Women (or the lack thereof) in lead roles in Hollywood films is a hot topic right now. It was the subject of the Diane Rehm show this week, and there are many articles and blog posts examining the rampant sexism in Hollywood. Movies like Mad Max and Spy are proving that there is a commercial demand for female protagonists, but every year we still see more male speaking parts, women’s roles focused on domestic affairs, and inequality in the pay scales for men and women in the film industry.
Things aren’t much better in museums. This article by the White Review, a quarterly arts and literary journal, states that only 5% of the artists in the Modern section at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are women.
My field, writing, has been notorious for sexism, too. For many years, books about male protagonists and their quintessential struggles with identity have been a dime a dozen. When a woman has written a book in this genre, or made an attempt at the Great American Novel, she was too-often deemed too self-absorbed.
However, I do believe the tides are turning in writing and in other realms of art. Take a look at the Target Book Club page — it’s dominated by female authors. It’s book clubs and other popular reading groups that can have a big effect on which authors get published. Women read much more fiction than men and are more likely to talk to their friends about the books they are reading, so they are now determining the market.
What I find interesting about this discussion in the arts is that we are mostly focused on representation at the highest level of prestige and recognition. We’re not talking about women in local craft shows, where they seem to be well-represented, or actresses in regional theatre companies. The truth is, women are woefully missing from the top of every field, from law to medicine, from academia to corporate America. The question we need to be asking is how do we help our fellow women in every field, including the arts, advance to the top. And the answer is the same:
- Support women. Network with women. Mentor other women. Men do it all the time — they favor each other for job openings, and they connect each other with colleagues. It’s time we do this for each other, too.
- Advocate for the importance of women’s work. Women are better decision-makers, and we’re more fiscally responsible than men. We know how to collaborate. We need women at the top, not just because we are women, but because we’ll do a great job.
- Lean in, yes, but also speak up about the insane demands of today’s working world. No matter what career you’re in, it is an unreasonable expectation to be asked to work 80 hours a week and neglect every other part of one’s life.
So get out there and buy art from women, go to movies with female leads, and tell women friends about job leads and networking opportunities. As for me, at nido, we have a gallery space that focuses on women and parent artists. We can make this world better, one gallery show and blockbuster hit at a time.
Tiffany co-founded and runs nido durham, North Carolina’s only coworking space to offer childcare. She is passionate about helping parents craft a career that fits around their lives, not the other way around. She is also a freelance writer and blogs at tiffanymfrye.com.