Today is International Women's Day

Maura Judkis, The Washington Post, 3/8/12

Some will observe the day by attending seminars on women's health, making donations to causes that aid and empower women  or celebrating the accomplishments of notable women from the past and present, such as Eleanor Roosevelt or Google executive Marissa Mayer. International Women's Day was inaugurated in 1910, when a German woman named Clara Zetkin proposed that every country devote a day to the needs and political demands of women -- which, in those days, included working rights and the right to vote. Today, the day raises awareness of gender inequality issues and reminds us of what women have achieved since the first IWD more than 100 years ago.


Commentary: Are women getting any closer to equality in theatre?

Clare Brennan, The Guardian Theatre Blog, 3/6/12

[S]tatistics compiled by Sphinx Theatre Company [show] that women -- 52% of the population -- make up just 35% of actors, 17% of theatre writers, 23% of theatre directors and 9% of film directors? [At] Sphinx's third "Vamps, Vixens and Feminists" gender equality conference, held in Leeds on 3 March [there was] a mixture of humour, common sense and determination to change things for the better. "Women are the backbone of protest," said Bidisha, summing up the day's discussions. When a corporation as large as the BBC agrees that there is something wrong with its negative portrayal of women over 40 (after Miriam O'Reilly won her ageism claim in January), she continued, then it is clear that the power of critical voices, unified in protest, can no longer be ignored. "Something," said Bidisha, "has changed." Sphinx's artistic director, Sue Parrish, picked up this point afterwards. "Yes, there were moments in the 70s, 80s and 90s when it seemed as if things would change - and then those moments passed. But, now it seems as if we are at a tipping point." She cites the recent increase of work by women writers. "We have reached a critical mass. Women are gaining power - and they are being seen." I am on the verge of agreeing. But I have recently been spending time with university theatre students. I am shocked how ready some of the young women are to cede place to male classmates. The dynamics can seem so old-fashioned. [And yet,] today's students are growing up in a different world. Those who could not be at the conference were still able to connect to the event. Pilot Theatre Company streamed proceedings live throughout the day. They tweeted some stats, proclaiming: "Over 37K people reached with 255 tweets making 216,000 impressions." In the run-up to International Women's Day, it is worth remembering that, although the struggle took time, in 1928 women finally did achieve equal voting rights with men. We may not be there yet but, if we keep on plugging away at it, equality in the arts will one day be ours.


Commentary: Music orgs still have to travel far to achieve true gender equality

David Smooke, New Music Box, 5/6/12

Last week, the website "Vida: Women in Literature" published their 2011 count. This series of pie charts visualizes the ratio of female to male representatives in various categories -- including published fiction, book reviewers, authors reviewed -- at some of the most prestigious periodicals in the fiction world. A quick scroll through the statistics shows most publications representing women in the 20-30% range, with Granta standing alone as the only publication who published more women than men overall. For more context, I recommend Danielle Pafunda's "The Trouble with Rationalizing the Numbers Trouble". The main thing that struck me about these numbers is this: If they had been generated by concert-presenting organizations they would have seemed exceptionally progressive. I unscientifically perused the websites of some of my favorite groups. I only included artists for whom I have the utmost respect and who I believe care about working towards gender equality in their programming. If I took the time to check other groups, I strongly believe that the ones listed would remain among the most equal in their gender distribution. This makes the data that much less encouraging. An important caveat: the Vida site spends months compiling and checking their statistics. I compiled the data for [my] charts quickly. Please consider the following as rough estimates only. Bang on a Can All Stars displayed the most equality among the ones I counted. Their ratio of 13 works by women compared to 47 by men composers counts as the highest percentage of women among those surveyed. Other of my favorite new music groups all showed gender distributions with more than four men represented for every woman. I believe each of the ensembles has artistic directors that keep the goal of gender equity in mind when they determine their concert repertoire. It seems that we still have to travel far in order to achieve true equality.


Commentary: Miss Representation is a must-see for men and women

Alison Gillmor, CBC Manitoba, 3/7/12

This year you can mark International Women's Day by getting riled up -- and fired up -- at a showing of Miss Representation. The 2011 documentary has been rolling out across North America through community-based screenings. From filmmaker Jennifer Seibel Newsom, who's worked in the Hollywood trenches as an actor, Miss Representation is an angry, urgent outcry against the misrepresentation of women in mass media. Motivated to make this film by the birth of her daughter, Seibel Newsom aims the film primarily at young women. As the movie points out, they are now exposed to more media than ever before, most of them spending more time online and in front of the TV than they do with their parents. Immersed in pop culture, they are subjected to a slurry of nasty images, from Toddlers and Tiaras to misogynistic music videos to highly sexualized, attention-getting ads. This barrage can affect their feelings of self-worth, skewing their body image and constricting their ideas and ambitions. Siebel Newsom also suggests that negative ways of viewing women have bled into areas such as political life. Drawing on news clips, she shows how women politicians and leaders are routinely denigrated and dismissed --if they show softness they're seen as "too emotional," if they show hardness, they're denounced as "shrill." They are also subjected to constant scrutiny about how they look and what they wear. The clips are backed up by interviews with Katie Couric, Condaleeza Rice, Gloria Steinem, as well as academics and activists. Is it something I want my 13-year-old daughter to see? Yes. Absolutely yes. This is a passionate and important corrective to the power of the mass media, and a great way to jumpstart discussions about women, media and self-esteem. (One note: The film is probably best suited for kids over 13 because of the ideas and the images involved.)

            > Watch the 8-minute video trailer for "Miss Representation"

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