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Tag Archives: representation

Where are All the . . . ? Take Two.

I love award shows.  It’s the little girl in me who watched The Oscars as a kid and dreamed of being up on that stage.  And while that dream has certainly faded as I’ve moved into my mid 40s (gasp!) , I still enjoy seeing the actors I love get recognized.

However, with the tinted glasses of feminism, award shows generally piss me off.  The lack of diversity in this year’s Emmy awards is frightening. And even more so, in some senses, than Hollywood.  Movies cost money, much of television doesn’t.  (although more and more shows being recognized are from HBO, Showtime, and Netflix, channels that do cost money).  What is most accessible to young people is a white coated representation of life, as shown in the nominees for this year’s Emmys.

There was never more than two people of color nominated in any category.  Lead Actress in a drama: one African-American woman.  Lead Actor in a drama:  all white men.  People of color did best in the “Guest Actor in a Drama.”  Two men of color were nominated for House of Cards, with Joe Morton taking the Emmy.  Two women of color were nominated in the same category with Uzo Aduba from Orange is the New Black taking the Emmy.



For Directing a Drama, there are two men of color, Carl Franklin for House of Cards and Cary Joji Fukunaga, who won for True Detective.


Cary Joji Fukunaga

The most diverse lineup of nominees was in Best Direction for a Comedy Series, which had one African-American man and two women in the lineup with Gail Mancuso winning for Modern Family.

Spend some time scrolling through these lists of nominees and you’ll get a white view of television’s lack of diversity.  What is someone who cares about representation to do?

I don’t watch a lot of television these day, but I need to become much more investigative in who is directing and who is represented.  I love VEEP, strong female role, but that show is also very white.  I know that Orange is the New Black is the show to watch for diversity, but I can only get sucked into one series at a time.  I watch Scandal because I believe in Shonda Rhimes and Kerry Washington being the first African-American women lead in decades.  Modern Family has a touch of diversity, as does The Walking Dead, my husband’s favorite series right now.  I love Key and Peele.  But my love of fake news shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are led by two very white men.  And honestly, there are only so many hours in the day to even watch television if you roll in at 6pm, put dinner together and get to bed by 10pm.

The only way to keep on task is to keep talking about it and keep sharing information on good examples and bad examples.  And maybe, just maybe, turn off those shows that reflect a society that really doesn’t exist anymore.

Reviewers, Representation and Bullshit

I blogged in March about the lack of female theatre critics. Click here.  Recently, I found an article about the top 50 film critics.  The article examined how film reviewers stacked up against their peers in terms of whether they tended to critic with the crowd, so to speak.  But what most intrigued me about this list was the percentage of women (of course!).  Of the top fifty film critics, how many do you think are female?  Twelve! 24%.  Less than a quarter. Bullshit.

Then I see this story in Women and Hollywood last week about the fat shaming British male reviewers of Opera singer Tara Erraught.   I didn’t even think there was such a thing as a skinny Opera singer.  Alice Coote, a peer of Erraught’s wrote an open letter critiquing this body hatred by these male reviewers, explaining that the voice is the instrument, in this case, and body shaming Opera singers will do nothing for the genre.

But again, I go back to the source.  Women are continually under-represented as writers in this media.  I harp on this issue, maybe too much, but things are never going to change if the same people are the ones doing all the criticism.  And we need to start complaining about this.

Let’s look again at numbers of female writers in the big papers.  28% in the New York Times, 23% in the Washington Post and 20% in the Wall Street Journal.  Bullshit.

62% of books reviewed by The New York Times between 2008 and 2011 were written by men.  Bullshit.

Men are quoted five times more than women in news articles and a Women’s eNews story reported that only 24% of news subjects in 7,000 news stories and 14,000 news sources were women.  Bullshit.

Men are writing the world, responding to the world, critiquing the world and running the world.  18.2% of women are in the House of Representatives and 20% of the Senate.  That’s not even a quarter when we’re well over half the population.  And if we take this topic globally, only 22 women run the 196 countries on Earth.  11%.  Bullshit.

Until women and the men who love them, or give a damn about equality and balance, start pissing and moaning about how we’re MIS-represented on the planet, we’re only getting half of the truth.  I’m reviewing my first play as an “official” theatre reviewer tomorrow.  I think I am one of none in the Rhode Island theatre scene.  Baby steps or bullshit?

Women must write op-eds and submit them to papers.  Continually ask questions about who is behind the story, who is writing the story, who is in the story, and who is telling the story.  Demand, as a consumer of media, that you get full representation. And call bullshit wherever you see it.


Where are all the . . . ?

I write a lot asking where all the women are in directing, in playwriting, as lead roles in children’s movies, and books.  But in the last two weeks I have been thinking a lot about theatre critics.  We had a press night for the show The Great God Pan, which I directed at Epic Theatre Company in Rhode Island.  So far, I have read five reviews of the play from the following:   Motif Magazine, The Providence Phoenix, The Providence Journal, Broadway World, and The Edge, which I believe is a digital magazine.  Guess how many of those critics were women?  None!  Excellent guess.  How did you know?

And as I am a research geek, I went to the American Theatre Critics Association to look at their membership.  Under the membership tab, there is a list of members who maintain blogs.  About half of the blogs are written by women (13/30).  I even Google imaged anyone with a gender neutral name, just to be sure.  Of their entire membership, only 37% are women.  I laughed when I did the math because it seems like women exist in this 30th percentile range in so many places of representation.  Faculty are about 38% female, nationally.  e However, we quickly leave such a high percentile if we look at directors (5%) or politicians (18.5% in Congress).  

So, why do we care?  Well, for one thing, if only men are critiquing what they see and others are reading those critiques and making determinations about whether to see something or not based on that critique, we might be missing half of society’s view.  And if we drill down even more and examine how men review plays written or directed by women, do we come up with a bias?  Maybe. My friend and artistic director at Epic threw that idea out there, and while I haven’t studied this, I certainly am adding it to the list of articles I want to write but never get to.  Maybe I can find some smart graduate student of theatre who will want to study this subject. 

We know that women are barely represented as writers in major print and online news.  The Op-Ed Project, which I was fortunate to attend, maintains an ongoing study of this phenomenon (or should I call it discrimination?). Check out their stats on women writers on their homepage.  You’ll be amazed.  Or pissed. 

What’s a girl to do?  Well, for one, you can write.  And if you can’t get into the “big boys club” to write, you have to do it on your own, like I do.  I did send a message to one of the papers that reviewed us and asked the publisher/editor if he needed any female writers.  His response?  No response.  That was Motif, by the way, in case you are wondering.  You can write an op-ed about the lack of women.  And you can be really choosy about what you read.  Always check who the author is.  It’s not easy in this fast paced world to pause and reflect, but we can’t change anything unless we know how bad the situation is. 




Even Good Guys Can Miss the Point

I am continually frustrated by the paucity of women playwrights being produced on the stages of major theatres in Rhode Island.  I’m looking at the “bigger” theatres, like The Gamm in Pawtucket, RI, 2nd Story Theatre in Warren, RI (where I have been a long time subscriber and actor) and Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI. Out of 22 plays being produced by these three professional/semi-professional theatres, only TWO are written by women.  I have debated this subject with many a talented male director or actor, people I consider friends and even feminists.  The excuses are 1)  I couldn’t get the rights to any of the plays by women I wanted to produce; 2) The shows I am producing include strong female characters in lead roles; 3) I produce plays written by gay men; 4) Women haven’t won many Tony’s (thus there are no good plays by women.).

For some time, I blamed this local “miss representation” on the fact that the people choosing these seasons and running these theatres were white men (Tony Estrella at The Gamm, Ed Shea at 2nd Story, and Curt Columbus at Trinity Rep).  However, out of 6 plays being produced this season at ART (American Repertory Theatre) in Boston, only one is written by a woman, and ART’s Artistic Director, Diane Paulus, is a woman. 

Statistically we know that less than 17% of the plays produced in the U.S. are written by women. However, “in an apparent paradox, 31% of the plays on the Theater Communication Group’s list of the ‘Top Ten Most Produced Plays in American Theatre’ were written by women” (  Sheri Wilner and Julia Jordan address this paradox by suggesting that fewer women playwrights stay in the marketplace because it is so hard to compete and get your work produced.  

Some of these same issues can be applied to the lack of women directors in Hollywood.  Read Marcia Giese’s article “13 Myths Hollywood Uses to Hide Discrimination Against Women Directors” (

I often feel overwhelmed and paralyzed on how to fix this problem.  But there is hope, at least outside of the U.S.  Sweden is now giving out an “A rating” to films that pass the Bechdel Test.  ( Even there, however, some male film critics are missing the point of the Bechdel Test. (

How are we to advance women playwrights and female directors?  Wilner and Jordan make some suggestions for Artistic Directors, but any change involves work, and are they willing to do that work?  I hesitate to say yes. 

“A concerted effort must be made by Artistic Directors to find and develop female writers with the same eagerness and enthusiasm they do with male writers. That means they are going to have to eliminate the de facto quota of twenty percent or so of production slots that, in practice, have been set aside for women and writers of color to compete for. They also need to put out the call to schools, agents, and their own literary departments, and then actually read all the scripts by women that come in. And since women inside the theatres have essentially reported that they perceive bias in their institution’s play selection process, Artistic Directors must make sure they create environments in which these perceptions can be freely addressed and satisfactorily handled. And the women need to acknowledge the possibility that they engage in prophetic discrimination, subconsciously or otherwise. Basically, if you read and like a script by a woman but think it’s not a good “fit” with your theatre, pretend it was written by someone named John and read it again. Lastly, both Artistic Directors and producers should take advantage of the free market research Ms. Sands has provided and acknowledge that her results make perfect sense. After all, everyone knows that audiences are predominantly female. So, start looking for more female-written plays with female leads. They are the least-produced and most successful plays around. We’ll even tell you where you can find them — in the hearts, minds and hard drives of female playwrights” (Wilner & Jordan, 2010).

What can you do to promote the representation of women playwrights?  To start, take a look at the seasons offered by your local theatres.  What percentage of the playwrights are women?  What percentage of the playwrights are people of color?  (Trinity Rep’s season, which includes one woman, kills two birds with one stone by Lynn Nottage being their only woman playwright and their only playwright of color.  The other five playwrights are white men). Write to those theatres and ask for a better representation.  Write Op-Eds. Don’t subscribe to theatres who don’t demonstrate a commitment to diversity and social justice.  

While I can give up on Hollywood for ever being a place that will work to make the world better for all people, I can still have hope that theatre can be that place; that we can produce plays that make people think critically about their world and their place in it.  I have hope that good guys, men I love and respect for their work and for the ways they respect women, can begin to get the point. 





my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

The Feminist Critic

Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.