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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. 




my feminist praxis

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The Feminist Critic

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