There have been a few recent stories in the news which have piqued my interest.
That’s a lie.
They have pissed me off.
The massive media obsession with Jimmy Fallon replacing Jay Leno as the Tonight Show host has burned my toast. Seriously. It has been a story on the network evening WORLD news multiple times. You would think they were electing a new Pope. Not to mention the swath of white male faces dominating the late night interview circuit. And the acceptance that this is normal, even though 51% of the population is female.
And then Chelsea Handler’s recent essay.
Olivia Wilde getting fab.
Cate Blanchett calling folks out
Holly L. Derr’s: At a recent summit of DC-area artistic directors, Ryan Rilette of Round House Theatre made a reference to the infamous “pipeline” of new talent that runs from New York and London to America’s regional theaters, claiming that there are not enough plays by women in this pipeline for his theater to produce. Her entire essay is here and more can be found on line. Folks are pissed.
Why don’t people SEE it? The Jay-Leno-Jimmy-Fallon-Tonight-Show story is as much about MASSIVE NUMBERS OF WHITE MEN IN BEHIND THE DESK as how cute Jimmy is.
People don’t do the math. We are all so used to not seeing ourselves, women, people of color, people with disabilities, on the small and big screen, in the credits, behind the desk, it doesn’t even register on our radar screen. And if someone makes noise about it? The standard, other women have it worse/quit complaining/sour grapes/etc. argument takes hold.
Like I said? Burns my toast!
But how do I make a dent?
So, on the treadmill today I was pondering this. Better than watching the minutes slowly tick by. And I thought, in that random exercise-induced fantasy time one engages in to try to pass the time…If I was a celebrity, I would boycott all male-led talk shows for a month. Imagine if every famous female celebrity got together, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, Sofia Vergara, Julia Roberts, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Angela Bassett, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Octavia Spencer, Anne Hathaway, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie, Amy Poehler and they all decided NOT to do these talk shows? Just for a month?
And then, on the elliptical, I got even crazier.
How could we all make a dent? And for how long?
Riffing, I thought of the standard menstrual cycle. That’s 28 days.
And women make up 51% of the population.
So that’s it.
Starting April 1st, for 28 days until April 28th, I propose the 28-for-51 event. What if we don’t show up for 28 days? Don’t buy. Don’t flirt. Don’t diminish ourselves or make ourselves small. Don’t feed the beast of pretty-young-thing or Guys Rule or Oh-Stop-Making-A-Fuss.
Celebrities: Yes, you first. Because face it…if you have gotten to the top of the celebrity heap, you like to be first. Which I am fine with! These days fame seems like a serious Be-Careful-What-You-Wish-For scenario.
- Only participate in women-driven media and marketing. Like the well-known Blue Flu, get the 28/51 flu. Cancel on David, Matt, Seth. But drag yourself out of bed for Ellen. Chelsea. Wendy. Interviews set up with People Magazine, Rolling Stone, Vogue, Elle, New York, and any paper at all. DANDY. Do it. But ask for a female journalist. REQUIRE a female journalist. And photographer. Between April 1st to April 28th, only gals get the Get.
- For 28 days, frolic on the paparazzi-laden beach in big t-shirts and athletic shorts. No bikinis. Withhold the sugar and only feed the beast whole grains and lentils for 28 days. Stop marketing “the body” for 28 days. Let your work speak for you.
- Yes, you are contractually required to walk the red carpet…so do. But do it in jeans, t-shirts, and sensible shoes. Or in clothes designed and produced by a woman-owned company. Shake up this youth-perfect-body cultural obsession with a little fun. It’ll be a blast if you all do it! Imagine…28 days of comfortable shoes.
- Sign on for women-strong projects. Decline the girlfriend role. Imagine if everyone did that.
- Withdraw your support from projects which don’t have 50% women in the cast. The cop, the ambulance driver, the lawyer, the repairperson, they can be cast with women. Make it a contractual stipulation.
For the other 99.999998% of the population: Of the following do one, do many…because we all know, we can’t do it all!!!
- For 28 days, love your body as it is
- Purchase or attend movies only which are directed by women, starring women in prominent roles, and/or written by women. Remember…it’s only for 28 days!
- Turn off Seth, Jimmy, David, and turn on Chelsea, Ellen, Wendy.
- Go to theatres whose seasons are made up of at least 50% women-written and/or women-directed plays. Yes, this includes community theatre, school plays, as well as larger theatres. Let these theatres know you are looking at their selections.
- Don’t purchase magazines which perpetuate impossible standards of income or physicality. Vogue, In Style, Cosmo, etc. It’s just ONE month, ok?
- Only purchase women-created music, books, movies, etc. from iTunes, Amazon, Kindle, wherever you get your entertainment.
- Buy from a woman-led company. Let them know in “Customer Comments” section that this is a 28/51 purchase. Vera Wang. Shazi Visram. Jenny at Missouri Star Quilting. Robyn Frisch. Pamela Loren. And this is from me just puttering around the internet for five minutes…
- Support or donate to a woman-led company or organization which advances women’s issues or employs women with a donation. Whatever is within your means, .51, $5.10, $51, $510, $5,100, $51,000, $510,000
- If you donate to your alma mater and they do not have women in leadership positions, let them know you will be withdrawing your support until that changes. Same for your church. Any organization you support which doesn’t boast a close to 50/50, female/male ratio in their leadership.
- Yes, we all watch a lot of TV, much of it shared time with family and partners. So compromise…for 51% of these 28 days, watch television series or programming which features women in at least ½ of the roles.
- We are so often encouraged to dress provocatively. Expose skin. Dress to attract a mate. So…for 28 days, only dress in a way that advances your career or in a way which makes you feel comfortable. Authentic. Or just truly YOU. For 28 days, don’t play the attractive/sexy/hot card. Play the competent/serious/creative card. Don’t worry. Sexy will wait for you….
- Mentor a younger woman in your sphere. If you are 50, give a hand to the 40 year old. If you are 18, help the 13 year old. It could just be an e-mail or a call or a note, saying “I believe in you.” “Your work is excellent.” “Well done and keep going.” There are younger women, less experienced all around us. Hand them a compliment with no strings. Make a call on their behalf. Be in their corner even if they think they don’t need it.
Because someday, we will all need each other. So let’s practice. It’s just for 28 days!