Question: What do you call five white men and no women sitting on a stage?
D) All of the above
If you answered D, congratulations! You win a prize for being correct. And your prize is that I’m going to tell you why gender imbalance needs to be called out and how you can easily do it via the GenderAvenger app! (Sorry if you were hoping the prize was a car, but this is a budget operation here at wendiaarons.com. I’m no Oprah.)
When I was growing up, men outnumbered women in most places of power: panels, news shows, management, etc. It wasn’t until I was 14-years-old that Sandra Day O’Conner was appointed the first woman on the US Supreme Court and even that was an anomaly. I admit that I didn’t really think about this lack of women or why I wasn’t represented. It was just how things were. The only time I ever saw a majority of women onstage was during the Miss USA pageant where we girls were expected to be inspired by Miss Indiana tap dancing in a bikini to an Al Jolson song. Thank goodness baton twirling never seemed like a good career option to me. I just don’t have the coordination.
Of course, as I got older and more aware, I definitely noticed the lack of women on panels and in management. I worked in the movie business and in advertising, where there was a lot of all-male glorification going on. Just look at the staff of most late night comedy shows, for example. It’s like a sausage fest every time the Letterman writers walk on stage to accept an Emmy. That’s discouraging for any female who has hopes of some day joining their ranks, but these men will continue to only hire other men as long as they get away with it.
So let’s stop them.
The past few years have brought more and wider attention to gender imbalance, and that’s great for all of us. This awareness is due in large part to social media. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are great platforms for women to call out panels of all men, popularly known as “manels.” (Not to be confused with manspreading, which is what a man does on a manel when he’s mansplaining about his manscaping, man.) But it’s this public calling out that’s led to the organizers of events finally realizing they need to work harder to bring more (or even SOME) diversity to their speaker line-ups. Thank goodness. Welcome to 2018, everyone.
One of the best ways to highlight the gender imbalances you see is via the easy and fun to use app from GenderAvenger. I made a few tallies with it, including a couple that seemed appropriate during election season. Like this one of our current US Congress. Is the population of the United States 80% male? No? Then why is the US House of Representatives? Maybe they don’t know what “representative” actually means.
Things in the Texas Senate aren’t much better, with 75% of the Senators male and not a single women of color. Yeehaw.
This election year, we’ve seen a surge in women, women of color and non-binary people running for office, so I hope I can soon update these charts and see more balance. It’ll be interesting to keep making tallies and see the progress as white men lose their deathly grips on power.
Gender imbalance isn’t only in politics, of course. I did a Google search for the top film critics, curious to see if it’d changed from being mostly male like I remember from years ago. Surely with all of the smart, film-educated women there are now, the balance would be closer. Nope. This majority of men considered “top critics” is pretty ridiculous when women filmmakers are striving for more work, and the thing that’ll help them get it is positive reviews from critics who understand their art better than old white guys. (Although I’m sure Roger Ebert would have loved “Wonder Woman.”)
Sometimes using the GenderAvenger app leads to pleasant surprises, however, like when I looked at the speaker line-up for the Smart Social Summit being held in Austin this month. I tallied the genders and what did I find? More women than men! I’m still in shock, and I’ll be talking up this summit to anyone who mentions a manel, that’s for sure. Good job, Smart Social Summit.
Download the app and create your own tallies for comedy shows, lists of top authors, bylines in the newspaper and other things that seem out of balance. The tally you make can then be titled and automatically posted to social media and shared with your followers. Spread the word about both the good and bad balances you come across in your daily life and it’ll enact change. I really think it will.
Another cool thing you can do with the app is time who’s talking. Like if you’re at a city council meeting, each time a man is talking click “A Dude” and each time a woman is talking, click “Not a Dude.” Hmmm, I wonder which person will speak longer? says the woman who just had a cellphone salesman mansplain to her how phones work. But if there’s someone hogging the mic, call him out.
And when you do see something that’s done well? When there’s a great balance? Let GenderAvenger know and they’ll award them with their Stamp of Approval.
I hope you’ll download the app and start sharing your tallies. If enough of us do it, it’ll make a difference. And real change is way better than winning a new car, right? For more information, visit https://www.genderavenger.com/.
This post was sponsored by GenderAvenger, but all opinions and attempts at humor are mine.