In general dialogue, why is humanity referred to as man? There is also WOman. Furthermore, why are women objectified when it comes to entertainment, and portrayed as beings that are meant to be seen and not heard? James Brown sang it best! “This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing, without a woman or a girl.” Entertainment is a multi-million dollar industry that has been known to be a male dominated industry. The likes of Aaron Spelling, Michael Jackson, Kelsey Grammer, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, and Bill Cosby, just to name a few, have dominated the many different aspects of the entertainment industry. According to the article, Women, Sexism, & Hollywood: A Look At The Numbers, “Women don’t feel marginalized, but the fact remains, the most powerful positions on most shows are usually occupied by men.” In my opinion, this is quite unfortunate. However, over the decades, women have managed to break through the doors of male domination with dynamic creative strength demanding a place in the entertainment industry. During this post, you will learn about the fruition of prosperous women such as Oprah Winfrey, Sylvia Rhone, and Mara Brock Akil. Additionally, the thoughts of such women, especially that of the African American descent, express that acts of sexism, racism, and lack of creative freedom are some of the obstacles that women unfortunately face in the entertainment industry.
Oprah Winfrey is an Entertainment Executive. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Harpo (Oprah’s name spelled backwards) Productions, Incorporated. According to the article, Academy of Achievement: Oprah Winfrey, at the tender age of 17, Oprah was offered an on-air job at WVOL in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1976, she became a co-anchor on Baltimore, Maryland’s WJZ-TV News. While in Baltimore, Oprah co-hosted a talk show, People Are Talking, in addition to her being an anchor. This show was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, which expedited to being the number one nationally syndicated talk show. Climbing the entertainment broadcasting ladder, Oprah Winfrey received numerous of awards for The Oprah Winfrey Show in its first year, specifically, the Broadcaster of the Year award. Winfrey was the youngest person to be granted this award. Not only did Oprah dominate the broadcasting side of entertainment, she also made a name for herself in film. Oprah became a Golden Globe and Oscar Award nominee for portraying the role as Sophia in the 1985 movie, The Color Purple. If this was not enough, Ms. Winfrey demanded her place as a businesswoman and entrepreneur in 1986 by founding her own production company, Harpo Productions, Incorporated. Time Magazine also named Oprah as one of the “100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century” in 2004. With that being said, Oprah has been measured as the highest-paid television performer, America’s self-made richest woman, the 20th century’s richest African American, and “the most powerful woman in the world” (Forbes, 2004-2010). Furthermore, Oprah Winfrey is the epitome of a woman’s fruition in this so-called male dominated industry.
Sylvia Rhone is currently the appointed president of Universal Music Group’s Motown Records as well as the Executive Vice President of Universal Records. Sylvia started her entertainment career at Buddah Records as a secretary, but quickly promoted to Promotions Coordinator. While she served in this position, Rhone also started handling promotions nationally for independent start-up labels. “Suddenly, I was responsible for getting my music exposed nationwide. I had to jump in the deep water and sink or swim” (Rhone, 1994). According to the article, Sylvia Rhone Biography, “Her success in promotional work, gained her a reputation as a discoverer and shaper of black music talent.” Sylvia continued to climb the entertainment record promotion ladder for several years ranging from the 1970’s to the 1980’s. Additionally she was hired as Director of National Black Music Promotion at Atlantic Records in 1985. With Atlantic struggling at the time, under Ms. Rhone’s direction, the record label expanded greatly in its artist clientele with many being number one acts. Because Sylvia brought in so much revenue for Atlantic Records, she was promoted to the Senior Vice President of the label. According to Chuck Philips in the Los Angeles Times, “She got results. Her company has been on a multimillion-dollar hot streak since the day she took over.” Sylvia Rhone was eventually appointed as the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of EastWest Records America. This was her own label established by Atlantic in 1991. Not only was Rhone CEO of EastWest Records, she also became the CEO of Elektra Records, and amazingly managed four other labels under the Elektra Entertainment Group. After Elektra Entertainment Group’s dismantlement in 2004, Sylvia Rhone was appointed to her current position in entertainment as the President of Universal Music Group and Executive Vice President of Universal Records. Ms. Rhone has had a phenomenal path in entertainment, also illustrating that she too has demanded her place and proven a woman’s fruition in this male dominated industry. Sylvia stated, “I think that thanks to my success and the success of others, eventually, that sexiest good ol’ boy school of thought will go the way of the dinosaur. It’ll take us a few years to accomplish it, but hey, I’m up for the fight. And so are a lot of other women.”
Mara Brock Akil is an American Television Writer and Producer. Mara began her journey breaking through the doors of entertainment in 1994. She started her first bout of writing for the short-lived television series, South Central on Fox Network. Ms. Brock Akil also landed the supervisory position as writer and producer on the television series, The Jamie Foxx Show in 1999 (notice the video linked to The Jamie Foxx Show, is a sample of a man (Jamie) and a woman (Nicole) battling for their place in the workplace). This was to come shortly after writing four seasons for the television series, Moesha. Climbing the entertainment writing and producing ladder, Mara Brock Akil along with Kelsey Grammer, co-created and co-executive produced the television series, Girlfriends, which she was nominated for an award and also won an award. Additionally, she created and currently executive produces BET’s hit television series, The Game, which brought in over 7.7 million viewers as it premiered on BET January 11, 2011, making it the highest rated television series in the history of cable television. Brock Akil is also venturing through the ABC network where she is currently the consulting writer and producer for ABC’s sitcom, Cougar Town. Mara Brock Akil has truly made a name for herself in the entertainment industry, also illustrating a woman’s fruition.
Outstanding as it is to see women’s fruition in the industry, the obstacles with racism, sexism, and lack of creative freedom that women as a whole have gone through to see even half the fruits of their labor in entertainment, is quite unfortunate. The next few statements are quotes from articles and women of the industry expressing such:
According to the article, Entertainment & News Industry Show Disparity & Gender Gap, “If you’ve wondered why media falls short in its portrayal of women, look at who controls the media and you may understand why it’s so. Underrepresented both in front of and behind the scenes, women still struggle to cross the gender gap in the entertainment and news industry.”
According to Winifred Hervey-Stallworth, executive producer of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “Sexism, racism, and the lack of creative freedom are the obstacles women face. Sexism is often more a problem than racism.”
Amy Berg is the co-executive producer of Eureka television series, and she has been confronted by misogyny on staff in the past. Ms. Berg feels that it is sad for misogyny to still exist. Amy Berg stated, “The really horrible thing about this kind of behavior is that it’s not something you can change. You can’t talk things out. I tried. It’s just something that’s ingrained in people. And if you don’t have support from your showrunner, all you can do is pack your stuff and move on to bigger and better things.”
Furthermore, Yvonne Bynoe, the author of Stand & Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership, & Hip Hop Culture, also feels very passionate about what women face in the industry. She feels that women are unfortunately portrayed as beings that are meant to be seen instead of being heard, therefore depriving women of their creative freedom. According to Ms. Bynoe, “Black women within Hip Hop are to be ogled in music videos, insulted in the name of free speech and discussed by pundits, but rarely are they given access to the major media outlets that would allow them to accurately represent themselves, their images and ideas.”
Although much has been written about the experiences of sexism and racism that is unfortunately prevalent in the entertainment industry, as aforementioned, some women have been vanguard in breaking these male dominated barriers. Oprah Winfrey stated, “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always.”
In summation, the entertainment industry is a very demanding industry for men and women. Because of male domination, in most instances, women have to work a little harder to be prosperous in entertainment. However, the success of women in this industry has definitely evolved phenomenally as oppose to years ago. This evolution indeed illustrates a woman’s true fruition by turning a woman’s painting into purpose.
I decided to take a different route with my post this week. I wanted to capture the aspects of the entertainment industry from a different angle. As I previously inquired, “In general dialogue, why is humanity referred to as man? There is also WOman. Furthermore, why are women objectified when it comes to entertainment, and portrayed as beings that are meant to be seen and not heard?” Also, when a woman has reached her fruition in her career (entertainment as well as other career fields), why does she have to work just as hard or harder to stay on top, and have to demand respect?
I leave you with a couple clips from The Cosby Show from Youtube. This episode is entitled "Mrs. Huxtable Goes To Kindergarten." In this episode, you will witness Claire Huxtable and the men from a panel discussion, Retrospective, (one in particular) get into a bit of a spat, as Claire (woman) is correct in her facts about The Great Depression, but because she illustrates her intelligence, the panel discussion is constantly sent to a commercial break. A woman's point of view (especially when she is intimidating and correct), is not easily accepted by the men. Being outshone by a woman, just did not sit too well with these men. Pay close attention to the following:
(Push the clip to the 8 minute mark where the panel discussion begins)
(Watch this clip up to the 7 minute mark where Claire answers the phone and turns down the offer to stay on the show)
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