Hollywood women are up for the challenge. Are you? #IWD2021


Kerry Washington Image by Daniel Benavides, Gwyneth Paltrow Image by Andrew Halpern, Andra Day Image by slgckgc, America Ferrera Image by Vanessa Lua , Gabriel Union Image by RepRangel, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0 Ashley Judd Image by Genevieve719, Viola Davis Image by RedCarpetReport https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0 Anya Taylor Joy Image by Gage Skidmore https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

The past 365 days have been a challenge. How many times have you heard that word?

While it’s been a challenge for women far longer than just a year, these last 12 months have been especially challenging:

• In the U.S. alone, over 2.3 million women have lost their job or left the labor force, according to a National Women’s Law Center report.

• In September 2020, CNBC reported that 1 in 4 women were considering leaving the workforce. Countless women are simultaneously teaching, mothering, and continuing to work full-time. Sheryl Sandberg told CNBC that “mothers are spending 20 more hours a week on housework and child care during coronavirus than fathers. Twenty more hours a week is half of a full-time job.”

• 3 million women have “voluntarily” dropped out of the workforce, but really because they had no other choice, and women of color are disproportionately affected. NPR reports that Latinas are dropping out nearly three times as much compared to white women. 

• In January, 275,000 women left the workforce compared to 71,000 men

It’s clear that the challenges of this year have been disproportionately placed on women. 

International Women’s Day is a call to action, and we need it now more than we ever did

Women’s fight for equality in the workforce has been going on for centuries.

The history of International Women’s Day started in 1908. Over 15,000 women marched through New York City to demand shorter work hours, better pay, and a right to vote. The first International Women’s Day was observed in 1911.

Since then, March 8th marks the annual International Women’s Day as a day to celebrate the achievements of women throughout history, but also as “a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

Over the years, women have collectively made a choice to challenge societal norms to create a better world.

The International Women’s Day 2021 theme is #ChooseToChallenge, encouraging everyone to collectively help create an inclusive world by calling out gender bias and inequality and celebrating women’s achievements.

As their website says, “from challenge comes change,” and the world is ready for a change.

Women need a respite from the constant challenges of pandemic life, and the women of Hollywood are there for them.

As we collapse on the couch every night after endless Zoom meetings, virtual school homework, and a deep feeling of isolation even though we’ve not been left alone all day, we turn on the TV––even though we know we should go to sleep––because we need Hollywood. 

What we really need is the stories of Hollywood to provide a much-needed respite from our pandemic reality. 

We need to escape from the stress of the day and find connections to ourselves in the stories told by women, performed by women, and produced and directed by women (unlike past years).

We need not just an escape, but an outlet. A place to feel connected during a time of isolation. 

We need to see the women of Hollywood as moms and real people––hard-working women continuing to challenge the old ways of Hollywood and of our world. 

We need them to remind us that in a year that has been tough for us all––but especially for women–– we can always turn to our screens to see women continuing to challenge the world as we know it.

The women of Hollywood have been there for us all year long. And wo-man did we need them, not just for entertainment, but as professional women disrupting a notoriously male-dominated industry. 

We have Shonda Rhimes to thank for challenging the norms of historical fiction in Bridgerton––with Golda Rosheuvel as a gossip-loving Queen Charlotte––leaving us burning for Regé-Jean Page as Duke of Hastings just as much as he did for Phoebe Dynevor’s character Daphne Bridgerton.

We got up close and personal to Princess Diana’s challenges in becoming a “queen in people’s hearts” while living under The Crown through Emma Corrin’s Golden Globe Award-winning performance.

Kerry Washington reminded us that mothers are simply doing the best that they can through Little Fires Everywhere with the book’s author Celeste Ng producing the miniseries alongside Reese Witherspoon.

Anya Taylor Joy showed us that women deserve a seat at the table, even in a space ruled by men––so much so we considered taking up chess (as if we had the time).

Chloé Zhao brought us the story of Fern (played by Frances McDormand), a woman who explores life outside society as a modern-day nomad, featuring real women nomads in this  movie now playing in theaters (and on Hulu).

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda in WandaVision told a familiar story paying homage to familiar TV show formats, while also blazing new territory thanks to female head writer Jac Schaeffer.

Hollywood women demanding representation

Winning for these women wasn’t enough – they demanded representation, and it’s been a long time coming.

Consider Viola Davis during her acceptance speech after her historic 2015 Emmy win for How to Get Away with Murder:

Or Regina King during her Golden Globe Award acceptance speech in 2019:

“I’m going to use my platform right now to say, in the next two years, everything that I produce, I am making a vow—and it’s going to be tough—to make sure that everything that I produce, that it’s 50% women…I just challenge anyone out there who is in a position of power—not just in our industry, in all industries—I challenge you to challenge yourselves and stand with us in solidarity and do the same.”

Hollywood women have called for more inclusive representation in all areas, including the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). The HFPA is the organization of journalists and photographers who select all of the Golden Globes Award nominations. Prior to the 2021 Golden Globe Awards, only five women had ever been nominated in the Best Director category in the award show’s 77-year history.

Years of Hollywood women and people of color calling for a representative membership lead the HFPA to announce “transformational change,” showing us that when women challenge the status quo, we can enact change.

Hollywood women challenging #MeToo

The challenge to the HFPA wasn’t their first successful challenge campaign. Back in 2017, amid growing accusations by Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and others of predatory behavior towards women by Harvey Weinstein, celebrity women helped bring the #MeToo campaign to the global stage. Alyssa Milano amplified the work by encouraging women to post, tweet, or otherwise publicly say, “Me Too” if they had experienced sexual harassment or assault. She later tweeted that she was unaware of the prior 2006 campaign by the same name by  #MeToo founder Tarana Burke.

The challenge was accepted all over the world. By the end of the day on October 15th, 2017, over 200,000 people had tweeted #MeToo, which more than doubled within 48 hours. According to Bloomberg, out of over 400 powerful people held accountable during the first year of the #MeToo movement, 96 of those were in the entertainment industry

The movement grew and catalyzed change in a number of institutions ranging from Fortune 500 companies and the U.S gymnastics team to the confirmation of Chief Justice Brett Kavanaugh, eventually leading to the founding of TimesUpNow

Beyond what some of called surface-level changes, 15 states have taken legal action and enacted new legislation that includes mandatory sexual harassment training in the workplace, making it easier to bring sexual harassment claims to court, elimination of nondisclosure agreements that were often used to silence accusers, prohibition of pre-arbitration agreements, class action waivers and jury trial waivers.

Hollywood women call for change with Times Up Now

#MeToo was the challenge and Times Up Now aims to be the change. 

Enraged by the expansive abuse of power in Hollywood––widely by men aimed at women––over 300 actresses, agents, writers, directors, producers, and entertainment executives formed Times Up Now.

According to their website, Times Up Now  “aims to create a society free of gender-based discrimination in the workplace and beyond.” Their initiative includes a legal defense fund, legislation to penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment, a drive for equal-pay specifically at studios and talent agencies, and a call for celebrities to wear black to the 2018 Golden Globes which the women of Hollywood supported in spades. 

Today, the Times Up Foundation lists some of Hollywood’s most powerful women as members of their governing board and global leadership board including Shonda Rhimes, Ashley Judd, Eva Longoria, Oprah Winfrey, Laura Dern, America Ferrera, and many more. 

Progress for women––especially in Hollywood

Women have made measurable progress in these last couple years. 

Especially in Hollywood. Let’s run through some of these significant milestones:

Chloé Zhao, director of Nomadland, is the first Asian woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Director and only the second woman to receive it (the last woman to win Best Director was Barbra Streisand in 1984 for Yentl.) The Chinese-born director has lived in America since 2010. In response to her win, The New York Times reports that she has faced backlash in her native country for her past criticism of China. Regardless, her win is a huge milestone, especially in light of the recent hate crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in America. AAPI activist Amanda Nguyen said to Teen Vogue how “the issue is visibility, therefore the solution is visibility. Narrative is empathy building and we need to be seen in all the structural places that control narrative: in the press, in our history classes, in Hollywood.” Chloé Zhao’s win is one step in the right direction.

Regina King, director of One Night in Miami, became the first Black female director to have her film selected for the Venice Film Festival in the event’s 87 year history, Harper’s Bazaar reports.

Raya and the Last Dragon, a new movie release from Disney out now in theaters, features Disney’s first-ever Southeast Asian princess. The new movie stars Kelly Marie Tran as the princess Raya who pairs up with Awkwafina as Sisu the dragon.

Countless women in Hollywood are leading the way with their own production companies. Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street brought us Little Fires Everywhere and The Fight in 2020 and is working on another project called Number One Chinese Restaurant (based on a book of the same name) to tell more inclusive stories on TV. Kerry Washington is constantly making history––she was the first Black woman to lead a network television drama (Scandal) since 1974, according to Deadline.

In 2018, Ava DuVernay became the first Black woman to direct a live-action film (A Wrinkle In Time) with a $100 million+ budget.

Patty Jenkins became the first woman to direct a D.C. Comics adaptation and a Marvel film––she directed D.C. Comics’ Wonder Woman in 2017 and co-directed Captain Marvel in 2019.

These are just some of the many milestones worth celebrating for women in Hollywood. It took us 100 years to get this far and it’s concerning how much will be lost because of the pandemic. 

We know you’re tired. You’re not alone––we’re all tired. But from challenge, comes change. So let’s follow the lead of Hollywood’s leading ladies and make some change. For an extra boost, listen to the new duet of I’m Every Woman released in honor of International Woman’s Day by Chaka Khan and Idina Menzel.  #IWD2021

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