My friend recently forwarded an interview of Jenji Kohan on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terri Gross. I have to admit, I was going to leave this post as a repost of a transcript because I wanted to share Jenji’s words. But I have to say something about the strong reaction I had to her words, because maybe you too had a reaction. Let’s discuss.
You’ll see below she mentions the term “farm team.” Wow, that really hit me. I’m not sure what else to say about it! But it just seems really true, to the point where it hurts my stomach. It breaks my heart! I’ve spent time observing writers rooms and they do have an attitude of bringing up the young’uns. But the young’uns are generally guys. And a team of guys loves to mentor a guy. It’s not necessarily exclusionary towards women, but I think it’s harder for them to relate to you as a mentor/mentee. Maybe t’s just less complicated at a time when they’re crunched for time and resources, as you generally are during the run-and-gun nature of any standard TV production. I’m not sure, because who knows really. I can’t know what is going on in anyone else’s head. But it’s always 100% glaring to me, the gender disparity in these rooms. It’s hard for me to understand not coming from that point of view, and instead subscribing to “oh it’s fine.” Doesn’t everyone want to know why there is only one woman to three men? Even in the movie “My Favorite Year,” written in 1982 about 1954, there’s only one woman in the writers room. The assistant and protagonist is a guy, Benji Stone. (Hey, Benji, Jenji… woah…)
Anyway – so only one woman writer. To be fair, throughout the entire movie she also speaks for a man, so maybe she counts as two voices in this instance. But the only writer’s rooms I’ve seen in person (2) have had either one or zero women.
Maybe there’s a reason it’s been let slide for so many years. Maybe it’s just too complicated to figure out. But Jenji identifies a problem that I think is happening. So I’d like to repost it here. If you have any thoughts or experiences where you can relate please post them too in the comments section, I would love to hear them!
One last thing – it is said that equality is not when the best women can be accepted, but when the mediocre ones can slide by and succeed too. I would love to see the day when women are just as incompetent, bumbling and terrible at their executive jobs and it’s not any big thing because half the people are women and most are pretty good. Remind me to tell you the story of my favorite comic book executive sometime.
August 13, 2013 interview on “FRESH AIR”
GROSS: Has been a woman made your rise in television any more challenging – do you think – than it would have been?
KOHAN: It’s hard to say. You know, I’ve always worked and I think I have a talent for it. And whenever things didn’t work out, I wrote something new and I wrote something new and I kept plugging. I was often the only girl in the room – which is hard. You know, they talk about how few women there are in the business, whatever. But, you know, it’s because we don’t have a farm team. There’s not a lot of women being developed. You’re one in this sea of men. But I’ve also been really blessed. You know, I’ve worked pretty steadily for 20 years or more – 23 years. But I think a lot of that is just I’m not very good at taking no for an answer and if you don’t like this how about that or that or that? I keep, you know, buying lottery tickets.
GROSS: In the days when you were in the writer’s room and you were the only woman in it, did you have to ever say, no, that’s like really incredibly sexist or stereotype – you just can’t, you can’t say that, you can’t give that dialogue or that plot twist?
KOHAN: No. It was never about gender, particularly. It was just you can’t say that because that’s lame or untrue or, but in terms of being offensive, that’s a line I cross often, so I never pull that punch. I’m not there to be cop, to be gender police. And what offends me more than something sexist is something poorly written or unfunny or cliched.
Read the full interview at NPR.ORG: http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=211639989
Photo via HRTS.org