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Minal Khatri

IWB Blogger

Emmy-Nominated Director Tiffany Shlain Hints Us What To Do For The 50/50 World

  • IWB Post
  •  April 24, 2017


“My father used to always say, if you are not living on the edge, you’re taking up way too much space,” Tiffany Shlain, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, a speaker, and the Founder of Webby Awards, spoke to 11,000 graduate of UC, Berkeley in 2010.

After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1992, Shlain set forth to pursue film-making. Managing the funds and coordinating with people, she started her first film, which never got completed. She remembers, “It was my big failure, and I felt I let everybody down, all the people who volunteered. I was really depressed, and I was very humbling. It was really an important experience I went through. Because after that three-year deal every little success, whether it was big or small, tasted that much sweeter because I knew it was like that flag on my badge… It is okay to fail really big.”

Tiffany Shlain

Then after, the winds of change flowed into her life, and she founded Webby Awards in 1996. She took its lead for around a decade and then sold it to return back to film-making. With her studio Let it Ripple, she used technology to create a social transformation with movies like Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Connected: An Autobiography about Love, Death & Technology, 50/50: Rethinking the Past, Present & Future of Women + Film and more.

Currently, Shlain is working to get 50/50 screened in various countries on 10th May. The movie talks about the gender-balance our world needs today. It recollects the women history from past 10,000 years showing all the phases women have seen of living in liberal societies to male-dominating ones.

Tiffany Shlain

50/50 is available for everyone to host the screening in their communities, schools, organizations, institutes, groups and everywhere else. With a simple sign in, 50/50 Day becomes a global conversation, with countless people on the table discussing the ideas to bring people together.

In support of her 50/50 campaign, we got in touch with her. After days of scheduling, we finally got to meet her on Skype. But guess what? My internet felt like it belonged to some other galaxy and it didn’t plan to return. In the two minutes that I was connected to Tiffany, it was clear that she was beautiful inside out.

In the end, we agreed on an email conversation.

India Women Blog: When in your life did you realize that women are not 50/50 when it comes to gender equality?

Tiffany: My parents were feminists, so I grew up feeling empowered. I think the first time I really felt motivated to speak up was when President George W. Bush became President and the first thing he did was to take away the funding for international family planning. That was very frustrating to me. I was running The Webby Awards at the time and making films about how technology was changing our lives. I contacted Planned Parenthood (our big US organization that supports women having control over their health) and said, “I want to make a film for you about the importance of reproductive rights.” It later became the film “Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Happiness.” This was a big turning point for me to take everything I had learned from the internet combined with the film to make social change. Shortly afterward, I sold The Webby Awards and started a film studio that focused on social issues.

India Women Blog: What, for you, is the most anticipated discussion/meeting within the 50/50 program?

Tiffany: I am most looking forward to all the global speakers for 50/50 Day on May 10th. We have so many amazing pioneers and thinkers in the gender equality space. It will be fantastic to hear all their different perspectives.

India Women Blog: Comment on the role of the intersectional feminism in assuring a 50/50 world.

Tiffany: a) One of my feature documentaries called Connected was released in 2011. It shows how all issues are connected and interdependent, which is what intersectional feminism is all about. We made a poster that will go with all the discussion kits that reflect how we think everything is connected.

Tiffany Shlain

India Women Blog: Share any observation on how women themselves prevent the balance of 50/50.

Tiffany: I think women need to come together more. We saw the power of that with the Women’s March in January. There is tremendous power when we all join forces.

India Women Blog: One feminism male role model in your life.

Tiffany: My late father, Leonard Shlain. He wrote two books called “The Alphabet Versus The Goddess” and “Sex, Time & Power.” Both are strong feminist books.

Tiffany Shlain

India Women Blog: What makes men fear the feminist movement? How can women challenge this?

Tiffany: I think most men think there is a pie and if women, have more equality they will have more of the pie and there is less for them. In reality, when women have more equality in society it is better for everyone, men, women and everyone in between. We explore this in our film and in the discussion materials that go with 50/50 Day. We also have male speakers on the day. 50/50 Day will happen at companies and schools where men and women co-exist in different settings. This conversation will not move forward if it is just women talking to women. We need men to want this as much as we do. Fortunately, men really get a lot out of our film 50/50 that will be shown at all the over 8000 screenings on 50/50 Day i.e. 10th May. That was very important to us; this film spoke to me.

India Women Blog: One personal learning from the sets?

Tiffany: How everyone can mentor someone! Mentoring is a big part of how we are going to get to 50/50.

India Women Blog: One encounter in your life that challenged your views on feminism?

Tiffany: The different sides of the issue around “Quotas” to get to a more 50/50 issue. I understand both sides of the issue… but only when a 50% reservation is legally implied, it will make a difference. So I am all for quotas. I know it’s a controversial issue.

Tiffany Shlain

India Women Blog: Share a personal impact of the movie on your immediate environment.

Tiffany: With my husband and my two daughters! We talk about the issues in our household, a lot. I always feel like my projects are something I am wrestling with personally. I want a 50/50 world for our daughters.

India Women Blog: How can the concept of gender equality co-exist with pre-defined gender roles? Till what extent the bending of 50-50 concept is acceptable?

Tiffany: My producer on the film is a Trans man. We have made a film together about his transition and talk a lot about it. To me 50/50 is about equal opportunities for everyone… however you identify.

India Women Blog: How can the movement of 50/50 include the agency of religion?

Tiffany: We have discussion cards that engage with these ideas. I think everything is on the table for the discussion about how to get more women at the table.

India Women Blog: Share some fun moments from behind the scenes.

Tiffany: Filming the spoken word poet Wanda Holland Green. She is a true inspiration. Her reading the poem is at the end of the movie. I brought my daughters to the shoot that day. We were all very inspired.

50/50 Day has over 8,000 screenings happening in 32 countries. Tiffany believes that the more women & men join the table, the bigger change can happen.

Watch the trailer of 50/50 here:

Let us pull out the chairs & revolutionize the world with 50/50 thoughts.

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