The only time I remember being taught any kind of emphasized women’s history would have been probably the 1984-85 school year, when I was in second grade. (I don’t remember for sure, but internal clues suggest.) And at that, I don’t remember having it explained in a way I could understand why we were putting an emphasis on women’s history, just that we were. I argued to be allowed to do mine on Nadia Comaneci, because I’d watched a lot of gymnastics during the Olympics (which is why I suspect ’84-’85), and she was the first woman to get a perfect 10. The teacher asked if a man had done it before her, and I didn’t know. Actually, I still don’t, because I don’t really care about gymnastics anymore.
Yesterday, someone in the Facebook group asked what movies made about women’s stories we’d like to see remade, and I couldn’t think of any. This is because so few women’s stories get made. The only stories about female athletes I can think of off the top of my head, for example, are I, Tonya, and that one about the woman who dove off platforms on horses, if you count her as an athlete. No one’s made a story about Nadia Comaneci, and there’s some room for drama there. Sports movies are a respectable genre, too.
When we’re asked to come up with women who deserve movies made about them, the list is longer. Always. One of the biggest ideas we’ve had has been a full-on HBO miniseries about Harriet Tubman. The life-long friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton could be a heck of a miniseries, too. You could get a heck of an action movie out of Mary Edwards Walker—and a heck of a civil rights film out of her fight to get her Medal of Honor back. You ask any woman, and she’s probably got a list. The teacher who organized that presentation—she wasn’t my teacher, and I don’t remember her name—definitely had a list.
Of course, you’d need a lot more actresses, and there would be a lot of work for middle-aged women; these struggles are less likely to involve teenagers. And that’s great, because you get more women getting work when they’re no longer young. I mean, I’m assuming; it could be like Joy, where 25-year-old Jennifer Lawrence played 34-year-old Joy Mangano. But Harriet Tubman was in her 40s during the Civil War, when she was acting as a spy. And Robin Wright was actually about the same age as Mary Surratt was for The Conspirator.
In theory, too, all these hypothetical tellings of women’s stories—how about a Mary Pickford biopic?—would also start getting women in other positions in the industry, especially if people start insisting on inclusion riders. Telling our stories helps open up the industry to us. We don’t even get a third of spoken lines in movies, much less the slightly over half that equals our percentage of the population.
This article could be written from many perspectives. Our view on race in the US is black and white; do you see sixteen percent of people in movies being Hispanic? Or 5.6% being Asian? How about some twenty percent as disabled? Or even if we’re going black and white, twelve percent of people, on average, in movies should be black. There are reasons not to do that; I’m certainly not saying that women should have gotten half the lines in The Shawshank Redemption. But about the only movie I can think of where a woman has more than half the lines is Gravity, and even she has to share attention with a hallucination of George Clooney.
Keep this woman writing; consider supporting my Patreon!