Monday, March 8, 2010

A Glass Ceiling Cracked, But the Reality Remains

The Oscar hoopla is finally over. The feat to win a Oscar is no easy task. Some of the industry's best can go a lifetime and still never get the honor, so kudos to all the winners. I didn't watch much of the Oscars, but what from what I did see, I did notice there were a lot of firsts last night. The one I will focus my blog on today is the Best Director award that went to Kathryn Bigelow.

Bigelow cracked the glass ceiling last night when she won the award of Best Director for The Hurt Locker. She is the first woman in Oscar history to receive this honor. While Bigelow is the first woman to win the Best Directoring Oscar, she is only the fourth woman ever nominated. With the impact that women have had in the industry throughout the years I find it hard to believe that until last night a woman has not won the Best Director award. That was probably wishful thinking on my part, because when I looked at the hard stats, it becomes very clear that women writers, directors, and producers have not gained that much ground in the last 30 years.

Women make up 51%of the U.S. population and that number does not crossover to jobs in the film industry for women. According to Martha M Lauzen, of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women accounted for seven percent of the directors and eight percent of writers who made the top 250 grossing American films in 2009.  A new study released by University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which was conducted by professor Stacy. L Smith found that actresses nabbed only 29.9% of the 4,379 speaking parts in the 100 top-grossing films of 2007.

I'm not trying to take away from Bigelow's momentous moment, because it is a great accomplishment, but as I think of the role of women in society, I think we do ourselves an injustice when we don't acknowledge the inequities that we face as women. Once we acknowledge the problem, we must actively work to change it.
Hollywood is just one of the many industry's where women face an uphill battle in the fight fore equal pay, recognition, and the opportunity to be given a chance.  I think it's an important field because the visual stories we view can change our perception of the world around us. Sometimes for better, sometime for worse. Last night was a Hollywood first, I just hope it doesn't take the industry another 80 years before a woman is recognized in this area again. There are women writer, directors, and producers putting in the work and making great films.

Bigelow has done many interviews, but the following statement has stuck with me the most, "Don't give up on your dream - I mean it quite literally. Be tenacious, but work on the stories you truly, truly believe in."

I'm going to heed her advice, because at the end of the day, whether you are a woman or a man, it is about having a good story.


Flo Speakman said...

Part of the problem with women in the entertainment industry is that (and this is changing) historically, we don't mentor other women. Men promote men, men nuture other men, men mentor other men. When that begins to change, the numbers will begin to change accordingly. we need to creat an "Old girls club"!

Aaliyah said...

I think you are definitely right. I do believe that trend is changing thanks to organizations like New York Women In Communications, Women Make Movies, and other organizations focused on women filmmakers. I part of the NYWIC mentoring program. I have found it to be beneficial to me along with mentorships I've developed on my own. I guess we are a work in progess.

Ms. Stage Manager! said...

Great Article. I agree with Aaliyah and Flo. Ladies let's unify and step up! Tiffany

Carol said...

I agree with all of these comments. I will also add that with these specific jobs such as writer or director; they require alot of quiet time of writing and re-writing and studying and reading - AS WE KNOW!!! haha that being said, when one has a full life and responsibilities, it is usually the man that is allowed to go off into a room - uninterrupted - while the woman is required to be there for the household. This may seem harsh of me to say, but it is an observation. If the woman is studying for a class, that seems to be allowed, but not for going off and writing ....not as easily at least. Great blog by the way!! :-)

Aaliyah said...


All good points.

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