By Maria Giese
As American film director and former DGA president, Martha Coolidge, rightly (and famously) states of directors: “For guys competition is fierce, but for women you are more likely to win the lottery.”
Taken a step further, it is even more difficult for both men and women to initiate directing careers while also becoming moms and dads. However, male directors who are often paid well for their work almost always have children while women directors, who are rarely paid sufficiently– if at all– frequently have to sacrifice one pursuit for the other.
A director with an established career is much better able to balance his or her professional life with a rich family life. It is wonderful that there are so many successful male directors who have fulfilled family lives; these are human behaviors that give directors useful insights into the joys and challenges of the typical human experience.
Interacting fully in the life may make a director better able to direct films and TV shows that resonate with audiences made up of people who are sharing those same experiences. But doing that may be difficult for women directors who often must be quick to achieve success in her young years if she wants to have children later. This can be complicated for one simple reason: getting movies off the ground takes time– a lot of time.
Shouldn’t women be able to contribute their talents as directors while parenting, just as men do? Should our society really limit women directors to a small minority of females who give up childbearing to become directors? While both men and women sometimes happily choose not to have kids, this exclusionary decision is certainly not demanded of men.
The real issue is that child-care takes time and skill– and these both cost money to support. It is only because our society does not value the work women do at home, that they are not considered worthy of being paid. But because of this most women find it impossible to balance parenting with career pursuits.
Somethimes women directors make the choice to skip having kids altogether; some of them make cinematic masterpieces that are deeply resonant with audiences. However, to suggest that women should not be supported by our society in their directing careers while also having families– while their male counterparts can and do– is both a double standard and patently unfair.
Let us not ignore the fact that the stereotypical concept of the American family is in flux. Today, men are more frequently taking over roles as caregivers, and there is no reason that an employed women director who is also a mother cannot hire a caregiver while she is in production on a film, just as men can and do.
Our society should support its artists– male or female, gay or straight, mom or dad. A great society is elevated by great art and America should be a leader in promoting equal opportunity to create a richer, more diverse culture. Women make excellent directors and, when paid money as men are, they can be both great directors and great parents– just as so many dad’s are.