It’s International Women’s Day today — a celebration that we have thanks to 15,000 women who gathered in New York’s Union Square on this day in 1908 to fight for their economic and political rights. One year later, following massive organizing and action by women all over the United States, we became the first country in the world to observe National Women’s Day. It wasn’t until 1975 that the U.N. established this day as the official International Women’s Day, but here we are.
I know that bit about the history of the day thanks to National Women’s History Museum, which, like so many platforms for honoring women … doesn’t actually exist yet, at least as a bricks and mortar building.
I gave a lot of thought to what quote to share today, and at the risk of snarky comments about “women’s parts” — there, I’ve said it, so don’t think you will be clever in doing so, trolls — I have chosen to share a quote from Nora Ephron, on what she writes:
I try to write parts for women that are as
complicated and interesting as
women actually are.” – Nora Ephron
So in part I chose this quote because this is, after all, mostly a writing blog. But the biggest reason I chose it is that the parts we write for women have such an important role in shaping how girls and women are perceived, what we imagine we can do, and even our level of self-confidence.
I’ve written about how media shapes our perceptions of girls and women for The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Los Angeles Times — the latter again and again, because, you know, that’s where the media decision-makers live. But this bit from the end of one of the pieces (written in the context of the lack of women honored by Emmy Awards) will give you an idea of why I think the roles we write for women are important:
The fact is that gender stereotypes on TV and in film remain ubiquitous and often unrecognized. The Lauzen study found that while 43% of speaking characters on television last year were female — a historical high — women characters were both younger and less likely to be seen at work than men. A study of G-rated movies by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found three male characters for every one female, with most of the female characters stereotyped and/or hyper-sexualized. Female aspirations were almost exclusively romance, while male goals almost never were. The top occupation for females? Royalty.
Is it any wonder that the more hours of television a boy watches, the more sexist he becomes, while the more a girl watches, the fewer options she believes she has in life?
On-screen princesses have not, on the whole, been dreaming of careers. They may be heroic or good-hearted, but they must be beautiful. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the other Emmy Awards in which women nominees outnumber men can help with that. They are all in the categories for costume, makeup and hair.
I’m wearing red today. I hope you are as well.
Happy International Women’s Day! May our future be better than our past.