Shonda Rhimes and Jenji Kohan were recognized for “changing the face of media” by the Feminist Majority Foundation at the 10th annual Global Women’s Rights Awards on Monday. Rhimes and Kohan are two of the hottest showrunners working today — male or female — and are among the few in their profession to attain mainstream name recognition. We couldn’t be more pleased with the cultural ascendance of these women, both of whom have shown a talent for and a commitment to creating complex female characters and pushing female-led projects.
Rhimes used her speech to share some of her assistant’s daily experiences to prove a point about just how far we are from achieving gender equality. The assistant once said she wanted to be a man for a day, simply to know how it feels “to have all that.” The “Scandal” creator elaborated, “My assistant wants to walk through the world just for a day without some guy hitting on her when she runs to Starbucks to get me coffee. She wants to not be called ‘cute’ by the security guard. She wants to not be told that she should be a model. She wants to not see the look of surprise on someone’s face when she tells them where she went to college. She wants her boobs to no longer be a topic of conversation.”
Aside from not wanting her looks commented on by strangers, “She wants to no longer make 70 cents on the dollar. She wants to not have old men legislate her vagina’s rights. She wants to not know that a glass ceiling ever existed. She wants to not believe that having a baby would end her career. She wants everything in the world to be made for her, be about her and speak mostly to her. Because that’s how it is for men.”
Who can blame Rhimes’ assistant for wanting these things? She’s just expressing a desire to live in a fair and equal world. Rhimes referred to the implications of her assistant’s wish as terrifying, explaining, “I don’t even want men wishing they could be women. I just want those words ‘all of that,’ to apply to all of us.”
“Orange Is the New Black” creator Kohan began her speech by expressing her love for Rhimes and her work. Kohan has her own fans — “OITNB” stars Taylor Schilling and Laverne Cox were on hand to celebrate their boss. Both identified Kohan as a source of inspiration.
“Jenji’s strength and individuality and her sense of freedom and gutsiness powerfully impacted me professionally, obviously, but personally as well. I want to be like her when I grow up,” said Schilling.
Cox added, “She’s just done so much for so many of us. Three years ago, I was thinking about going back to grad school. I could barely pay my rent. She’s changed my life and all of the people’s lives who have been touched by this show.”
The third season of “Orange is the New Black” goes live on Netflix June 12.