Earlier this month I began highlighting women I recognized by way of fandom who graced the pages of popular female-centric magazines. Ashley Eckstein, featured with Her Universe in August’s Cosmopolitan, and Keira Knightley, who spoke up on feminism in July’s Glamour, are easily recognizable as women connected with Star Wars. July’s issue of Cosmopolitan featured Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments and a board member of DreamWorks and Starbucks. Why is she recognizable to me via fandom? She is also George Lucas’ wife.
Considering recent coverage across major media on the reactions to the Episode VII casting news and the #WeWantLeia campaign, Hobson’s wisdom about empowerment and discrimination reinforce the need for women to stand up for themselves.
Being aware of challenges doesn’t make them sting less, but once you see them, you can assess the best way to handle them. Once, I was in Texas with two male colleagues to meet a potential client. He offered the men chairs by his desk … and gestured to a far-off sofa for me. I gauged the situation and said, “None of us will sit there” — meaning the desk. We had our meeting by the sofa. I was not going to be marginalized and was prepared to suffer any repercussions.
Don’t Fear a Fight:
McKinsey, the consulting firm, has a line I love: Uphold the obligation to dissent. Disagreements lead to better outcomes, so you have to share your point of view even if it is different from those around you. Everyone having the same perspective can become groupthink, and that is dangerous. So if someone challenges you, see it as a way of coming to a better solution to whatever problem is being discussed.
Hobson mentions Lucas, who has given her people-skills advice she shares in the article. Lucas isn’t often described as a people person, at least by his actors. Yet at the same time he has built an empire around innovation – of technology and storytelling. In the print version of the article, she also describes how her husband sees himself as a director and writer, “Darth” for the former and “Yoda” for the latter. Writing requires a person to turn inward and exercise self-discipline. Directing, on the other hand, necessitates one individual imposing his or her will on the production team. Lucas’s advice to his wife, who admits to speaking very directly, was to recognize when a soft touch is required.
Ultimately, though, the takeaway from this powerful and successful woman’s perspective is to be aware that discrimination exists and to be prepared for it. If you feel marginalized, speak up for yourself – whether that is in a meeting or when you feel like your favorite franchise is diminishing the value of your fandom. Which ties back neatly into her second point: “disagreements lead to better outcomes.” Change in an entertainment industry that has marginalized women and minorities for decades won’t come without people voicing their dissent.
Time magazine noted in their #WeWantLeia coverage: “The concern over both the casting decisions and the toys suggests there’s a robust female fan base for the films.” Women have been part of the fandom from the beginning. Over the past few years, they have been waving their fandom flag assertively in support of girls bullied for being fans or merchandise for women from places like Her Universe. Despite this, Lucasfilm has underestimated its female fanbase, leaving fans feeling marginalized.
Like Hobson, female fans have been let into the meeting, but the corporate mindset has expected us to sit on the couch. Is it malicious? No. But it’s very much a relic of the pre-Disney status quo at Lucasfilm, which answered to an eccentric billionaire whose company served his id.
The piece in July’s Cosmo isn’t the first time Hobson has spoken up on the issue of equality. At a TedTalk this year she presented “Be Color Brave, Not Color Blind.” Once you watch it, you realize just how amazing a person George Lucas married.
Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.