Where are the women?

If you care about creative products – films, series, games, books, etc. – you obviously want increasingly better, increasingly more talented creators of those products.

By having more creators, you will have more beautiful creations. Few would say no to the idea of more beautiful things.

Yet that is precisely what happens when we create a poisonous environment for women – and anyone else who isn’t a usually (straight white) dude – in any enterprise: especially in the creative arts, business, technology and other traditionally male-dominated areas.

Human genius and creativity as a whole is hindered, not merely the fight for equality of the sexes (or races).

We’ve already seen what the Internet can look like from a distance; but now consider another example.

As an audience, we are bombarded by superheroes tearing their way on to our screens: from The Avengers, The Dark Knight trilogy, X-Men and so on.

The two biggest companies in the superhero genre are also, not coincidentally, the two biggest comic book companies: Marvel and DC Comics (let’s be clear: comics are not a genre, they’re a medium like film or the novel. Some of the best comics have nothing to do with superheroes).

To their credit, both companies have, especially lately, expanded their characters – both major and minor – to include a greater diversity of sexes, identity, even sexual orientations. Added to this, many of those creating, editing, managing and so on are also not only straight white men.

What this means is same-sex characters marrying, having children; it means characters of different countries, languages, identities being properly represented. It further means more creators, from completely different backgrounds, writing stories the old guard would not have – simply because they had not considered it.

Creativity continues, beautiful works and stories are created.

Yet, despite these obvious reasons we should want more than just (old) straight men doing all the work, there is still much resistance: both from an audience and creative perspective.

First, women in traditionally male-dominated areas continue to face hostilities and horrid behaviour: whether it’s being harassed at the workplace or major conventions, stalked in online forums, treated like meat even by media organisations.

Why should women have to face a gauntlet of sexism just to enjoy their favourite books, to dress up as their favourite characters, see their favourite films, and so on (or perhaps, to even work in an male-dominated office or business)?

The products of creativity belong to the world, not to some elite, all-boys-club.

Further, do we even need to point out that women’s presence in a traditionally male-dominated area is no more them “asking for harassment” than owners of a house are “asking for” burglary?
The audience’s terrible treatment doesn’t stop there. The main woman lead in the universally acclaimed TV series, Breaking Bad, faced threats and intense misogynistic hatred from fans. The video games industry, too, is notorious for hatred and misogyny  – whether creators, journalists or fellow gamers.

Why should women subject themselves to treatment like this? By creating such toxicity, we discourage women from participating. This has a direct effect in ways that should concern fans of whatever industry is ostracising women.

Consider it from a completely selfish perspective.

First, your favourite creative industries depend on income. A lot of income derives from paying audiences. A smaller audience means less income, which means the dangers of downsizing or closing completely. Studios and entire creators could give up, no longer producing those things you love so much.

Second, you lose out on the next Mary Shelley, the next Kathyryn Bigelow. This means less beautiful things are created, meaning you get less through non-existence. How many great creators’ works have we lost because of the toxic environments that caters toward one kind of demographic?

This isn’t strictly about women, of course. This is about anyone who feels unfairly targeted - but women, of course, are a current concern (this doesn’t mean I’m unconcerned by the lack of racial diversity in certain areas: see the Lord of the Rings film franchise, etc.)

I mentioned that slew of superhero films: How many of those have woman leads? And yet calls for a superhero film with a woman lead, like Wonder Woman, receive bizarre responses from studio heads. There’s more to it than mere anti-women sentiment, but it’s part of something bigger.

In the end, the point is that we should all be demanding diversity – of sexes, sexual orientation, ethnicities – for the sake of loving our creative mediums; we should treat toxicity – regardless of whether we’re the targets of hate – as a serious hindrance to the creation of beautiful things, which give our lives so much meaning.  

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