6 Showrunners Talk Gender Equality In TV & How We Need To Reframe The Conversation At The New York Television Festival
What's even better than hearing a group of awesome showrunners discuss their exciting experiences in the TV industry? When those showrunners completely nail the need for diversity and gender equality in the TV industry. On Tuesday, the New York Television Festival brought six showrunners together to talk about their programs, what it's like to be in charge of these hit shows, and representation on TV. Blair Breard (Louie), Barbara Hall (Madam Secretary), Anya Epstein (The Affair), Stephanie Laing (VEEP), Michelle King (The Good Wife), and Courtney Kemp Agboh (Power) were interviewed by Margaret Lyons of New York Magazine. The ladies shared a great many insights of what it's like running their hit shows, but what struck me as interesting was the way they discussed diversity in TV: Notably that of women in television.
"I would love for it not to be a thing when there are a bunch of women showrunners somewhere," Courtney Kemp said when asked what TV wish she'd like granted. "I would love for it to not be pointed out all the time. Like [people say], 'Isn't it great that you're black and a woman?' [How about], 'Isn't it great that my show's good?' I know I'm bringing it up now, but I would love for it to be super normal that a person who runs a show can also not be male."
The Affair's Anya Epstein agreed, saying, "I commend this event, because I don't think it was advertised as an all-female panel, which I think is fantastic. They don't adervtise it as an all-male panel when it's six men sitting up here." Epstein is right on both counts, the NYTVF advertised the panel as: "Creative Keynote Panel: Running the Show: A Big Picture Conversation on Creating for the Small Screen." So, props for the festival for recognizing that you can group a bunch of awesome women together and then not talk about how they're all women.
Kemp joked about what it would be like, though, if male showrunners were treated like women. "You're a male showrunner, what's that like?" she asked in a faux-excited tone. "How can you have it all, though? Oh, you're a father too? How do you do it?"
It was funny, but also not at the same time seeing as how powerful women in film and TV are asked those questions almost constantly. Reporters rarely ask men how they juggle work and home life, but mothers are peppered with that question on nearly every red carpet. Jennifer Garner called out reporters for this last year at the Elle Women in Hollywood event, when she was still married to Ben Affleck and noticed a trend in the types of questions the two received on red carpets.
So for example, my husband and I do kind of the same job, a little bit. Not long ago we both had one of those magical days, we call it a junket, where we both attended these lovely events where people come in every four minutes, they ask the same questions over and over again, you know the drill. We got home at night and we compared notes. And I told him every single person who interviewed me, I mean every single one ... asked me, ‘How do you balance work and family?' and he said the only thing that people asked him repeatedly was about the tits on the ‘Blurred Lines' girl ... As for work-life balance, he said no one asked him about it that day. As a matter of fact, no one had ever asked him about it. And we do share the same family. Isn't it time to kinda change that conversation?
It shouldn't be so hard to just accept that women are here, and they're doing these jobs (and sometimes raising families at the same time OMG!) While I don't think it's time to stop talking about it (or else I wouldn't have written this piece) I do think it's time to stop treating it like women in fill-in-the-blank job are a precious commodity and start treating it as though duh, of course there are women showrunners, firefighters, police officers, etc. It's 2015, y'all.
I do wish it was less of a novelty to have a bunch of powerful women doing their jobs, but I do see the power in writing and talking about it. But, I don't want to celebrate that fact that the television festival grouped six women together, I want to focus on the smart things those six women said, especially about representation, because they totally get it. As Kemp summed up the panel by saying, "Just make the world like the world looks ... It'd be so great for television to look like the country."
And guess who makes up a large part of that country? Women.
Image: Lauren Caulk/NYTVF; Giphy (2)