In a story entitled, "Mommy Books: More Buzz Than Buyers ," the newspaper essentially questioned why books about motherhood continue to be published in large numbers because they don’t sell very well. "Recent mommy books . . . have not lived up to the promise of their publicity," wrote Motoko Rich, mentioning non-fiction selections about mothers and work such as, "The Feminine Mistake," "Perfect Madness," "Get Back to Work" and "To Hell with All That." "What is striking about these limp sales figures is that these books cover a topic that raises fierce passions, as anyone who has spent time on a playground or near an office water cooler knows," Rich continued. "But that may not get at the heart of why women are not buying books about these subjects."
The following day, the Times ran a piece bearing the headline, "Hollywood’s Shortage of Female Power ," in which writer Sharon Waxman said that with the "disappearance of many of the movie world’s most visible female power brokers," the future for films that appeal to women "will not be so bright," given lackluster box office receipts for recent flicks like "Catch and Release," "Because I Said So" and "Holiday."
This same warning was sounded a few months ago when Entertainment Weekly ran a piece called "Hollywood vs. Women ," where writer Christine Spines -- who said that "barely a dozen women-driven films" were made by major studios in 2006 -- wrote, "When a hot script with several terrific roles for women recently circulated throughout Hollywood, it was received with the breathless enthusiasm of a rare-bird sighting." While lamenting the lack of women writers, producers, executives and projects aimed at the female audience, Spines wrote, "Women aren’t a special-interest group or a ‘niche’ market; they’re half the audience."
Half the audience.
That’s worth repeating.
"They’re half the audience."
Well then, why aren’t they acting like it?
As I read these articles about women not buying books about motherhood, about women not going to see women-centered films, I too wondered why. (Are they too busy with kids? With their work? Is it that their spouses don’t want to watch chick flicks?) But then, I cleared my head. And I refocused the question. Instead of trying to figure out why women aren’t supporting other women, I decided that what this situation needs is less analysis and more action.
If you want to see the lives of contemporary women and the experiences of 21st century motherhood reflected in literature, in the non-fiction sections of book stores, on silver screens and on primetime television, women had better start ponying up the cash, buying books and movie tickets, and watching these types of shows. Or else these offerings will disappear. Businesspeople in the publishing and entertainment worlds are bottom-line oriented. If they don’t think these products will sell, they’ll stop making them.
Do you want to walk into a bookstore and simply see only guy-centered crime novels, books about male athletes and men’s business-oriented books for sale? Do you want to open up your newspaper -- I’m hoping you still read a newspaper -- and find that the only films playing at your local cinema are "Spiderman 47," "Hostel: Now We’re Really REALLY Mad" and "The Latest Gorily Violent Period Film About Guys Killing Each Other With Cool-Looking Weapons"? Do you want to turn on your TV and find that Jack Bauer has teamed up with the "CSI" and "Law & Order" folks to take over primetime television?
It’s not as though shows or films about women don’t ever make money. Look at "Grey’s Anatomy," created by a single mom who was writing scripts while her baby was sitting on her lap. Not only is the show created by a woman and written by many female scribes, its leading characters are strong women. And because viewers have been tuning in by the millions, it has been deemed a success, and a spin-off TV program featuring one of the female characters is in the works. Take the movie "Something’s Gotta Give," featuring Diane Keaton opposite Jack Nicholson. That did well at the box office last year, as did Meryl Streep’s "The Devil Wears Prada." But those success stories aren’t enough to overcome all this negativity in the media, the publishing industry and in Hollywood. If the powers that be think that a book about mothers will amount to selling approximately 200 copies despite national television appearances and a PR campaign, or if they think that a film starring women will tank, all the kudos given to "Grey’s" and "Prada" won’t be enough of a reason for them to take a chance on women-driven fare.
Sure, there are women movie goers who wouldn’t want to pay to see anything that comes close to a stereotypical “chick flick,” as well as those who’d run screaming away from any book with a baby rattle or the word “mommy” on the cover. They want depth that has nothing to do with the color pink, with babies, with slapstick comedy or Meg Ryan. They might crave more “Pride & Prejudice” than Jennifer Anniston vehicles. But keep in mind, when the Hollywood decision-makers are picking which projects to green-light and which to hold, if what they see that, as a whole, women-driven projects don’t make money, that will hurt all women-driven projects, even high quality ones like “The Queen” or “Little Children” which didn’t exactly break box office records. Because when it comes to men-driven films, even crappy movies make money.
So get out there. Start acting like 51 percent of the population. Vote with your wallet. Buy books written by and for women and start a book club featuring those books. Get friends together and regularly take in chick flicks. Support primetime shows that are created and written by women and which also feature real women’s lives. Otherwise, you’ll have no books about moms for sale outside of pregnancy guides, and you’ll find nothing but "Saw 17" on the movie screens. And that would be a damned shame.