Change is in the Air: International Women’s Day, 2018

The Oscars are an occasion to celebrate the magic of film, and part of the power of the movies is that they allow us to experience others’ point of view. The more vivid the experience, the better the film. Films and television provide models for how women can see themselves. This year, the Oscars offered a platform for women who who both provided  us with a vision of diversity and used this platform to offer a vision of women with stories to tell, women to write those stories, women to direct those films and television series and women willing to find or use their own money to produce those  projects.

The industry needs to make a commitment to continue to present film and television images and story lines of women as agents of change. This year, we saw women who work through their fear to achieve a goal (like Frances McDormand in 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), women as a superheroes (as in Wonder Woman), and women who discover themselves and powers they didn’t know they had (as in Ladybird, and The Shape of Water). These stories about women as people of action have great potential to help young women see themselves differently and to encourage women in the second half of life to find both courage and authenticity.

When accepting her Oscar for Best Actress, McDormand asked all the women nominated in all categories to stand to be acknowledged. And at the end of her speech she exhorted her colleagues to ask for “inclusion clauses” in their contracts, helping to ensure diversity on the set. Stars have great power and a natural platform, and hopefully they will continue to speak out and take action. Among the presenters on Sunday was the trio of Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra, and Salma Hayek, three of Weinstein’s earliest and loudest accusers. Though their protests and complaints were ignored for far too long, look at what they have accomplished standing together. Look at how much more has been accomplished as the rest of us have joined in.

And it is not just noise. We are being heard: $21 million has been raised by stars to provide legal support to women in industries that subject women to bullying, abuse, and pay inequality. We can all contribute to this movement, by pressing for progress in all areas affecting women’s rights. The United Nations issued this statement for International Women’s Day 2018:

“Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. There’s a strong call to #PressforProgress motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.”

We can continue making progress by keeping this issue on the front pages, supporting women candidates and causes, and brainstorming with others about how to make changes on a local level.  Perhaps by this time next year, we will have moved up the list from #16, and maybe, if we continue to stand together, one day there will be no need for lists at all.


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