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At the end of Frances McDormand’s speech Sunday night at the 90th annual Academy Awards, the best actress winner said, “I have two words for you: inclusion rider.”
So what is it? An inclusion rider is a reference to the belief by some that there should be requirements in contracts that provide for gender and racial diversity.
2 Broke Girls and Whitney creator Whitney Cummings expanded in a post Sunday night on Twitter: “An inclusion rider is something actors put into their contracts to ensure gender and racial equality in hiring on movie sets. We should support this for a billion reasons, but if you can’t find a reason to, here’s one: it will make movies better.”
In a 2014 guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Stacy Smith, director of USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, brought up a similar contract clause — what she called an “equity rider” — as a solution for improving diversity in Hollywood.
“What if A-list actors amended every contract with an equity rider? The clause would state that tertiary speaking characters should match the gender distribution of the setting for the film, as long as it’s sensible for the plot,” Smith wrote. “If notable actors working across 25 top films in 2013 had made this change to their contracts, the proportion of balanced films (about half-female) would have jumped from 16 percent to 41 percent. Imagine the possibilities if a few actors exercised their power contractually on behalf of women and girls. It wouldn’t necessarily mean more lead roles for females, but it would create a diverse onscreen demography reflecting a population comprised of 50 percent women and girls. In other words, reality.”
Smith has also suggested that movie viewers advocate for equality by tweeting “#EquityRider” to actors and actresses.
Backstage after the Oscars ceremony, McDormand said of inclusion riders, “I just found out about this last week. This has always been available to all — everybody who does a negotiation on a film — which means you can ask for or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting but the crew. The fact that I just learned that after 35 years in the film business — we aren’t going back.”
The actress’ mention of the rider followed a speech in which she asked every female nominee in the room to stand up, and then asked male gatekeepers to ask them about their projects and ideas, not just at Oscar afterparties but in office meetings following awards season.
Earlier in the Oscars ceremony, several other presenters and nominees advocated for better opportunity for women in Hollywood. Emma Stone introduced the nominees for best director by saying, “These four men and Greta Gerwig.” While presenting for best actress, Jennifer Lawrence thanked Jodie Foster for giving her one of her first roles at 19. And when Coco songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez won their award, Anderson-Lopez noted that the category was almost 50-50 in terms of gender representation. “When you look at a category like ours, it helps to imagine a world where all the categories look like this one,” she said.
Following a year that saw the rise of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, as well as a flurry of exposés about powerful men in Hollywood, the awards ceremony also took a few minutes to acknowledge the women who told their stories. Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Annabella Sciorra — three women who alleged they had experienced sexual misconduct at the hands of Harvey Weinstein — addressed the audience. Judd said she hoped that the next 90 years of the Academy Awards will “empower these limitless possibilities of equality, diversity, inclusivity, intersectionality — that’s what this year has promised us.”
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