In order to keep the momentum of movements like Time’s Up and Frances McDermond’s Oscar night plea for inclusion riders, the key next step is to create jobs, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna says.
“There’s so much solidarity in being together but we need to offer each other economic opportunities. Hashtags, tweeting, that’s all great, but jobs — that’s what we need,” McKenna says. “You have to hire women and promote women and let them fail and protect them. I wish more women had done that for me and I’m very determined to do that for more women.”
McKenna was a part of CBS’ inaugural Eye Speak summit in Los Angeles, Calif. on Wednesday. Joining her for a poignant discussion on how to not only include but also empower, inspire and provide opportunities for women in the industry were half a dozen other powerful women both in front of and behind the camera at CBS Studios productions.
McKenna created the #femalefilmmakerFriday hashtag, encouraging women in the industry to post photos of themselves at work. Beyond giving the next generation something to look at as proof of what can be accomplished, it was also designed to start a conversation — chiefly among the women themselves.
Networking is important, as is seeing the wide selection of people available for work — people who don’t “necessarily look like the image you have in your head,” McKenna points out.
“For so long I’ve seen the women that came before me fighting for the one seat at the table, and what happens when you fight for the one seat at the table is that you, instinctually, push the people aside because that one seat is important to you — that one seat is everything you have, everything you’ve been fighting for,” says “Jane The Virgin” star and co-executive producer Gina Rodriguez. “That is a cultural norm that we should erase.”
Rodriguez believes the cultural norm should be changed to the anthill effect.
“I pass the food onto you, you pass onto her, she passes onto him, and we all eat,” Rodriguez says. “I do think to continue [these] movements is to have accountability.”
And Rodriguez herself has already proven to be taking steps to do her part by not only launching the #fiercelyLatina event and hashtag where women in Hollywood rally around their culture, share their stories, and support one another, but also by the series she is developing with her company I Can & I Will Productions.
“It’s OK. There’s enough seats at the table,” McKenna points out.
Maria Bello, who is currently starring on “NCIS” but also producing “The Woman King” about a mother and daughter who fought in an all-female army in the Kingdom of Dahomey, adds that women no longer have to invite themselves to the table anymore because they’ve pulled the table out and are already sitting with each other, as evidenced by these movements and these projects.
“I think the Me Too movement and this sea change is incredible,” Bello notes, “but the only way forward is for each of us to stand in our own glorious authentic selves and our own power.”
Former “Grey’s Anatomy” star Sara Ramirez is now on “Madam Secretary” in the most authentic way she feels she has ever been.
“I am bringing all of myself to this role in every way,” Ramirez says. “I was very upfront, very outspoken, very clear that this is it. If it was going to be something, this was it, or it wasn’t going to be me.”
But she shares that it took her over a decade to find the confidence to get to this place. Undoubtedly what made the journey so long and arduous was not seeing herself reflected in images in the media like the one she is now providing.
Rodriguez, too, says that growing up only seeing Latinas play maids and pregnant teens and gangbangers’ wives made her think she could be limited by something that was not in her control.
“To say the one medium I want to get into says I’m only allowed to be [those things] makes a 15-year-old girl feel like her culture’s not the one she wants to be a part of because her culture’s not the one that’s celebrated right now in our world — definitely not by our administration right now,” Rodriguez says.
That’s why Eye Speak’s emphasis is on inclusion of all women. The summit was presented in conjunction with the Association of National Advertisers’ #SeeHer campaign, which is striving to see an accurate portrayal of women in the media by 2020.
“Every great movement that we’ve ever seen started with a breaking,” “Star Trek: Discovery” star Sonequa Martin-Green notes. “When you’re digging a hole in the ground, you have to shove into the ground first to break the ground, and then you can start digging. I think that’s where we are right now — the breaking of the ground. Now we actually have to dig — we have to do our own work in our lives, we have to reject standards in our lives, we have to pull out our own tables, we have to understand that our culture is valuable.”
Martin-Green also says the goal is not assimilation but rather “culturation.”
“Your culture meshes with mine and mine meshes with yours, but you don’t take from mine and I don’t take from yours. We live together, embracing each other’s culture, and being expanded by it. That’s the way it should be,” she says.