By: Whitney Millard, Regular Contributor
“There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman.”-Lena Dunham
I moved to Los Angeles in 2011. Not to be an actor or a screenwriter like many of my friends, but because the streets here hum with hope and they radiate dreams off the curbs. They pulse with the all hearts of all the people who came here starry eyed (must have been looking at our streets, they have stars on them you know) to follow their bliss wherever it may lead them. Often away from cold winters, away from people they love and miss every single day, towards what they knew they wanted more than anything.
This place is a beacon. I have met people from across the world who told me that this place? This was where they had to be. This is where it happens. The film industry is this shining star for countless numbers of dreamers and doers. For people who need a laugh, who need to cry, who look to movies to lead the way, to serve as example of how to do the tough work of being a person. Movies teach us how to be. So what does it say when movies won’t pay their leading actresses the same as their leading men?
According to Forbes, in 2013 the top 6 highest earning actresses collectively earned $181 million dollars. As opposed to the top 5 highest earning actors who brought home $465 million dollars collectively, two and half times as much as the ladies. The recent Sony hack exposed the discrepancy between the paychecks of the American Hustle cast, with the gentlemen (Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale) earning 9 points each on the back end and the ladies (Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence) earning just 7 for comparable or arguably more work. This translates into potentially big dollars.
Women are just over half the population, we should surely account for at least half of the stories being told. Especially with the phenomenal success of female-centric films like The Hunger Games and Frozen in recent years.
Doesn’t this serve as an indication the audience like stories about women? Stories where women have agency and act on their own behalf, not just as someone’s girlfriend, wife, or daughter. Where women step into what makes them powerful? We have quantifiable proof in the box office numbers that both men and women enjoy movies about women.
According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media “Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female.” Never mind that only one woman has ever received the Top Director Oscar. If women aren’t seen in these key roles it’s no wonder our stories aren’t being told, our voices aren’t being heard.
And while I’m not entirely sure if women are just not pursuing these roles, or if we’re actively being denied and discouraged from them, I am sure that if we want to see change it starts with female creators. It starts with women telling stories that matter to them, that illuminate the shadows in our lives and our hearts. It starts with standing up for ourselves, with believing that what we have to say matters and that people should hear it. Because it does, and they should.
In a world in which women are systematically paid less than their male counterparts, how can we be sure that our efforts are valued? Can this change occur on an individual level?
Whitney Millard is a writer in Los Angeles attempting to make sense of this crazy world and it’s wonderful people. She launched her blog, WhittyWords.com last fall to have a place to lay down her (perhaps too many) thoughts and feelings. You can usually find her any place that has books, a stage, or boba tea and potstickers.