Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacy, Charlie Rose, Ryan Seacrest—the list of accused celebrities goes on and on. While these alleged experiences aren’t new or novel, they’re coming to light so vociferously, so persistently, and in such graphic detail that the public is calling for accountability on a grand scale. As a result of the publicity tsunami triggered by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, more and more women in the entertainment industry are standing up, stepping forward and speaking out—bravely recounting long-hidden stories of sexual manipulation, abuse and victimization by powerful men. And the role of women in entertainment is changing.
Women are increasingly bringing their perspectives to the front. In 2017, in fact, there was a 28 percent increase in female producers of episodic TV shows and a 48 percent growth in individual female directors of TV shows. In front of the camera, women are making bold, empowering moves—taking on challenging roles, commanding higher salaries and defining their own success. And they are making inroads behind the camera as well: Shonda Rhimes has been producing television since 2006 and has paved her way to success with hit television shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice” and “Scandal;” director, producer and screenwriter Ava DuVernay, the first Black woman to direct a $100-million film, is both carving a niche for herself and paving the way for a new generation of women to practice and display their craft.
As a female, Black filmmaker, director, artist and author, I have committed myself to using my talent to uplift images of women, tell their stories and inspire young girls to achieve their full potential. I believe this is critically important—because women, the cornerstone of their families and the bedrock of our society, often remain silent, or, even worse, they are silenced by their families, partners or cultures. My project, Changing the Face of STEM (CFS), has given me an amazing opportunity to meet and profile extraordinary women doctors and scientists who otherwise never would have been showcased in the media spotlight.
Seeing and interacting with these women has encouraged me to make sure their compelling narratives are documented and recounted, because allowing these powerful, intriguing women to go unrecognized in the tapestry of America would be a disservice to the young women and little girls who need roles models, mentors and heroines—girls who desperately need to believe that they, too, can pursue and achieve their dreams. At the same time, it also would be a disservice to men and boys not to hear from and see “real” women portrayed in mainstream media and the arts.
The women I showcase are truly unsung heroes who stand for equality and a more humane society. As a filmmaker working in the struggle for equality and equity, I’m humbled that I get to tell their stories, to honor those lives. It is, however, not just what they accomplished that makes them extraordinary—it’s how they did what they did, with quiet courage and persistence. I can highlight women who were there before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, those who endured and persevered when the cards were stacked against them and refused to bow, bend or break. To me, these women represent the embodiment of “grace under fire.”
I spend much of my time talking to young children, particularly girls, about future opportunities made possible by these trailblazing women. I tell them that women are rising, spreading their wings and setting a course for others to follow. My hope is that it will become commonplace for all young girls and women to regularly see movies, TV shows and media images that portray females in the true diversity of their strengths and gifts—that this positive, empowering light will be a mainstream, everyday occurrence for them. I look forward to when it won’t be rare or surprising to see women as power-brokers and high-level executives and CEOs, or to view box office-smashing films and critically-acclaimed TV shows produced and directed by women.
Until that day comes, I remain committed to telling these stories—and being a part of the renaissance and ascendance of women.