Last week, The Hollywood Reporter announced that it would cease its annual ranking of Hollywood’s 100 Power Women in Entertainment after 23 years. Last year, Anne Sweeney, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, graced the cover. The year before that, Oprah represented the powerful women in Hollywood. The list has had a broad range — from women such as actress Jennifer Lawrence, whose net worth is $60 million, to 29-year old movie producer Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures, who produced films such as Foxcatcher and American Hustle. Janice Min, THR’s editor-in-chief, said the main reason for the change is that the list “pits the town’s most impressive females against one another.” She describes circumstances where women have ended up publicly crying because of their ranking, and an Entourage episode inspired by the ranking wherein a female talent agent “strives and connives to up her ranking.” So, after all these years, THR and its sisterly music publication Billboard, which Min also heads, will no longer be honoring women by indexes and lists. Instead, the women will be featured in the same list as the men in THR’s annual top 100 Power Players.
I must admit that indexing the “Top 100 Women in Entertainment” seems a little archaic and crude in terms of diction, but I believe it is well-meant and, ultimately, much needed. The removal of such a list erases the idea that we are still desperately in need of progress and have a long way to go until it may be achieved. The removal of such a list may perpetuate the idea that equality for all has been achieved or is no longer an issue. Furthermore, it pits the women against the men once more, and probably — because of the unchanging status of Hollywood as male-dominated — will feature and celebrate fewer women, simply because of the ratio of successful women to men. So once more, we will have an imbalance of gender within the industry, despite the fact that THR is attempting to promote equality and respect.
But I think the true problem lies not with cataloguing the women, but rather the larger issue at hand, which has to do, in part, with the way women treat other women. Last week, The Hollywood Reporter dedicated an entire issue to beauty — the same very week, in fact, it announced the end of its Women in Entertainment rankings. The Beauty Issue featured dozens of articles on various hair stylists, makeup artists and every beauty guru in between who turns Hollywood’s celebrities into the best looking versions of themselves. The same celebrities who grace the cover of fashion and lifestyle magazines, and create such intense standards by which every “normal” — and by that, I mean, non-famous — woman compares herself to at some point in her life. In this paradox, the Power Women issue was scorned, but the Beauty Issue continued. This perpetuates and venerates these standards, celebrating the beauticians’ work that makes the already pretty perfect into the unattainable. Information that Reese Witherspoon uses three different blushes or that L.A. has seen a “lunchtime botox boom” is not realistic or helpful for everyday working women or students.
I’m not arguing that the Beauty Issue should be removed as well — I feel that would add me to the gang of internet bullies who finds fault with every little thing and perpetuates the fear of ridicule or shame in others. I understand that beauty is important, as it is a $62 billion industry. Rather, I find it odd that THR has decided to remove one institution that celebrates women and purportedly might create an environment of competition between women, while continuing another that, yes, celebrates, but also distresses women. This creates an unhealthy mentality that makes women feel lesser because they don’t look like that gorgeous movie star on the cover.
I think, as an alternative to “listing” women by number, they should have a general list that features phenomenal, powerful women in no particular order. That way the women wouldn’t feel as if they were less or more than others, and it would be less of a competition and more fully a communal celebration in all sense of the word. At the end of her editorial addressing why she feels that the list should be disbanded, Min mentions that the Latin origin of the word compete is “competere” which means “to come together.”
Removing the numbers but keeping the institution would further promote the success, influence and potential of women in the industry while removing the possible viciousness of the concept. Ultimately, THR’s actions, though well-meaning, are misguided and may prove to hinder the positive movement in women’s equality in the long run.
Minnie Schedeen is a junior majoring in cinematic arts and critical studies. Her column, “Film Fatale,” runs every Tuesday.