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On the Importance of Talking About “Lady Quotas”

On the Importance of Talking About "Lady Quotas"

I saw this blog post on Jezebel from the editor in chief Jessica Coen who doesn’t have a lot of time to write as she spends most of her day keeping everything moving and flowing on the ladyblog that everyone follows.

I was surprised to see this headline: “Ladyblog Publisher Wants Ladyblog to Stop Writing About Lady ‘Quotas’”

Then I was even more surprised to read the it was her own publisher and boss emailing her tell her “I hate this quota shit” in response to a piece that the blog tackled on the fact that the not one episode of the TV series Dr. Who was directed by a woman last year.  A side note, the piece was written by a guy, Doug Barry who seriously is in the top two of male feminist writers.  The guy just gets it.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the blog post was not about quotas, but institutional sexism, and about the lack of opportunities for women directors in TV in the UK AND was based on research from Directors UK, but I guess to Nick Denton, these are the same thing.

I wanted to share with you Jessica’s response to her boss.  It’s important because part of this work and what Jezebel is so good at is called a spade a spade and continuing to write and talk about these issues so that things will change and one day, we won’t have to write about “this quota shit” because there will be no need to have the conversation.  That will also be the day when I will gladly have to find something else to do with my time.

Keep in mind that Jessica has a boss, we here at Women and Hollywood, don’t.  That’s why they pay us the big bucks. (This was also an email that she sent from her iphone as she was getting ready to board a flight.)  It is reprinted with permission.

Ok, so you hate quota shit — but if you’re arguing who cares bc it’s a geek show…well, aren’t women allowed to care about what happens with wildly popular (amongst our readers, no less) geek shows? io9 is run by women! And surely you know that some of Kotaku’s best and most successful feature work has been about the gender gap and the role/treatment of women in gaming. Girls are geeks too.

I know you’re probably gearing up to roll your eyes and tl;dr this email. Don’t. Hear me out, please.

The balance of the sexes, the leveling of the playing field, the role of women in all broad senses is a big topic right now, and I’m not talking about on Jezebel. I’m talking about the nyt or wapo or some other national news outlet running an article almost every single day regarding women at work, pay gaps, health, media treatment/depiction, cultural “gender norm” stuff; I’m talking about the Atlantic’s successful website launching an entire vertical dedicated to the topic; I’m talking about the most buzzed-about book of the year being a feminist tome written by the COO of Facebook. (Have you read it? It is precisely about the lack of women in charge and it applies across all industries, not just boardroom shit. That’s veering into quota territory, by your estimation, but the general public seems to find it compelling.)

This stuff (which definitely involves “quota shit”) is a national conversation — did you hear about Joanna Coles repositioning Cosmo, the media apex of froth, as something more serious and issues-focused because there’s so much happening right now that directly affects women? Because she is (“it’s very important that we stay on top of political issues that impact young women: Health care, gun violence, the wage gap, how do we close it. These are all issues that I’m personally passionate about”).

I mean this very respectfully, but perhaps you’re not feeling this broader shift because it is of little personal interest and concern. That’s not to say you’re ignorant or don’t care about ladies or your female friends and family; just that you are likely not drawn to the fact that these conversations are happening on levels far larger than Jezebel. Most men aren’t!

But women care a lot — and I’m talking about average women, not “strident feminist” gender studies majors. The vast majority of my friends are not media wonks and they certainly wouldn’t call themselves feminists or activists in any sense. But one glance at my Facebook and Twitter feeds makes it clear that women are talking about these topics.

(And yeah, Doctor Who is small potatoes, comparatively…but you know as much as anyone that Doctor Who has a rabid following; a great deal of those fans are women. There are 275 comments on that piece so clearly someone wants to talk about it. I can think of worse editorial sins than to publish something that connects a cult favorite to a bigger issue and inspires the sort of spirited Kinja discussion you’ve been pushing for.)

To ignore what you are calling “quota shit” is to remove ourselves from a very hot topic right now.

Not One Single Woman Directed a Doctor Who Episode Last Year (Jezebel)

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