Martha Thomases: Gender Bender


The end of the year is often a time of renewal and reflection, an opportunity to look back at recent events and make plans for a better day ahead.

I’m happy to say that the entertainment industry is at least going through the motions, but in a way that makes me face-palm.

If you read the link above (please do), you’ll see that the major Hollywood studios (including folks who work for Warner Bros., owner of DC Entertainment, and Disney, owner of Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios) recently had meetings to figure out how to hire more women.

Think about that. They had to bring in outside “experts” (that is, women already in the business) to find a way to commit to hiring a kind of person who represents more than half of the population. Everyone comes in contact with women every single day. Everyone has a mother. Many many people have sisters. Lots of people have wives.

Is it really so difficult to find employable women?

Apparently it is. Apparently, executives in the entertainment industry are so accustomed to thinking that writing, directing and producing films are jobs for men that they cannot imagine women doing them.

This makes me wonder about groups of people that are not necessarily part of white executives’ social circles. It is entirely possible for men of means to go through life without knowing any people of color, or out queer people. Gated communities (or gated estates with staff), exclusive country clubs, private jets and private schools for the kids don’t contribute to a diverse life experience. And the biases (conscious or not) that cause a person to seek such a lifestyle are the same biases that make them think that other white men are the only ones capable of getting the good jobs.

(Aside: Yes, there are some brilliant women and people of color making movies and television. I’m grateful they exist. However, they are the exceptions, not the rule. The rule continues to suck.)

Will the four-step plan put together by the committee make any difference? Or is it, instead, some puffery that allows the industry to act like they’re doing something while continuing business as usual? I can’t tell what kind of milestones are in the plan, if they have goals they mean to achieve by specific dates. They may exist. In the absence of such information, it’s up to us, the public, to demand results.

I would like to see something similar done for comics. Gender parity is an excellent goal, not because I want anyone (not even white men!) to lose their jobs, but because more trained talent means more good comics.