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Sexism In Irvine Activision Blizzard Office Leads To Worker Walkout 

Workers at Activision Blizzard, one of the nation’s leading video game companies, staged a one-day walkout at the company’s Irvine office location over alleged sexism in the workplace. This walkout comes just one day after the company announced a number of steps to address this specific issues. 

“We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.”

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“We will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team,” Activision continued in a letter addressed to all employees from company CEO Bobby Kotick. 

Activision Blizzard is responsible for launching games such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. The company is currently facing a lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which alleges a “frat boy workplace culture that includes sexual harassment of women by executives.”

Current and former employees published their own letter this week detailing the allegations, and calling for “official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.” 

Kotick responded to this letter with his own, as mentioned above, which outlined new policies that would be put in place to better protect all employees from harassment. 

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“I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future,” Kotick said in a Twitter post.

“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone-deaf. It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding,” he wrote.

“We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind,” the letter said.

“We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement.”

The letter also detailed how the company will be improving on the way they hire employees as well: “Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive.”

Womens Empowerment

2020 Super Bowl Ads Are Just Scratching The Surface Of Gender Equality

In what’s being viewed as a major “baby step” for the NFL, individuals on the business end of all things Super Bowl have finally recognized that almost half of their audience is made up of women, so the advertisements and representation within them should acknowledge and respect that. 

In a 40-minute-long press conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed a lot of social issues that the NFL needs to tackle, pun intended, in order to progress with society. He claimed that the league now has an estimated 187.3 million loyal fans, 47% of which are women, the most gender-balanced the Super Bowl viewer stats have ever been; so it’s about time that the commercials reflect that. 

Super Bowl advertisements cost, at the very least, $5 million just to run; that doesn’t include the actual cost it takes to make the commercial. This is because advertisers know that the commercials are almost just as crucial to the Super Bowl as the actual football players, and bring in a hefty chunk of viewership. 

With major headlines being made this year regarding Katie Sowers, the first female coach and first openly gay coach to reach the Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49er’s, a major discussion was opened up regarding the overall inequality and sexism that’s rooted in the professional sports industry.  

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“Female viewership was up 5% for the 2019 season after growing 6% in the year prior. In 2019, 38% of avid NFL fans were female, an all-time high. The league will show a two-minute pre-game ad that shows the ‘passing the torch to the next generation of fans.’ It will include 32 kids, about one-third female, representing teams in the NFL and will feature Toni Harris, the first woman to receive a full college scholarship as a position player,” Tim Ellis, NFL’s chief marketing officer, told CNBC in an interview done prior to the Super Bowl.

If you were to look at the Super Bowl ads from even five-years-ago, you’d notice a lot more commercials emphasizing the “male gaze,” which is a term that is used when certain forms of media are created by men, for men. These pieces of media often objectify women and keep them in a box that’s rooted in sexism and hetero-normative oppression.

The 2020 Super Bowl advertisements definitely showed some improvement from years prior, however, more work is still to be done. Katie Sowers herself was in an ad for Microsoft that emphasized her monumental moment for this year’s big game, and gave the audience a very “if I can do it, so can you” message. Olay also had a clever take on the classic “make space for woman” trope, along with SodaStream, who’s ad featured Alyssa Carson, the 18-year-old astro-biologist in training who’s working to be a part of the first space crew to go to Mars. 

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While all of these examples of female representation are impressive, especially when compared to ads from years prior, many understand that the NFL and advertisers are just scratching the surface of feminist values in their attempt at being more inclusive. The half-time show this year featured Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny, and J. Balvin, all performers of Latin decent in a performance that emphasized the beauty of Latinx, African, and Arab culture. The performance was also rooted in dozens of political symbolism; the most prominent showing children meditating in cages to represent the current crisis occuring at our borders. 

The halftime show provided the type of representation and support for women, and people of color in general, that audiences want to see. Real life successful individuals who are proud of their culture and willing to use their platform to speak up against injustices and archaic forms of inequality that are still so prominent in our culture today.

According to a study done by the Geena Davis Institute and Google, male characters in Super Bowl ads receive 2.5 times more speaking time than female characters, and they’re twice as likely to be playing some sort of position of power; the study itself mainly reviewed ads from 2015 to 2019. The study also mentioned that between 2008 and 2017, 86% of the ads televised had men playing a “principal character” compared to only 14% by women. 

The main point of all of this is that while inclusivity is important, it’s not the overarching goal. Instead of just showing the world a picture of equality, it’s important for brands to understand what audiences really want to see, real support for women of all shapes, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, etc.. Advertisements that give the same message Microsoft gave with their 2020 ad; it doesn’t matter who you are, what you are, or how you identify, dream big, because that could be you coaching a team at the Super Bowl in 10 years. 

 

American Capitol Building

US Representative Ayanna Pressley Reveals She has Alopecia

Last year, Ayanna Pressley made history by becoming the first Black woman elected to Congress from her home state of Massachusetts. Her success came in large part as a result of her progressive policy positions, such as her support of the Green New Deal and her proposal to lower the voting age to 16, which have resonated with voters particularly during a time of increased political polarization. Pressley is well-known for her distinctive natural hairstyle, which Slate describes as “waist-long, abundant Senegalese twists,” which has given inspiration to Black women and girls as such hairstyles are often considered to be unprofessional despite the fact that, for many Black women, they are natural. As such, Pressley’s iconic hairstyle became a political statement as well, as it symbolizes personal strength in the face of pressure to conform with society’s expectations of how Black women’s hair should look.

For Pressley, the sudden loss of her hair could not have come at a worse time. As the House of Representatives was preparing to impeach Donald Trump, Pressley noticed that her hair was falling out at a rapid pace, much to her shock and horror. In a video produced for The Root, an online publication focusing on “Black news, opinions, politics, and culture,” Pressley described the experience of not wanting to go to sleep because she knew that she would lose a substantial amount of hair overnight, and she would find new bald patches on her head regularly. 

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Because her hair is a tremendous element of her public image and a key component of her political persona, Pressley described the loss of her hair as feeling like the loss of a limb. The worst night of Pressley’s personal hair loss story was the night before the House voted to approve articles of impeachment of Donald Trump, which coincided with the final stage of alopecia where all of the hair on her head was completely gone. Still mourning the loss of her hair, as well as the loss of her mentor Elijah Cummings, Pressley appeared in the House chamber to cast her vote nevertheless, wearing a wig and having not yet told the public about her hair loss. And not only that, but the moment was also the anniversary of her mother’s death, causing Pressley a tremendous amount of stress.

Pressley’s story captures an intersection of several factors impacting American life today, including racism, gender, and politics

Pressley knew that she couldn’t appear in the House chamber with a bald head, as the sudden and unexplained change in hairstyle would have been interpreted as a militant political message, which the solemn occasion did not call for. So she contacted Jamal Edmonds, a hair caregiver who created a custom wig for her hours before she was due to appear in the House chamber. While Pressley thought Edmonds had done a “beautiful job” of creating her custom wig, she felt as though she couldn’t recognize herself in the mirror, and was embarrassed about having to keep the secret of her hair loss. Pressley knew that she had to go public with her alopecia eventually, but wanted to wait for the right moment to do so. 

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Pressley’s story captures an intersection of several factors impacting American life today, including racism, gender, and politics. For many people, especially men, hair is a superficial concern and the loss of hair does not lead to any major problems. But for many Black women, especially those who work in a public-facing role like Rep. Pressley, hair represents an important aspect of personal identity, as the public at times places a disproportionate and often negative focus on the hairstyles Black women choose to adopt. And as she is a person who works in politics, which can be a nasty and cutthroat line of work, Pressley’s hair loss carries political ramifications as well. Pressley not only had to undergo the loss of her hair, which in many ways is a key part of her identity as a Black congresswoman, but also had to do so in the context of a presidential impeachment, which naturally draws tremendous attention and scrutiny, making the prospect of keeping her hair loss secret a tremendous challenge. By revealing the fact of her hair loss, Pressley feels as though she is free to experiment with different styles as she adapts to her new natural appearance.

Since telling her hair loss story, Pressley has received a tremendous amount of support from her peers in Congress as well as the general public. The other three members of the “squad,” a coalition of four congresswomen of color who advocate for progressive causes, all voiced their support; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that she was a “living blessing,” and Representative Ilhan Omar said she was “stunningly gorgeous and a magnificent black queen.” Rashida Tlaib voiced her support as well, calling her “queen” and tweeting a crown emoji. Ayanna Pressley’s embrace of her natural hairstyle in the contentious political sphere has inspired Black women and girls across the nation, and her courage in sharing her story of alopecia under remarkable circumstances continues to inspire. 

Movie Clapper

Female Filmmakers ‘Reach Historic Highs’ in 2019

The film industry is notoriously difficult for women to make a name for themselves, however, it seems that 2019 has been the year for that to start changing. Director’s including Greta Gerwig, Lorene Scafaria, Lulu Wang and Melina Matsoukas directed more successful movies than previous years, setting the standard for the upcoming years.

A recent study by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that out of the top 100 grossing films of 2019, twelve were directed by women. This shows that there is a shift in the inequality that has continued to remain behind the camera, even though other areas in the industry are still struggling to see a change. 2008 held the title for the most women in production, 8%, while 2018 only saw 4.5% of women directors. Despite this fluctuation in previous years it is believed that 2019’s increase should be seen as a positive in a still largely male dominated environment.

One of the study’s authors, Stacy L Smith, commented:

“This is the first time we have seen a shift in hiring practices for female film directors in 13 years. One notable reason for this jump in 2019 was that Universal Pictures had five films with women directors at the helm in the top 100 movies. Yet there is still much more progress needed to reach parity for women behind the camera.”

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Films including Scafaria’s “Hustlers” ($105 million domestically), Matsoukas’ “Queen & Slim” ($40.7 million), and Wang’s “The Farewell” all saw global success, as well as Gerwig’s “Little Women” which earned $29 million in the first five days of its release. Tina Gordon’s “Little”, Jill Culton’s “Abominable” and Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet” also saw great success.

Meanwhile one of 2019’s most successful movies, “Frozen II,” nearly gave co-director – and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ chief creative officer – Jennifer Lee a new box-office record thanks to the $1.2 billion of global ticket sales. The record still stands with the first Frozen movie, which Lee also co-directed.

In the study Universal Pictures were highlighted as the only major studio to have a female studio chief – Donna Langley – as well as the fact they had 26% of their films directed by women. However, it’s not just the big screen companies that were featured in the study. It was also revealed that 20% of the movies on Netflix currently were made by female directors.

It was not all good news though, as it was confirmed that for the last five years Paramount Pictures has only released films directed by men. Women of Color also started to make an appearance in the top 100 movies with four films being directed. While this in itself is good news, the overall number of underrepresented directors saw a drop from 21.4% in 2018 to 16.8% in 2019.

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Smith commented:

“While 2019 is a banner year for women, we will not be able to say there is true change until all women have access and opportunity to work at this level.”

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University also released a study where they examined the number of women not only in directorial roles, but also any other of the ‘top jobs’ in film. The study discovered that women made up only one fifth of all roles – including producers (27%), executive producers (21%), cinematographers (5%), writers (19%), production designers (23%), supervising sound editors (9%), composers (6%), visual effects supervisors (6%) as well as editors (23%), sound designers (4%) and special effects supervisors (4%) – which was an increase on the 16% in 2018. However female art directors (31%) and music supervisors (40%) saw a closer parity with their male counterparts.

However the study also found that when you look at the top 500 movies the statistics saw women holding 23% of the roles.

Martha Lauzen, the author of the study released a statement regarding the findings saying “while the numbers moved in a positive direction this year, men continue to outnumber women 4 to 1 in key behind the scenes roles.’ Lauzen continued ‘it’s odd to talk about reaching historic highs when women remain so far from parity.”

Yet it appears that the news of the increase in female filmmakers has not hit the awards season with many women being overlooked. The Golden Globes, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, has not nominated any women for best director while the ten films up for best picture were also only directed by men.

Time’s Up chief operating officer Rebecca Goldman believes that this is unsatisfactory:

“This year, there have been twice as many women-led features than ever, with more films by female directors on the way. Women — and especially women of color — continue to be pushed to the sidelines by a system that holds women back, onscreen and off.”

Stage Camera

‘Fired’ Gabrielle Union Criticizes America’s Got Talent

America’s Got Talent has seen the judging panel change many times over the last 13 years with the majority leaving on good terms. However Gabrielle Union’s recent departure, after only two months on the show, has come under scrutiny.

Since joining the popular show, Union had started to have concerns, which she highlighted to the NBC executives, including those who ran the show, highlighting issues including what she saw as attempts to misgender contestants, alleged racist incidents and producer Simon Cowell’s constant habit to smoke indoors.

Two months into the producer and actress’s contract Union was invited to a meeting with Simon Cowell. The music mogul discussed her concerns regarding the show but asked her to talk directly to himself with her issues rather than with the NBC executives. However she had been speaking to the executives, including those in charge of the show, who, according to sources, would attempt to soothe her with promises they would investigate her worries before ignoring them completely.

So when Union finally got to talk with Cowell she was incredibly infuriated with the environment and his orders not to talk to NBC was interpreted as him trying to cover up some serious problems.

Last week NBC cut short Union’s 3 year tenure with the show after just one season with several sources claiming it was due to her being seen as ‘difficult’ by Cowell and his team. However Julianne Hough was dropped at the same time which could contradict these claims.

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America’s Got Talent has seen several female judges come and go over recent years as it tries to retain their share of the viewing figures. Not only has host Tyra Banks been replaced, so have judges Heidi Klum and Spice Girl Mel B. However the two male judges, Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel, have remained on the show.

Sources states that claims Union was fired are incorrect, rather commenting that she was ‘rotated out’. While the show does like to change the judges often to maintain a fresh appearance, previous judges were retained for several seasons before they left.

Last week Variety reported on several of the complaints from Union, including an allegedly racist joke from Jay Leno who was appearing as a guest judge. In season 14 a painting was shown on camera of Simon Cowell and his dogs. Leno commented that the painting ‘looked like something on the menu at a Korean restaurant’. Not only was Union shaken by the remark, an Asian member of staff who was also on the set seemed to be upset. When Union requested the footage not be included in the show she started to gain her reputation for being ‘difficult’.

A list of questions regarding Union’s departure was sent to NBC Entertainment and Fremantle who produce America’s Got Talent who commented,

“America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”

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It was also alleged that Union annoyed producers, as well as Cowell, almost from the moment she started on the show due to her complaints regarding Cowell smoking inside the theater during filming. With few walls between dressing rooms, cigarette smoke drifted into Union’s dressing room. It is worth noting that California law – where the auditions were being held – forbids an employer to allow smoking in an enclosed work space.

Despite Union’s requests that smoking be stopped inside, due to her allergy to cigarette smoke, she was repeatedly turned down. A source claims an NBC executive informed her that despite the crew, staff, and talent’s annoyance, Simon Cowell had been smoking indoors for years. With NBC giving the majority of America’s Got Talent’s control to Cowell there was little they could do to stop him as all decisions regarding the show had to have his approval first.

Union further frustrated executives when she asked drag contestants which pronoun they preferred as well as an incident when an Italian male contestant wore black gloves when doing a Beyoncé impression.

Concerned the gloves were being used to highlight the skin tone changing, or ‘blackface hands’ as Union referred to them, Union chose not to put the contestant through. The act was never included in the show.

It appears that the incident that caused the most damage involved Dylan Gilmer, a 10 year old black rapper. Two sources have alleged that in a meeting with producers the team decided the show required an act ‘that America can get behind’. Their decision for that act to be an all white dance group from Texas rather than Gilmer, who gained a far greater response from the audience, caused Union to object.

However sources have denied the producers commented on the need to choose such an act, saying they would never use that choice of language.

After meeting with Cowell at his home last May the decision to drop Union was made during the break between season 14 and 15 leaving Union to look at her legal options against NBC.