Why is everyone suddenly talking about the “inclusion rider”? Upon accepting her best actress Oscar, Frances McDormand reminded the assembled actors of their power — and popularized a little-known concept.”I have two words for you: inclusion rider,” Frances McDormand said, before leaving the stage clutching her Best Actress Academy Award on Sunday night.
Her acceptance speech for the Oscar, which she won for her role in the film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” was a rousing one. She called for all the female award nominees in the audience to rise to their feet and said: “Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed.”
“Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight,” she continued. “Invite us into your office in a couple days — or you can come to ours, whatever suits you best — and we’ll tell you all about them.”
The speech went down a storm. But those last two words — “inclusion rider” — had many people reaching for their smartphones to Google the unfamiliar phrase.
According to the editors at Merriam-Webster Dictionary, three of the most searched-for terms on Oscar night were “inclusion,” “rider” and, tellingly, “feminism.”
Hollywood reflecting reality
An inclusion rider, or equality rider, is a clause that actors can include in their contracts in order to demand a certain level of gender, racial or other diversity on movie sets.
Back in 2014 Dr Stacey Smith, of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, told how such riders could help tackle the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
She argued that even by focusing on the supporting roles in films, and ensuring that these reflected the gender balance of the setting for the film, great advances could be made.
“Imagine the possibilities if a few actors exercised their power contractually on behalf of women and girls,” she said. “It wouldn’t necessarily mean more lead roles for females, but it would create a diverse onscreen demography reflecting a population comprised of 50 percent women and girls.”
Backstage at the 90th Academy Awards, McDormand explained that she had heard about the concept of inclusion riders for the first time last week. “I just learned that, after 35 years in the film business,” she said, adding: “We aren’t going back.”
Time’s Up at the Oscars
McDormand’s award — her second Oscar — was presented by actress Jennifer Lawrence, who took the opportunity to thank the women who had “blazed a trail” in the generation before her.
Actress Ashley Judd, a prominent member of the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment and one of many women to have accused US director Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, also reflected on a turbulent year in the film industry.
“We work together to make sure the next 90 years empower these limitless possibilities of equality, diversity, inclusion, intersectionality,” she said on stage. “That’s what this year has promised us.”