This week, we were looking at cultural production, specifically during WWII and the post-war period. As the number of jobs related to cultural production grew, sexist ideas about women in the workplace meant that jobs were divided along gendered lines and opportunities for women were limited, often in supporting rather than authoritative positions. Kylie Andrew’s article about the post-war ABC reveals how explicit this could be, noting that “The post-war ABC defined authoritative, higher paid roles as ‘male’, and menial and superficial roles as ‘female.’”
This kind of gendered division isn’t limited to cultural production or to the 60’s & 70’s. A 2016 article by Claire Cain Miller for the New York Times points out that the average pay across an entire field drops when a large number of women enter that field. Roles for women may also be less esteemed. For example, in the film industry, visual effects supervisors (mostly men) are eligible for the Visual Effects Oscar, but visual effects producers (often women) are not—how creatively involved a producer is may vary from project to project (it would not be out of the question for a producer to have “primary creative responsibility” for the VFX), but the role is seen as more administrative than creative and therefore ineligible.
The Visual Effects award is a craft award. Producers, coordinators and other executives are not eligible for this award unless they are also craftspeople with primary creative responsibility for the achievement.
In the history of the Oscars, only one woman has taken home an Academy Award for Visual Effects. And the exclusion of producers from the Academy Award seems to follow the existing precedent set by computer programming, a task which was once seen as menial and gained prestige as men entered the field (Miller, 2016). The problems surrounding gender and cultural production are not simply solved by women (or non-binary folk, or people of colour, or other minorities) entering a field of work. Larger systemic issues must also be addressed so that their work is equally valued.
“Chapter 2 Gender and Cultural Work: Post-War to the late 1970s,” Gender and Popular Culture, Katie Milestone & Anneke Meyer (2012)