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Hollywood slow to spotlight women, says 'MHP' panel

Comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler stole the show Sunday night as hosts of the 70th annual Golden Globes awards telecast.
Comedians Tina Fey, left, and Amy Poehler during their opening monologue at the 70th annual Golden Globes Sunday night. (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater)
Comedians Tina Fey, left, and Amy Poehler during their opening monologue at the 70th annual Golden Globes Sunday night.

Comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler stole the show Sunday night as hosts of the 70th annual Golden Globes awards telecast. On what was a landmark night for women in Hollywood, it was fitting that the ceremony was hosted by women for the first time in its history. Critical praise is showering down upon Fey and Poehler. They had an impact on quantity as well as quality: the broadcast on NBC saw the best ratings for the award show in six years

The viewer total rose almost three million over the result from 2012, to 19.7 million from 16.8 million viewers. The numbers were even better in the category that NBC sells to its advertisers, viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. In that group, this year's show grew to a 6.4 rating, up 28 percent from the 5 rating the show scored in 2012.

So the numbers beg the question: if Poehler and Fey did this well as the first female duo the broadcast has ever seen, why aren't more talented women asked to host, headline and do more in Hollywood? On Sunday's #nerdland, ahead of the Golden Globes ceremony, host Melissa Harris-Perry looked at that very question with her panel.

Emmy award-winning actress and comedian Judy Gold had this to say about why women are still fighting for space in the Hollywood, and especially the world of comedy:

"It's mind-boggling to me, but if you think about it women are fighting for space in every profession except for perhaps nursing or teaching. But we haven't had a woman president. That is beyond ridiculous. But when you think of women in comedy, and you think of the articles that have been written about women in comedy, women aren't funny, you know people aren't funny. It has nothing to do with your gender."And humor is such a subjective thing. It's like you like pizza that's spicy or you don't like pizza that's spicy. You like sarcasm or you don't like sarcasm. It is called a sense. It is a sense of humor. Your sensibility might not much someone else's, but... it has nothing to do with whether you are male or female. It has to do with whether you are funny."

Julianne Malveaux, president emeritus of the women-only Bennett College took it one step further, and said it's a culture-wide problem. "Our culture is so genderized. In any case you've got this disparity. If you look at our Congress only 20% of it is women. But if you go to developing countries you've got administrative women. You may have a law that says either a half or a third of the elected people who are in office have to be women. So when you have genderized culture, women aren't that funny."

The numbers back up the fact that not only are the roles in Hollywood genderized, they are also few and far between. According to a recent report on gender roles and occupation in film and television women, when it comes to speaking characters that are women there are only:

  • 28.3% in family films
  • 38.9% on prime-time
  • 30.8% in children's shows

And if you're looking for balance between men and women in their on-screen roles it just doesn't exist. Gender-balance on occurs in:

  • 11% of family films
  • 19% of children’s shows
  • 22% of prime-time programs

Then how do talented women break through the barriers that still exist in Hollywood? Marvet Britto, a noted publicist and founder of The Britto Agency had this to say:  "I think the best way to break through the barriers is to celebrate and honor the achievements of those who do break through. When a woman breaks and shatters the glass ceiling we need to celebrate that."  Marvet went on to say the following about how this plays out with young people and their dreams, "Young people can only aspire to be what they see and we celebrate certain industries and individuals, but then we really let certain stories fly below the radar which isn't smart. So for a young woman she believes she can only be historically what she has always been. So for us it's important to put certain figures and certain individuals in places where we celebrate their accomplishments and achievements so that other people us that illuminating path as a blueprint really for their own individual success."

And when it comes to success, a woman's age and appearance often come into play. That was the case with 12-year-old performing artist Willow Smith, whose famous actor parents Will and Jada Pinkett Smith were taken to task over "letting" their daughter cut her hair. Both her mother and father in separate interviews defended their daughter's right to express herself as she saw fit. Pinkett Smith took to Facebook late last year with the following:

The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day.

"Jada is exactly right: what young women have to be able to do is own themselves," Malveaux noted.

"And that's very dangerous," publicist Marvet Britto echoed, "because what we're doing is supporting the mindset that we're allowing these young people to not be fearless and unafraid to be different in a sea of the same."

See Fey and Poehler's monologue to open the Golden Globes above, and below our full conversation.