Posted by: stelladuffy | April 27, 2009

BAFTAs/Equality Bill/sigh

So the Equality Bill is getting shining attention again today, and that’s all well and good, especially given it has a remit re class as well as all the other inequalities we’ve become used to discussing (race/gender/ability etc) BUT … watching the BAFTAs last night you’d have been hard-pressed to think we’ve come any way at all in terms of women achieving a smidgen of what we could … women yet again were seen in the minority.

Yes, there were French & Saunders, and yes, there was a major award for Jane Tranter, but it isn’t really about the very few who stand out, is it? It’s so much more about the fact that at every level, but primarily at the level that MAKES DECISIONS, that BUYS WORK, that ACTUALLY EMPLOYS, the people making those decisions are men, blokes, male-identified-black-suit-(or kilt)-wearing chaps.

If every time a group of people get up to receive an award and 75-80% of those people standing up there are men, what does that say about the state of our film and tv industries? Does it say we are in a place of equality where women are as likely to be producing/creating work? I think not.

If the people who are producing and creating the work are men is it any wonder that they then employ men writers to write more work about men? What we know from publishing is that men readers prefer to read men writers and are primarily interested in male protagonists, while women readers will read both men and women, and will also engage with male protagonists (yes, there are always exceptions, this is though, what current statistics tell us) – I see no reason to assume that men producers/commissioning editors are any different to the rest of the male readership. And so it makes perfect sense that we see, time after time, men producers and then men writers associated with them. Look at the Radio Times schedules for a week if you’re not sure. Check not who stars in things, but who MAKES them and then look at who writes them. Because as Marx so very clearly pointed out, owning (directing/managing/being in charge of) the means of production is what makes all the difference. For whatever reason, women are STILL (still! it’s 2009!!!) massively in the minority when it comes to producing/directing/having positions of power in the creative industries – and we are still in the minority when it comes to writing these things. The only reasonable assumption then, is that men are still not commissioning women to write these things. Women are not a minority group. But watching last night’s BAFTAs you’d be forgiven for thinking we were. For some reason we’re very good at saying their words and we’re very good at wearing the nice frocks to the parties … but they don’t seem quite so keen to have us actually writing those words or making that work. Shame that. Because as long as half the population is denied its chance to shine, the whole population suffers.

(And sadly, it isn’t much better in theatre – have a look at the Tricycle’s currently, rightly, lauded Afghanistan series and wonder why out of 12 writers only 3 are women. Wonder too, if anyone – other than other women writers! – even noticed the disparity …)


  1. As a filmmaker I agree totally and was incensed with all the award ceremonies and the absence of women. Except in front the camera. This is my blog post.

  2. I wrote to Julie Gardner, Head of Drama at BBC Wales when she was producing Doctor Who to ask why/ complain that there were no female scriptwriters working on one of their flagship programmes… putting out a msg of ‘Women can’t write Sci-Fi/big budget TV shows’ – which is complete tripe. I didn’t get a response, but since then their female Script Editor has written a few scripts. But only one female scriptwriter isn’t enough. I’d give all my back teeth to write an episode of Doctor Who.

  3. yup. you, me, and most of the women writers I know. not happening though, is it?

  4. I’d give Alice’s back teeth to see a woman Dr Who – one who continually remakes herself, who lives nomadically, and spends her life fighting impossible odds. But maybe that would be too much like real life . . . check out the stats on the percentage of women academics and the percentage of women professors if you want to see the sub-text of the places where we educate our aspiring professionals . . .

  5. Personally, I don’t see why the boys should have all the fun. It’s even more shocking when you see these award shows and there are plenty of female Producers knocking about collecting the silver.

  6. Alice, where do you see these plenty of women producers?! The only place I can think of with what might be an even ratio of women to men producers would be Radio 4 – PERHAPS. And even then, it’s the commissioning editors making the big decisions.
    On the other hand, I’m not suggesting more women producers is the only answer, but it might be a start. Along with undercutting the notion that men are only interested in reading/watching/studying/understanding other men, that women’s created work is domestic and men’s universal, that it would be astonishing if the directors of our major theatres were women, or indeed, perhaps even once noticing that three men and one woman on ANY panel show isn’t necessarily the only possible ratio. See you in Wonderland, people ..

  7. As a filmmaker all these issues are pertinent to me. Too often alot of the emphasis is in front of the camera so more ethnic minorities to be SEEN.

    I am also getting so sick of (white) boys stories being paraded as universal and the female characters getting smaller physically and psychically.

    However the actual power lies behind the camera/microphone in the case of radio.

    Having a woman producer is often the worst thing as she feels that encouraging other women marks her out in a negative way. How many women directors has the lesbian producer Christine Vachon worked with. Go figure.

    In my own work I often employ females and males but female heads of department because I CAN being the director and therefore the boss.

  8. What we need is an all female production company (employing men as drivers/runners if we’re going to meet equal rights problems). Then we need to come up with something big, juicy, serial, with endless merchandise possibilties and dramatic… either in the Saturday evening/ or ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Sunday evening slot, if we’re talking TV. I’m not the world’s greatest expert on the Radio, so couldn’t possibly say what Radio needs – but the snippets of panel shows I do hear, I agree with you Stella – one woman and three men.

    I often get impression that the Creative world is like a Victorian Gentleman’s Club and the wimmin are let in occasionally but kept under strict control – because, heaven help us we have small brains and couldn’t possibly use them for any great importance… or could we? I’ll meet you in the kitchen to talk tactics – the men will be too busy smoking cigars and swilling port, or sleeping in leather armchairs under their broadsheets to notice.

  9. you know, I love working with men. I’m not even sure I’d enjoy working in an all-woman company – what I do wish though, is that men enjoyed working with women. and it kind of doesn’t look like they do …

  10. Ooooohhh now I feel bad… my Writing Partner is a man. I know what you mean about an all woman enterprise, I went to an all ‘gals’ school and continue to work in an all female environment. Quite frankly, I need men in my life. It’s a difficult one this isn’t it?

  11. honest, I don’t think it is difficult at all – I don’t think it’s about all-women quotas or employing women rather than men or enjoying the company of women or enjoying the company of men – I think it’s merely about people opening their eyes. I think that right now most people don’t even NOTICE that the producers/execs/commissioning eds/writers are mostly, often always, men. And not noticing that means it doesn’t occur to them that there is therefore an imbalance. Start noticing it’s not ‘fair’/even/appropriate/normal(!) and then, slowly (and possibly not as quickly as we’d like) a change will come. But as long as we’re blind to the inequality of the status quo, change is very very far away …

  12. I do think it is about quotas. That is how Barack Obama became president and Hillary Clinton vice president. They all benefited from affirmative action AND being good at their jobs.

    There is a very interesting in piece in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Apparently it was very hard to recruit women to play in orchestras becos the conductors would listen to them audition in their homes. When they heard women play they said they lacked something and weren’t good enough.

    Then they started auditioning behind a screen. And the women got employed. Hmm it wasn’t how they sounded but how they looked and THEREFORE sounded was keeping them out. One woman once she got employed in a traditionally male section of the orchestra got treated so badly she had to sue, because they just could not BELEIVE their ears. She won.

    My point is we won’t NOTICE because culturally we have been taught not to notice the lack of women or people of colour in spaces. We have been completely brainwashed by the white patriarchal power structures.

    So it is not really about liking/not liking men or working/not working with them. But questioning white male power at every level of our lives. Yes it is tough. But then if we are really wanting to change things is there another way?

  13. “So it is not really about liking/not liking men or working/not working with them. But questioning white male power at every level of our lives.”

    completely agree. x

  14. Well said. I’m not a writer for TV so will be brief.

    But I’m afraid this does permeate the media industry. I work in new media and recently had cause to message the organiser of a leading new media/art conference to ask why only one of (I think) 15 advertised speakers on the main conference programme was female and the rest white men.

    The response?

    “We know it’s an issue”


    “The split is much more equal in our art programme”

    My point is that there are plenty of women out there in the rank and file of our (brave) new media industry, working with technology, creativity and production but white men are still self-selecting each other to be figureheads and leaders.

    Plus ca change….

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