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An Actress's Thoughts

Women’s Patience…

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Women’s Patience is Men’s Power

Last Wednesday evening a panel discussion took place in the Green Salon of the Volksbühne Berlin, hosted by WIFT Germany with the topic “Who plays a part on German TV? Female image between TV reality and real life”. Moderated by Dr. Sylvia Nagel (director / producer, ProQuote), the film ladies Dr. Christine Otto (author, VDD), Käthe Niemeyer (director), Winka Wulff (Film- and TV producer, Polyphon) und Anja Dihrberg (Casting Director, BVC) gave a brilliant performance with engaging, competent and entertaining discussions. I was also there presenting some facts and figures from my blog and will wirte a bit more about the discussion at a later date.
Tomorrow, Saturday 25th, journalist Jörg Wagner will broadcast extracts from the discussion and interviews with parts of the audience on Radioeins RBB, a German radio station, in his programme MEDIENMAGAZIN between 6 and 7 p.m.
Shortly after the discussion I read a tweet on Twitter that criticized the composition of the panel: @VeraLi asked why there were no men on the panel, adding that men also shape TV, and that in situations of all-male panels there is criticism as well.

VeraLi_Maenner2I am all in favour of men (from the world of TV or else) discussing the issue openly, of men sitting on panels and taking a stand. Definitely.
For Wednesday there were no arguments against a man on the podium – there just happened to be no man present. The professional organizations for example (like the script writers’ and the casting directors’ guilds) where asked to name a representative and they sent a woman. And actually without men the discussion reached an unusual level of personal closeness to the issue.
Why is that?
Because there were five women on the podium deeply and multiply affected by the issue, in ways unexperienced by men. They are affected, because they work in the German television business, which is tougher for women than for their male colleagues. They are affected as part of the female TV audience that are regularly confronted with fossil female images. And they are affected because they are older than 40.
In German fictional television there is a distinct male majority of screen characters, women over 40 appear far more seldom than men of the same age, far far more male than female directors stage the scripts that are written by a majority of men, for TV channels headed by men.

Of course male filmmakers can talk about this issue, about stereotypied role clichés and about how difficult it is to fight this situation and enforce alternative, pathbreaking new stories and formats against the tv channels.
But to adopt the qualfied demand for the inclusion of women in discussions, panels, talkshows, leadership positions and more (in other words: the discussion of quota and better representation) and simply turn it around in favour of men is well-meant, friendly and understanding, but unfortunately a long way off the crux of the matter, and maybe easier said than thought about. This is a general thought on this, and not directed at @VeraLi and her tweets specifically.

This reflex, if we want to call it that, to simply turn around political demands, this sort of sense of justice, comes to nothing. It does not make sense to call for a quota for men, because they are not discriminated against as a group in society. Women on the other hand are.
It does not make much sense to side the phrase fom many job advertisments – “applications by women will be preferentially favoured if they are comparably qualified” and “we would like to encourage women’s applications” with an inverted “applications by men will be preferentially favoured if they are comparably qualified”. Both is not possible at the same time, and these types of job advertisments have been developed to fight the underrepresentation of women in the public and private sector on many levels.

Since I started blogging a year ago I have hoped for a public discussion in Germany on film, television and gender injustice, and for more than half a year I have advocated an event like this week’s, and therefore I am very happy that it took place as the – long overdue – first act of this discussion. (This may be untrue of course, because naturally I don’t know of all events and discussion in this town or country, maybe some have taken place already which would be great!). In any case to me and many others, that were present that evening in the Green Salon, it appeared to have been a premiere, finally finally a discussion on a wider scale, supported by strong data, of a topic that has been causing great pains to many of us for years, women as well as men.

“Wer spielt im deutschen Fernsehen eine Rolle? / Who plays a part on German TV?”
January 22, 2014, Grüner Salon der Volksbühne Berlin. Photo: WIFT Germany

By the way, in addition to tomorrow’s radio programme MEDIENMAGAZIN another radio channel will be reporting on the panel discussion, but probably not until March or April: the show ZEITPUNKTE on the RBB-channel KULTURRADIO. ZEITPUNKTE (points in time) is a programme dealing with female political issues, at least that is how the programme was introduced on Wednesday night. (I could not fight an English expression for Frauenpolitik, politics for women? so I used “female political issues”.)
Yes of course, reports on the panel discussion and even more importantly on the problems discussed therein is a good thing, whether on the radio, in newspapers, on television, on the interhet or whereever. But: this is not a women’s issue.
It is not a women’s issue when the television programmes are bad. It is not a women’s issue when actresses don’t have work. It is not a women’s issue when women from a certain age onwards disappear from German TV screens. It is not a men’s issue when 5 men and 1 woman are guests in a talk show. It is not a men’s issue when 94 % of the TATORTE (Crime Scene. Germany’s most popular crime investigation TV series) are directed by men. These a society’s issues. Media issues. Political issues. Economical issues.
I am looking forward to the report on KULTURRADIO, but at the same time I am hoping for articles in the feuilleton and media pages or the economic section of major daily or weekly newspapers.

“Who plays a part on German TV?” is a social and media political question, that concerns and affects both men and women – and in many cases is a burning issue for both.

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It’s Friday today, and also the birthday of Klaus Nomi, who unfortunately died much too early. Nomi was a brilliant singer and an impressive personality and never complied with conventions and role clicés. Today he would have been 70. With a recording of his song Simple Man from 1982 I wish all readers of SchspIN a happy weekend.

Yes I’m a simple man
Come now and take my hand
Now Together, Never to be lonely
Yes I’m a simple man
I do the best I can
Now Together, just remember only
It’s so simple

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