Female artists: My year of celebrating women creatives

Well, what a surprise – Greta Gerwig was passed by in the nominations for this year’s Oscars. It’s an all-male line-up again and no female artists.

No doubt like you, I’ve railed over the lack of female directors in the running for major awards while substandard male-directed films (*cough* Once Upon a Time In Hollywood) get a free pass to the glitzy party.

Not that it’s only awards where creative women are hard done by. The majority of arts awards are dominated by men and won by men. In writing, it’s so bad that comedian Helen Lederer told me that’s why she started the Comedy Women in Print awards to counter the myth that women can’t write funny books. Look on TV and most programmes are male-dominated.

It makes a feminist like me rant for hours…

Except – you knew it was coming – last week I had an epiphany: beyond the rant, I don’t actually do that much to support female artists.

My TV and film watching is pretty much a manfest – even if Chris Hemsworth isn’t involved. I love sci-fi, but does rooting for Jodie Whitaker as Dr Who make up for the 99% I watch that have a male lead or leads? Or the ones I don’t watch because they look a bit – girly and emotional? I mean, there’s no way I’m going to see Gerwig’s Little Women

I’m not that much better with books. My favourite writer is Jane Austen without a doubt, but when I’m at the library, I’m looking for Peter James, Ian Rankin, Ken Follett, John Le Carre, Stephen King, Iain Banks…

Let’s not even go into my iTunes. There are women there. Honest. Just not many.

How Emily Maitlis changed my mind

My epiphany came while book-shopping last week. I picked up Emily Maitlis’s Airhead and dithered. I was after something meaty; something to make me question and think and frown while with the effort of questioning and thinking. Would a book by a blonde, girly journalist really offer that?

“Hang on, 50Sense,” I then said to myself. “You bloody are a girly journalist – and you were once blonde!”

I wouldn’t have hesitated with a Paxman or a Humphries. I’ve even read James O’Brien’s How To Be Right (and thought he was wrong). I think Maitlis is an excellent journalist, so why was I hesitating now?

That was when I decided to rechange my thinking and spend a year celebrating women creatives. Each month, I vow to read, watch and listen to women I normally wouldn’t.

I may need your help…

Female artists to read

I devoured Airhead in a weekend. For those of you who don’t know, Emily Maitlis is the first woman to become lead presenter on BBC2’s Newsnight. When it comes to the news stories she’s broken, it’s easier to say the ones she hasn’t worked on – and they’re all pre-1992, which is when she began in journalism. She’s interviewed everyone from the Dalai Lama to Donald Trump to Prince Andrew and basically is someone to admire.

Airhead: The Imperfect Art of Making News is a book about her life, but it’s not an autobiography. Instead, it’s a fascinating insight into the journalist’s world: the questions and doubts; whether you put ethics and morals above a great news story; whose opinions should we feature and do we have the right to decide that, and why do women have to worry about make-up and men don’t?

I’m passing it on to my nephew, who, I’m ashamed to admit, didn’t hesitate when I asked if he’d like to read it. “Deffoes.”

I have a double-whammy bookwise as I’ve also started Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson. I’m not much into it at the moment, but I really like what I’ve read so far. There’ll be a full review coming up when I’m done.

Female artists to watch

I feel kinda guilty because this is so easy. It has to be The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, which is an oestrogen overdose of female greats.

And again, I pooh-poohed it because the titles looked a bit pink. Divvy.

I’m torn between wanting to be the ultra-feminine Rachel Brosnahan, who plays Midge Maisel, or her mentor/manager Susie, who is played by Alex Borstein (better known in the UK as Lois in Family Guy). Best of all – it was created and is written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino.

See? Full of the XX factor!

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 1 - Official Trailer [HD] | Prime Video

I’m eeking this out and limit myself to watching two episodes at a time as I love it so much.

If you’re after another strong woman show to watch, then check out Russian Doll on Netflix. It’s Groundhog Day without the schmaltz and Natasha Lyonne is wonderful. Again, it’s a double-whammy as she also wrote and directed it. Oh, and created it with the wonderful Amy Poehler.

Female artists to listen to

Now here’s where I need your help. Women singers always seem a bit wishy-washy to me. I grew up with Blondie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Grace Jones, Kate Bush – women who had a voice and weren’t afraid to use it. I still listen to them constantly.

Now everyone just seems to be moaning about old boyfriends while strumming an acoustic guitar.

I know that can’t be right, so tell me which female artists I should start listening to. Someone new and relevant.

And it’s not only music. I’d love to listen to more female podcasts, just not the Women’s Hour-type ones. I highly recommend Caliphate with the New York Times’s reporter on terrorism Rukmini Callimachi, as well as The Storyteller: Murder Most Foul by Isla Traquair.

You’ll have got my gist now. I’m not after women covering women’s issues, but women who cover universal themes.

And you may even get me to see Little Women.


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