Many years back, when my youngest nephew was 8 years old, he asked me one day, “How come men do all of the important things in life?”
“Men don’t do all the important things in life,” I countered.
“Yes, they do,” he pushed. “All the important people in movies and in history are men.”
At the time, I was stunned. First, by the comment itself, coming from an 8-year-old who had already drawn this conclusion. And second, that I couldn’t dispute what he’d said.
Of course, it’s not true that men do all the important things in life. What is true is that they get most of the attention, even when they do things badly. Or in a mediocre fashion.
Any woman who’s been out on a first date with a self-important man could anecdotally corroborate that men talk too much and dominate conversations. Now, there’s a new study to confirm it, specifically as it relates to the entertainment industry.
From The New York Times:
The University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering “used artificial intelligence and machine learning to do a linguistic analysis of nearly 1000 popular film scripts, mostly from the last several decades. Of the 7000 characters studied, nearly 4900 were men and just over 2000 were women. The male characters spoke far more than the female ones did, with 37,000 dialogues involving men and just 15,000 involving women.”
These statistics also support a realization that I’ve come to recently, as a woman in my 50s: I’m tired of watching men. I’m tired of watching them hog the best roles in film and tv. Tired of watching them hog the top positions on the nightly news, nightly entertainment shows, sports, voiceover, and well…..everything.
I’m tired of them promoting the objectification of women, either actively or passively. Tired of them not taking care of the unequal pay issue for women. In my opinion, this is a men’s issue. With the flick of the signature, the inequity could be reversed overnight.
A few years ago, I undertook an intensive study of acting. I came to acting as a writer interested in presenting my own work onstage. About two months after I got my first agent last summer, the reality hit me: there’s not much here. Now some people will argue that it’s because of my demographics, specifically, my age. I’m in my 50s.
Interestingly, it was only after I got an agent and started auditioning that I realized that men dominated the acting world. The fact that men dominated everything hadn’t necessarily touched my life. I hadn’t lived my life in a corporate environment, nor did I ever encounter the slights and abuses experienced by so many women. Raised by a powerful mother and under the tutelage of four “bad” brothers who left me a force of nature, I walked through the world ignorant of the hardships of other women.
However, I soon encountered local proof of those global statistics discovered by the USC study, by comparing the experience of two of my young actor friends, a man and a woman. Both came to acting as teenagers. Both have college degrees in theater. Both are gifted, talented, driven, and attractive. They have agents of equal caliber. Ryan, 28, gets, on average, three to six auditions per week. Chelsea 25, goes weeks without any.
Although the pickins seemed slim for me, the reality was, frankly, of little consequence to me. I don’t have to act. I do have to write.
But what about all the countless young women out there like Chelsea? Trained, talented, driven, inspired young women. They’ll get a 20 percent chance at having a career that they love, while the boys are getting an 80 percent chance. That’s a whole lot of wasted potential and lost dreams. And for what?
So men can maintain the status-quo, that’s for what.
In my 20s, I met a man who told me, “A smart man knows that women are more powerful than men.” Thankfully, I already knew that, but I did find his truthtelling remarkable.
It takes a rare man to admit what that man admitted to me that day 30 years ago. And, an even rarer one to take the reins and start standing with women on the issues that support our full and respected self expression.
Remember men: a woman brought you to life. Sisters, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, neighbors, friends, lovers, wives……all women. All of these women have taken responsibility for your well-being and advancement sometime in your life. Maybe even your entire life.
Let’s assume for the moment that it is largely still a “man’s world”. IF that’s true, it’s time for men to implement a better use of their inherent power. Here’s an idea:
Stop talking so much and start doing. Start by doing for the women in your life and for all women. Take up our issues right along with us. Use the power of your birthright to become our empowered and empowering heroes.
Become men that women won’t mind listening to, even if you do talk too much.