What did Frances McDormand mean by an 'inclusion rider'?

When Frances McDormand accepted the Best Actress Award at the 2018 Oscars, she uttered two fairly cryptic words that had many of us turning to Google to ask, 'what is an inclusion rider?'

Frances McDormand has come to be a feminist hero this awards season - her frequently stony facial expression at the glamorous events seemingly mirroring many women's sentiments of sexism in Hollywood.

At this year's Oscars, Frances was deservingly awarded the Best Actress gong for her outstanding performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. In her acceptance speech, she gave a rousing, passionate and mobilising cry to Hollywood's A-listers, asking all of the female Oscar nominees to stand with her.

The female nominees soon stood, led by Frances' fellow Best Actress nominee Meryl Streep. The oldest nominee in Oscar history, 89-year-old French director Agnès Varda - who was up for Best Documentary Feature and attended the event in a fabulous rose-print silk Gucci suit - was one of the many who joined the women in standing and applauding.

"Look around everybody, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight – invite us to your office, or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them," Frances instructed.

But it was Frances' final line that had even the most well-versed feminists feeling like they'd missed a beat; "I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: 'inclusion rider'.”


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The idea of an inclusion rider was brought to the fore by University of Southern California Annenberg's School for Communication and Journalism.

In a powerful TED Talk viewed by over 77,000 people on YouTube, Dr Stacy Smith, the Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, reveals some depressing statistics about the prevalence and portrayal of female characters in films. Dr Stacy and her team of researchers found that - of the 35,205 speaking characters in the 800 films they analysed - there was only one female role to every 2.3 male.

They also looked at the top 100 films of 2015 and the findings were equally as bleak:

  • 48 of those films had no Black or African American female speaking roles
  • 70 had no Asian or Asian American female speaking roles
  • 84 did not depict any females with disabilities
  • 93 featured no lesbian, bisexual or transgender females

On a more positive note, Stacy believes that there are tangible, data-driven solutions to these problems. One solution is to "just add five [women]" to the cast of all Hollywood films, which her data shows could result in on-screen gender parity in three years.

A second - and the one to which Frances referred in her speech - is for A-listers to add equity clauses or inclusion riders into their contracts. These clauses would stipulate that the roles in the films they sign onto would need to accurately reflect and portray the demographics of the world in which the film is based, resulting in a Hollywood that is more diverse and representative of real life.

Representing more women - in all their diversity - in film means we'll be seeing more women as talented, inspiring and awesome as Frances taking the stage at the Oscars in years to come, and we believe that inclusion riders could have huge potential to disrupt Hollywood and, hopefully, the rest of the world.

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