Women in Film in a Post #MeToo Age

Women in film are more than a token term used to give the appearance of representation and accountability in a historically male-dominated field. With the drumbeat of the #MeToo movement, women in film have become a necessity. A flurry of activity around women-centered programs have been and will continue to spring up, as a result, designed to inspire and draw women to the filmmaking industry. Women such as Geena Davis with her own institute on Gender in Media (https://seejane.org/), to The MisRepresentation Project (http://therepresentationproject.org/), and Meryl Streep with The Writers Lab project (http://www.nywift.org/article.aspx?id=PRLAB),  drawing women into filmmaking has been proven a necessity since their absence has been palpable. The #MeToo movement is forcing people to take notice, turning the conversation towards representation, equality, and safe spaces to work. Tarana Burke coined the phrase that became a movement by pointing out that sexual harassment is bigger than most were willing to recognize and if given an opportunity, women will and need to speak up. Burke saw that something was missing from the discussion about women who are survivors of assault and when voices are missing at the table people will inevitably be left out. Women in film noticed they were not only dealing with sexual assault and harassment, but their lives were marginalized and missing from films themselves. A secondary campaign was born, women in film post the #MeToo era.

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Meryl Streep started The Writers Lab in 2015 with the New York Women in Film and Television (http://www.nywift.org/) advocates and IRIS (http://thewriterslab.nyc/about/iris/) organization to find women screenwriters over the age of 40 and give them access to a historically blighted field for females and present an opportunity to amplify their voices. As of February of 2018, post the #MeToo mov

ement, Nicole Kidman has joined her and the project to collaborate in bringing women writers to the tables with the support of the Writers Guild of America, East. Streep has been a public advocate during every award show, through social media, and during interviews post the #MeToo movement, while supporting the turning of the tables away from the same old same old to a more equal representation of gender in film.

photo-jennifer-siebel-newsom-1            In 2011, Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary, Miss Representation p

remiered at the Sundance Film Festival cracking open the ceilings of power and influence that had long been accepted and ignored in media. As a result, Newsom started The Representation project and has since had many women such as Rosario Dawson, Lisa Ling, Sally Field, Taylor Schilling, and a few men join her in making this organization an international resource. Since the #MeToo movement The Representation Project has launched several media campaigns of their own to connect their established resource to the social justice movement that needs sustainability and long lasting permanent change. Campaigns such as #NotBuyingIt, #MediaWeLike, #RepresentHer, #AskHerMore, and #AskMoreOfHim have proven successful and a great companion to the #MeToo cause.

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Geena Davis has been tackling gender in media since 2004, using education, advocacy, events, research, media, and film with the Gender in Media Institute. Since the #MeToo movement, Davis’s institute has become a data goldmine with facts, statistics, members, educators, and film screenings for women seeking to make room

at the table in filmmaking. Davis has written articles looking at children’s programming and how girls are portrayed in film. As has Peggy Orenstein, with her novel Cinderella Ate My Daughter. The age of Prince Charming as a remedy to a little girl’s problems and self-worth had to be analyzed and changed. It is only when the narrative and representation models strengthen and add grit can girls develop into capable adults who come to the tables of the world in a post #MeToo movement ready to be taken seriously, as an equal, and accept nothing less. Davis writes, “according to a study released by The Times, women made up 11% of writers, 11% of directors, 16% of editors and just 4% of cinematographers on the top 250 U.S. films released last year. Only 1% of films last year employed 10 or more women as directors, producers, editors, writers, and cinematographers — compared with 70% of films that had 10 or more men in key roles.” It is due to facts and figures like this that women in film are not only a necessity, it is alarming to consider the fact that an overwhelming majority of women characters are being written by men through their own lens. For decades women have been watching themselves, and little girls have been watching who they are supposed to grow up to be, through a male-dominated narrative, in an industry fraught with men comfortable with sexual assault.

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Voices can often ring out into an echo chamber without the realization that the voice heard is your own. Not all men in the film industry are or have been sexual predators, however, they contributed to the echo chamber often without the realization that anything was wrong in the first place. Women being used as an accessory, a sexy kitten, a reason a man was corrupted, the villain to a male hero, the dreaded mother, the object of desire or told she just needs to be forced to see she belongs with him after all the abuse, are all typical writing tropes through the male gaze in film. The #MeToo movement showed the world what women knew all along but was ignored or ostracized for saying it out loud that something was wrong. In the age of social media-driven communication, women can no longer be ignored or ostracized. Women will not go away in the post #MeToo movement and in film, women taken hold of the reigns and the chariot is driving a new message. Permission is no longer required and women in film are finally in a position of power because they said, #MeToo.

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