for continuing to read and support the work of Women and Hollywood.