Solving the Challenge of Gender Equity in the Arts

gender equity

We've come a long way, but still have miles to go.

Could accomplishing gender equity in the arts help solve world hunger? Eradicate poverty? Cure all diseases? Get clean potable water where it’s needed? Educate all children to their fullest potential? Bring democracy to all? Help every human live a full and productive life? I’d argue yes: artists imagine a different world and help bring it to being. Hearing more voices reflecting more possibilities can lead us in new directions toward solving these human problems.

A mentor once said to me, “You use the word ‘problem’ when you’re tired and don’t want to do the work anymore. Use ‘challenge’ instead when you’re just getting started.” In the arts, we weight ourselves down with connotations and negative thoughts about how awful our state of affairs is. Yes, there is always room for improvement. Yes, we need to define what we mean when we say we want equity. And yes, we need to acknowledge and celebrate how far we have come.

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When I started at the Clyde Fitch Report in July 2015, I agreed to take ownership of this column, The Marbury Project. We brainstormed on how we wanted to approach the topic of gender equity in the arts and decided that our work needed to cover both theory and practice, highlight what is actually being accomplished and feature artists in all art forms and across America, not just NYC or LA.

Over this year of writing, researching and curating this column, we’ve seen where the conversations around gender equity are happening (and where they aren’t), witnessed who as an artist or a leader is tackling this challenge head on, and watched who is still blatantly ignoring women’s work. We started in theater but we’ve begun looking around at what is happening in dance, visual art and other forms, too.

What is missing?

The gender equity topic is gaining momentum within the commercial or entertainment art fields. By that, I mean broad conversations in mainstream media about women on Broadway, Off-Broadway and beyond, women in film, women on TV, women in popular music, women in literary fiction. There are celebrities talking publicly about gender equity; there are “watchdog” organizations compiling statistics and releasing data. All this is happening in the nonprofit fine arts, too, although without the financial resources or high-profile fame that makes the work more visible.

A year ago, Marbury started with little more than a concept and a hope to have enough content to make it a year. Now, though, we have a bigger goal: to be the media source that meets the challenge of gender parity in the arts. Just as Ms. magazine was crucial in elevating and disseminating information about feminism and women’s equality in business and politics (among all areas), Marbury can be a bigger resource than it already is. With more articles, profiles, research pieces, and in-depth and long-form reporting; with more pieces on historical women in the arts; with more highlights of good work; with more information on artist opportunities across the country — not to mention articles that you’ll pitch and articles that you’ll let us know about — together we can broaden and deepen the conversation and push out more of the information that is already being gathered by other organizations.

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In the next few months, we’ll be planning strategies and content, building a budget and putting a team together to create our next iteration. Want to be involved? Drop me a line at devra[at]clydefitchreport.com. Want to follow along? Add this column to your RSS feed. Want to help? Spread the word: email it, share it on Facebook, tweet it up.

We need to hear from you. What is missing from the field’s conversation on gender equity? What does the end result look like? What would you like to see reported on more? Which artists or organizations should we be watching or talking to who are engaged in solving gender equity in the arts? Leave us a comment below.

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