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Guest Post: The Silent Half

A guest post by Sara:

Television is a huge influence on us. We learn more about social norms from television than from our parents. And yet, when was the last time you saw a TV show that features a strong female character? When was the last time you found a show that passes the Bechdel Test each and every time? When was the last time you found a show that didn’t pass the Reverse Bechdel Test?  TV has become increasingly male-centric. Why is that? Who are writing these shows?

If you type in “female television writers” in Google Search the first five links are all variations of the following phrase: There are none.  Or rather: Where did they go? Although I have a deep mistrust of statistics (I have a feeling that they have a monkey somewhere randomly punching out numbers that are then published), the consensus seems to be that as of 2011 15% of all TV writers are female. That is actually a step down from the alleged 37% of 2006.

According to aoltv the progress of women writers in television has “stalled at best”. Frankly, I think that is overly optimistic. A drop of more than fifteen percent in five years isn’t a “stall”. We have not hit a plateau; we’ve been pushed down a hill.

What could have caused such a sudden decrease? I think that this is just a symptom of a larger problem.  According to the Department of Labor in 2010, women are ten percent less likely to be employed than men. In a good economy, employers are more likely to take a chance. With the threat of diversity hanging over their heads, women are just as likely to be hired as men. We might not get equal pay or recognition, but we’re still in the room. However, when things get tough, when the guys in charge have to cut back, we get the short end of the stick. They will pick who they can rely on, and frequently that will be a man. Women are still not seen as the breadwinners.

So, how do we fix this? For the television problem, the problem may be as simple as rewarding the positive. When you find a show that contains strong female (and male!) characters, spread the word. Tell your friends, send a letter to the producers, and be active. Also, write your own characters! We are the authors of tomorrow, in more ways than one.

For the larger problem, the only solution I can see is for us to keep doing what we are doing: fighting for equality in all things.


Sara is a homeschooled high school student from the great state of Florida with a weakness for alliteration and rhyming. If you like her stuff, visit her recently re-instated YouTube channel: Skepgirl.

Featured image credit: david_shankbone

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