Why are Men the Storytellers in our Culture?

“Whoever tells the story writes history. Whoever narrates the story gets to frame it,” writes Michele Weldon in the article “Are Boy Bylines Better than Girl Bylines” on huffingtonpost.com. In this article, she discusses the gender disparity between male and female print journalists. The National Organization for Women (NOW) reports that “In various studies…the ratio of men to women writers is consistently disproportionate, with the male advantage ranging from 2 to 1 to as high as 13 to 1.” This is disturbing but not surprising, given that women are consistently and visibly underrepresented in other forms of media. Media Report to Women states that “In 2010, women comprised 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 films.” The numbers for television are slightly better, but still, “In 2010-11, women accounted for 25% of all creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors, and directors of photography.” And, of course, we’re already familiar with the statistic from the Sphinx Theatre Company that only 17% of produced plays are by women.

So why is this?? It seems so obviously wrong. If men are the ones sharing most stories, whether they are creating them or reporting facts, we are receiving almost everything we encounter through a male lens. Almost everything is being filtered through the proverbial Male Gaze. Why??

I guess a lot of it has to do with out-dated but culturally ingrained notions of gender roles; of “separate spheres.” Women are traditionally not meant to work outside the home. This originally came from a fear that this would exhaust their “life force” and drain them so that they were unable to produce children. This is obviously a notion that no one could possibly give credit to anymore, and yet the implications linger. Even when women did begin to enter the work force, they were still meant to stay out of the public eye. The man’s sphere is public, the woman’s private. It seems like there are still remnants of this philosophy at work, since there is a disproportionately small amount of women in the media; the ultimate public sphere.

In terms of creating work, there used to be the belief that women could not be playwrights because they did not know enough of the world (due to being confined in their private spheres). Women, of course, did have broad ranges of experiences within these spheres, but it was believed that they weren’t interesting or dramatic enough to be turned into art or stories to be shared. I think we are still dealing with this idea as well. A movie that centers around a woman, for example, is a “chick flick,” a genre piece, and the perception is that it is meant for a female audience. A film about a man, though, can express universal truth. Man’s experience is the human experience; a woman’s experience is the female experience. Filmmakers work under the assumption that a woman will go see a movie about a man, but a man is much less likely to see a movie about a woman. This may be true, but if it is, it is only because we are all socialized to believe that the male experience is universal, while the female experience is a niche.

I don’t know how to change this. I guess the only way is to, well…change it. Get more women out there writing, reporting and selling stories. Maybe we will have to make our stories more compelling than the men’s in order to get them heard. Maybe we’ll have to work twice as hard. But I’m certainly willing to try.

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