So the Equality Bill is getting shining attention again today, and that’s all well and good, especially given it has a remit re class as well as all the other inequalities we’ve become used to discussing (race/gender/ability etc) BUT … watching the BAFTAs last night you’d have been hard-pressed to think we’ve come any way at all in terms of women achieving a smidgen of what we could … women yet again were seen in the minority.
Yes, there were French & Saunders, and yes, there was a major award for Jane Tranter, but it isn’t really about the very few who stand out, is it? It’s so much more about the fact that at every level, but primarily at the level that MAKES DECISIONS, that BUYS WORK, that ACTUALLY EMPLOYS, the people making those decisions are men, blokes, male-identified-black-suit-(or kilt)-wearing chaps.
If every time a group of people get up to receive an award and 75-80% of those people standing up there are men, what does that say about the state of our film and tv industries? Does it say we are in a place of equality where women are as likely to be producing/creating work? I think not.
If the people who are producing and creating the work are men is it any wonder that they then employ men writers to write more work about men? What we know from publishing is that men readers prefer to read men writers and are primarily interested in male protagonists, while women readers will read both men and women, and will also engage with male protagonists (yes, there are always exceptions, this is though, what current statistics tell us) – I see no reason to assume that men producers/commissioning editors are any different to the rest of the male readership. And so it makes perfect sense that we see, time after time, men producers and then men writers associated with them. Look at the Radio Times schedules for a week if you’re not sure. Check not who stars in things, but who MAKES them and then look at who writes them. Because as Marx so very clearly pointed out, owning (directing/managing/being in charge of) the means of production is what makes all the difference. For whatever reason, women are STILL (still! it’s 2009!!!) massively in the minority when it comes to producing/directing/having positions of power in the creative industries – and we are still in the minority when it comes to writing these things. The only reasonable assumption then, is that men are still not commissioning women to write these things. Women are not a minority group. But watching last night’s BAFTAs you’d be forgiven for thinking we were. For some reason we’re very good at saying their words and we’re very good at wearing the nice frocks to the parties … but they don’t seem quite so keen to have us actually writing those words or making that work. Shame that. Because as long as half the population is denied its chance to shine, the whole population suffers.
(And sadly, it isn’t much better in theatre – have a look at the Tricycle’s currently, rightly, lauded Afghanistan series and wonder why out of 12 writers only 3 are women. Wonder too, if anyone – other than other women writers! – even noticed the disparity …)