Has the VO biz been fair to me...as a woman?
Months have gone by, and no one has responded to this question. The question begs for an answer like a shaky doggie in the rescue kennel.
We have to start with a definition of 'fair'.
I'd say --at minimum-- equal access to opportunity and equal pay.

I have never heard of a female voice-over talent receiving unequal pay. And granted, you may have heard more than I. Speak up. Have you heard of pay inequities?
Agents and unions tend to keep pay practices fair. But in a freelance world where few talents ever publicly declare their rates-- how would we know, really, of gender disparities?

Access to jobs: Well, we've discussed the movie trailer thing to bits,,,and I have little to add except this: I heard the trailer to "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' voiced by either Sir Don or one of his legion. Really? Really Hollywood? an adolescent chick flick needs a rumbling male VO?

Narration . The dearth of female narrators for film and video documentaries is about equivalent to the dearth of female directors. (Did you know that no woman has ever won an Academy award for Best Director?)

But I digress. I do think it is a pervasive myth, still alive and well in the waning light of 2008, that women's voices carry less authority than men's voices.
Is it authority? power? persuasion? What is it?

These are observations, not answers, hardly even questions...
I just thought I'd let this puppy out of the kennel.

Jump in!

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JS--I follow. Fairness as an absolute does not exist. We can all become very whiny in our desire for the ideal of fairness.
But, what we can pursue, respect, recognize and create is the ATTEMPT at fairness.

Here's an example. The book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell discusses the decision making process. He describes the audition process for orchestras worldwide. 'Classical music was the domain of white men until very recently. Women, it was believed, could not play like men. They didn't have the strength, the attitude, or the resilience for certain kinds of pieces. Their lips were different. Their lungs were less powerful. their hands were smaller. That did not seem like a prejudice. It seemed like a fact, because when conductors and music directors and maestros held auditions, men always seemed to sound better than the women.'
Then there was a push for fairness among musicians. A radical new audition process was formalized. 'An official audition committee was established instead of a conductor making the entire decision. Musicians were identified by number instead of name. Screens were erected between the committee and the auditioner--and if the musician made any kind of identifiable sound---if they were wearing heels or cleared their throat--they were ushered out and assigned a new number. And as these new rules were put into place around the country, an extraordinary thing happened: orchestras began to hire women....In the past thirty years, since screens became commonplace, the number of women in the top US orchestras has increased fivefold."

The book is not about fairness, I'm just using this example to illustrate how the ATTEMPT at fairness can, eventually, change everything. Now I go to see my local orchestra and it is about 50% female. If I went to see the orchestra and it was all men, it would seem weird and questionable. There has been a shift in perception about how an orchestra should be comprised.
An ATTEMPT at fairness has resulted in some actual fairness, and that has resulted in a cultural shift in perception. Huge, measurable change was affected--because artists believed in fairness.

I know you're probably arguing that there is no equivalent in the world of voice-over to that orchestra audition process.
I would argue that we can, at least, think about that.
What could lead to shift in perception so that it sounded weird to have nearly every documentary narrated by a man?
To be honest, I've never really noticed any discrimination in this business towards women.
Ok, men do all the movie trailers, but women do pretty much all the IVRs. I'd grant you that they are not the same pay, but there are far more IVR systems than movies.
It also seems that most lifts, software, trains, toys etc... are female too.
Also, I disagree about the documentaries and film narrations being exclusively male. I've done many documentaries, I've also done narrations for films and heard many female do it too. I don't know what the statistics are though, but I don't feel left out.
Over all, it looks to me that the vo business is pretty fair, compared to general jobs.
My mum is a business woman, and in her world discrimination against women is very real.
In my vo world, I feel happy and treated very well by most.
Vicki, interesting thoughts. I think we should explore them further. Thank you for sharing :)
Thanks Stephanie, if we explore this further on Vox Daily or elsewhere, we need to get ahold of SAG/ AFTRA and some big agents, as JS suggested, and get some real numbers in front of us.

Yes, Claire--I, too have done narration; but what I'm looking for are the female counterparts to Will Lyman or Peter Coyote, recognized voices of wisdom, gravity, and authority.

And JS, I cannot disagree with anything you've said. But I have to yank your chain a little here. When you say, "I still contend that many of our inner turmoils come from viewing (or judging) things as either fair or not fair and from working hard to try and impart fairness into everything...."

Can't the same thing be said of the attempts you make to impart high standards of performance into everything? and to judge casting and production decisions as either good, bad or mediocre?

We all need to judge by some standards. Those standards may be accurately defined as unattainable, the attempts at those standards an exercise in futility, but our standards and what we strive to create are the things that make us who we are.
Again, the attempt is what matters.

I also agree that our biz is highly imitative, and I get bored by the same old reads, too. So maybe there will be a 'big change maker" in the near future. And maybe that change will impart a little fairness, and we'll both get what we want for Christmas.

Thanks for speaking up.
Getting a jump on my new year's resolution (the same one every year; learn more, delve deeper, express gratitude, expand my horizons and QUIT PROCRASTINATING)... I'm finally going to answer this question.
Yes, as a female voiceover artist, I think the business is fair. Mostly.
When I first started in the industry is was totally dominated by men. Female VO's were few and far between, if present at all.
But there were some jobs a man just couldn't do, which cracked the door open a tiny bit. My first job? An uber-sexy nightclub read.
There were times that I lost work to men. The Avis spot hurt the most- my first crack at a national spot and they tested me against a Voice of God. I lost.
Since then there have been jobs that could have gone to men but went to a woman (me) instead because of what I could bring to the read or because the client could think out of the box.
Just as there are reads that belong to men alone, there are plenty that scream for a woman. But from the perspective of one woman who has seen the industry open thier arms to her gender, it seems fair enough to me.
Now if I can just follow through on those resolutions...

And to all of my Voice Peeps, wishing you great scripts, a warm mic and happy headphones for 2009.

Cindy Clifford

PS- JS, love the new look!

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