“You are a unique person and you have to be yourself. You can’t be anybody else; you can’t lead anybody else’s life. You have to be comfortable in your own skin and you have to be confident about who you are, whether you’re working at Twitter or running for office. And that is hard to do….and yet it’s all doable once you relax and decide, ‘You know what? This is no dress rehearsal. This is it for me. I want to be who I am.’ You be yourself. Easiest advice to say, hardest advice to follow.”—
Hillary Clinton, in response to a tweet from Amy Poehler (x).
So for the past five years, the bank Lloyds TSB have been sending me text updates about someone else’s bank account. They do a service where you can choose to be contacted about any changes via text, and I’m assuming someone made a mistake when giving their number and accidentally wrote down mine.
It started out as a text every other Monday with a balance and any money coming in or going out. And then every once in a while I’d get a phone call asking me to confirm a new direct debit or verify a payment. All information about someone else’s account, all being sent to me on a regular basis.
I’ve spoken to people at my local branch about this at least three times. The first two times I was basically ignored - one woman asked me repeatedly if I was sure it wasn’t my account even when I told her I didn’t bank with Lloyds, even insisting I gave her my postcode so she could check (I think she thought I was younger than I am, so therefore an idiot). The third and last time a different woman sat down and spoke to me properly, said she was going to sort it out and then didn’t. I got another text the week later.
The texts were annoying but they were an inconvenience I could handle. I was baffled and somewhat outraged by Lloyds seeming indifference to the fact they were regularly sharing someone’s private information with a stranger, but I just carried on deleting the texts as they arrived and ignoring the calls.
Today however, Lloyds called me twice within half an hour, text me between the calls and, after I ignored the second call, left me three identical voicemail messages, each at least a minute long, consisting of a section of automated questions about this random person’s account.
I was pissed.
So I went to the internet and tweeted angry messages about how Lloyds TSB has been breaching at least one of its customers’ security for going on five years and has repeatedly done nothing to stop it. I wasn’t even finished with my tirade when their account responded and told me to DM them my number so they could stop the texts - and to contact them again if they continue.
It seems if you want a company like Lloyds to get something done all you need to do is threaten their reputation on social media. I got better service from the person on the other end of the screen than I had from anyone in my local branch. Perhaps if I’d shouted about privacy breaches in front of their doors, it may have been resolved sooner.
The basics are that for every one female-speaking character in family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13), there are roughly three male characters; that crowd and group scenes in these films — live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. Throw in the hypersexualization of many of the female characters that are there, even in G-rated movies, and their lack of occupations and aspirations and you get the picture.
It wasn’t the lack of female lead characters that first struck me about family films. We all know that’s been the case for ages, and we love when movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen hit it big. It was the dearth of female characters in the worlds of the stories — the fact that the fictitious villages and jungles and kingdoms and interplanetary civilizations were nearly bereft of female population — that hit me over the head. This being the case, we are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space. Couldn’t it be that the percentage of women in leadership positions in many areas of society — Congress, law partners, Fortune 500 board members, military officers, tenured professors and many more — stall out at around 17 percent because that’s the ratio we’ve come to see as the norm?
OK, now for the fun part: It’s easy, fast and fun to add female characters, in two simple steps. And I want to be clear I’m not talking about creating more movies with a female lead. If you do, God bless and thank you. Please consider me for that role.
Step 1: Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it’s not a big deal?
Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, “A crowd gathers, which is half female.” That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs think women don’t gather, I don’t know.
And there you have it. You have just quickly and easily boosted the female presence in your project without changing a line of dialogue.
Yes, we can and will work to tell more women’s stories, listen to more women’s voices and write richer female characters and to fix the 5-to-1 ratio of men/women behind the camera. But consider this: In all of the sectors of society that still have a huge gender disparity, how long will it take to correct that? You can’t snap your fingers and suddenly half of Congress is women. But there’s one category where the underrepresentation of women can be fixed tomorrow: onscreen. In the time it takes to make a movie or create a television show, we can change what the future looks like.
There are woefully few women CEOs in the world, but there can be lots of them in films. We haven’t had a woman president yet, but we have on TV. (Full disclosure: One of them was me.) How can we fix the problem of corporate boards being so unequal without quotas? Well, they can be half women instantly, onscreen. How do we encourage a lot more girls to pursue science, technology and engineering careers? By casting droves of women in STEM jobs today in movies and on TV. Hey, it would take me many years to become a real nuclear physicist, but I can play one tomorrow.
Here’s what I always say: If they can see it, they can be it.
After 17 season’s of Pretty Little Liars, A is revealed and captured. The girls hug each other in a safe embrace, but are interrupted by the faint noise of a text. They read it aloud and stare into the distance, “It’s my turn, bitches -B”.
“No, you can’t deny women their basic rights and pretend it’s about your ‘religious freedom.’ If you don’t like birth control, don’t use it. Religious freedom doesn’t mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs.”—
Have you ever seen brown eyes in the sun? You don’t always notice it at first but you’ll see that ‘brown’ no longer describes them. They melt into golden rays, circling an eclipse. There’s nothing boring about brown eyes, not even when the later hours encroach; they just turn into a sunset of their own.