Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Quotas for Women

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  • Deborah, in reply to Isabel Hitchings,

    Our feminized society

    Geena Davis Institute for Gender In Media found that, in crowd scenes, women tend to comprise about 17 percent of any given crowd. She's argued, based on outside data and her own interpretations, that this imbalance relates to and reinforces the way men perceive the actual number of women in any given room.

    “If there's 17 percent women, the men in the group think it's 50-50,” she told NPR. “And if there's 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.”

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I wrote about quotas myself a few years ago, when various people were having attacks of the vapours over the thought that a little gender equality might be in order. I reached the same conclusion as Emma, via a slightly different route.

    Here's the somewhat tame version I wrote for publication: Quotas may be needed to boost female MPs

    And here's the version I blogged, where I was a little more direct.

    On quotas

    There’s a very straightforward reason for using quotas. They work.

    The meritocracy arguments, even offered as provocation, bore me to tears. Our methods of measuring "merit" are hopelessly compromised by sexism.

    But that just raises the question of how merit is measured. And as it turns out, the characteristics that we tend to think of as being merit-worthy in political leaders turn out to be the characteristics that we tend to associate with men (one, two, three, four, type “stereotypes men women leaders” into google and browse through the results).

    We see a man, and we think leader, and we see a woman, and we think, not-leader. It’s nothing to do with merit, and everything to do with our pre-conceptions about who is fit to be a leader.

    As for "provocation", just... don't.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    I know it's been mentioned before, but the quota for Maori MPs didn't seem to bring about the downfall of civilisation. The main downside to quotas I can see is that if we had quotas for idiots they'd fill up really fast and some existing MPs would miss out.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    unless you believe that there’s something about men that makes them inherently better at politics than women

    LOL. And after the last 48 hours, I needed that.

    Seriously though, it took me about a year of Green Party membership before I was comfy with it. But it's not just the list: it's everything. Co-leaders. Party co-convenors (who get called Presidents in other parties). Co-convenors for this and that. It's not at all aligned with constructed identity theory. But who gives a damn. It works.

    But can the constructivists have it both ways? Can one argue for Being Anything You Want, and at the same time expect prescribed proportions of Each Kind of Thing? I guess so.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*, in reply to Deborah,

    Oh, and don't get me started on Dale Spender. I still see that, repeatedly, every single day. All the time.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to James Littlewood*,

    the constructivists [...] Can one argue for Being Anything You Want, and at the same time expect prescribed proportions of Each Kind of Thing? I guess so.

    Being one of two things is further along the road to being one of many things than being sub of one thing. But I gather there's a diversity of opinion.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to James Littlewood*,

    Can one argue for Being Anything You Want

    Except that currently if you have a vagina, or identify as female, you can't be anything you want. Hence the quota, which seeks to counteract myriad forms of gender-discrimination by holding a proportionate number of places for women. Yes, it's rather a crude tool: obviously some women suffer greater barriers and disincentives than others. But I think it's the best we can do in the society we have.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Deborah,

    Perhaps relevant to this, Variety’s new television writer Maureen Ryan has done a depressingly excellent (but avoid the comments at all costs) feature on American TV’s gaping diversity deficit for directors, with links to a lot of the interviews she did for the piece.

    Particularly interesting is this Q&A with Empire showrunner lene Chaiken:

    Most of “Empire’s” directors were African-American and female in season 1. Can you talk about how you got there? Because “Empire’s” stats are basically the opposite of how most shows’ stats look.

    First it starts with the premise and the will to do it, because it’s not a given. When you start with the premise that 30 percent is the leftovers — the leftover [diversity] slots — that’s not a good place to start. I start in the other place. And “Empire” is unique. [The director roster began from] my worldview and my approach to staffing anything that I’ve done, but also [co-creator] Lee Daniels made it very clear how important it was for him that most of the episodic directors on “Empire” are African-American. So that was our starting premise. “We need to find the best black directors who do episodic television and staff this show primarily with those directors.”

    As we were mounting the show in the first season, [co-creator] Danny Strong said to me, it’s really, really important to him that we staff as many women directors as we can. It’s also really important to me. So clearly there are fewer black directors and fewer women directors than there are white guys, but they certainly are out there. It’s always the case that the really good directors that we want for our shows are very busy, and certainly since there are fewer black directors and fewer women directors [since many shows] have a wish to diversify, those directors do get booked very, very quickly. But we just made sure to get out there and find the best directors that were right for the show and book them.

    Did you look at people who were already in the DGA, or did you cast your net more widely than that? How did you actually get those people onto your radar?

    Some were already on my radar, but I also talked to people, largely people on my writing staff, who had worked on other shows. Also the studio and the network recommended people. Francie Calfo at Imagine recommended people. We made a deep list. We made sure that we were aware of everybody that would be right for the show and exciting for the show. And we went to great effort to make sure that we had all of those people on our radar.

    Please note this has nothing to do with “tokenism” or lowering any bars. Lee Daniels and John Singleton are both Oscar-nominated directors. Sanaa Hamri, Rosemary Rodriguez and Debbie Allen have extensive feature, television and music video/advertising experience. If a white woman like Chaiken can make a bloody effort (on a show that’s a huge critical and ratings success, no less), nobody else has any excuses left.

    And not just in America. Call The Midwife make a conscious effort to at least have gender-balance – or even a majority of women directors, and a majority of women on the writing staff. Creator/co-producer Heidi Thomas makes no bones about saying that was no accident.

    You know what? If shows like Empire and Call The Midiwife are expanding pop culture beyond "straight white middle-aged middle-class men talking to and about themselves," then I thoroughly approve of whatever "quotas" get it done.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    “We can make her an honourary bloke”

    “Honorary blokes” pretty much sums up any ladder-pulling IGM;FY women in power. Among the same crowd are those who think of themselves as “honorary millionaires” and “honorary whites”.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    We can make her an honourary bloke

    See also: 'cool girl'.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    In an interesting synchronicity, the second volume of Charles Moore's biography of Margaret Thatcher is waiting for me at the library.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    As a straight white middle-aged middle-class man, I recognise the serious lack of women directors in the NZ TV industry and support all attempts to rectify this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Simon Bennett,

    As a straight white middle-aged middle-class man, I recognise the serious lack of women directors in the NZ TV industry and support all attempts to rectify this.

    Ditto, but...
    the industry has to 'survive' first...
    <cough> JulieChristie </cough>

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7939 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Deborah,

    “If there's 17 percent women, the men in the group think it's 50-50,”

    Crikey.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Sacha,

    This can also be seen in supposedly gender-neutral preschool TV shows, in which you get carefully curated mixed-gender groups of boys and not-too-many-girls-to-make-sexist-parents-nervous. Say, five boys and one token girl (I'm looking at you, Paw Patrol).

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Danielle,

    And then there was the Smurfs with, what, a 100-1 gender ratio?
    And that only because the producers needed to have one character for half their target audience to identify with.
    Proving it's not enough just to have a quota -- but it's a start.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1923 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to linger,

    And then there was the Smurfs with, what, a 100-1 gender ratio?

    Plus they spend most of their time being pursued by a creep dressed as a paedophile priest who's a dead ringer for John "Kiwi/Iwi" Ansell.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Emma; A little off topic, but congratulations for the well-deserved winning story in the Sunday Star-Times short story competition. Just read it this morning; a deceptively simple fake.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2557 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    Thanks Geoff. I guess at some point today I should get dressed and go buy a paper. It still feels quite unreal.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Congratulations! I enjoyed reading that. You've creating an oddly compelling set of images for me - making pictures in my mind - which is a little unusual for me, as I tend not to do that movie-in-my-mind thing when I'm reading.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Emma; apologies for the terrible typo. That last word should be 'tale'.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2557 posts Report Reply

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