Monday, June 9, 2014

And the chick

In news that is probably not surprising to anyone reading this post, I am a woman, and I am a writer. And so, I am very interested in the relationship between women and the arts - both in the women who make art, and in how women are portrayed in art.

My friend, and kickass writer, Maria Dahvana Headley wrote this post earlier today, about all of the wonderful, women-filled movies that we are unlikely ever to see. It made me so angry to read it, because those would all be great, and she's right. That many women on screen? At the same time? And taken seriously? Not likely to happen.

I mean, think about it. We've all seen enough ensemble casts to know how this works, right? You've got the smart, handsome lead, you've got the jock, you've got the funny guy, you've got the black guy, and you've got the chick.

Being "A Woman" is not a character description. (Neither, I know, is being a person of color.) We are not interchangeable objects, able to be swapped out according to hair color. We are - sit down, because this is shocking - as complex and as complicated as men. We have stories that are as complex and as complicated, as Maria's post so elegantly points out.

But here's what happens, when being "the chick" becomes the character description. That percentage up there? It's one role out of five, or twenty percent. We see that, and it becomes normal. That's what we expect. When those five heroes slow-walk in front of the explosion, we expect to see one of them - and only one - as a woman. When we look at women in jobs that are given high social status - cardiac surgeon, tenured professor - those fields are seventeen percent female. Slightly less than one in five, but still, approximately the same percent as what we see as normal. 

And God forbid that number gets any higher  - I mean if you get a room where one out of three people in it are women, thirty-three whole percent, men will report that that room was majority female. Think about that - if men only outnumber women two to one, that is perceived to be a room overflowing with a majority of women. 

It hurts my brain to even type that sentence. Like, I seriously don't even know how that works.

Except, of course I do.

And the chick. 


  1. I could not agree more wholeheartedly. Just wanted to comment to say also that this is in part why I am so so so very much enjoying watching Orange Is The New Black - a show where ~90%, 95% of the characters are female. It makes me feel like a whole lot of doors in my brain were just flung wide open. I deeply hope that the success of the show leads to many more like it, and books, and movies, and and and.

    1. I've heard so many good things about that show. I will move it up the to-be-watched list.