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  • Writer's pictureAugust Sorenson

A Send-off to Women's History Month!

The Actors Society has put together an Alumna Roundtable to celebrate Women’s History Month. We have asked our alumni panelists to detail their experience as women and artists by answering several questions curated by alumna Yasmin Le Comte (Class of 2019).

For our third and final installment of the series, we hear the insight of 1958 graduate Joyce Bulifant; an actress with a career that spans decades, with credits in such classics as “Airplane!”, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, and “Little Women”, and 2008 alumna Naomi McDougall Jones; an actress and writer famous for her critically-acclaimed and best-selling book The Wrong Kind of Women: Inside Our Revolution to Dismantle the Gods of Hollywood.

The value of their insight can’t be overstated!

What steps can we take to continue to break the glass ceiling and help create equality in the industry and in the world in general?

Joyce Bulifant: I feel young women in the industry would be better equipped to break the glass ceiling if they learn every aspect of the industry (acting, directing, all technical areas—lights, sound, stage managing, set design, etc.). It is important to study writing for theatre and film, and to write roles for women!

Be courteous, kind, and strong. Don’t ever give up!

Naomi McDougall Jones: The reality is that we still (yes, still) work in an industry where women are about 50% of film school graduates, and yet only direct 12-18% of indie films and 5-10% of studio films; where female characters are naked or scantily clad about 55% of the time they are on screen and have only one-third as much dialogue as their male counterparts. In terms of jobs, power, voice, and representation, our industry remains shockingly white and male (specifically; cis, hetero, and able-bodied). That is a situation that absolutely must be remedied, but there is no single silver bullet solution to do so. It wasn't until I spent a year digging into the research for my book, The Wrong Kind of Women: Inside Our Revolution to Dismantle the Gods of Hollywood, that I truly understood the depth of the conscious and unconscious misogyny and racism of our industry and how these statistics are the sum total of thousands of little actions and micro-decisions that every person in the industry (yes, you included) makes every day. The first step, then, is to educate yourself—deeply and seriously—on how this kind of institutionalized discrimination happens. Reading my book is one way to do this, but there are many other wonderful resources available online and in various media forms as well (I have many of them listed on my website). Until you understand how this discrimination is happening, then you won't know how to recognize it when it's happening so that you can be part of the solution. After and alongside that work, the next step is to make small and large decisions every day that help disrupt the way things currently function (which, unchecked, will continue to result in the same overwhelmingly white and male outcomes) and promote them functioning differently. Many people underestimate how much power they personally have to shift this kind of mass-discrimination, but if the woeful statistics are the end result of all of the micro-decisions we all make all the time (and they are), then you, personally, making different decisions will help make change happen. It’s that simple. All of us need to begin making different decisions. Different actions will produce different outcomes.


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