Tara Carey, Global Head of Media, celebrates Amy Ziering as part of Equality Now’s 30 for 30, featuring 30 women and changemakers who have played a key role in making equality reality as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.
Great storytelling evokes public awareness and empathy about important issues. It creates space for conversations that shift society’s understanding and values and lights the sparks from which positive social and legislative change emerges. And such is the case with the ground-breaking documentaries produced and directed by Amy Ziering.
Like Equality Now, Amy shines a spotlight on institutional injustices women and girls face and challenges ingrained cultural assumptions that perpetuate wrongdoing. She harnesses the power of the media and uses it as an advocacy tool to advance gender equality. This is one of the reasons why Amy’s films resonate with me so strongly—because as Global Head of Media at Equality Now, this is what I, too, seek to do with our communications work.
Amy’s nuanced portrayal of social problems provides much-needed counter-narratives to official claims that seek to conceal, minimize, or norminalize misconduct and protect the interests of those in authority. She creates a platform upon which women whose rights have been violated can voice their experiences and speak truth to power.
Illuminating women’s lives and perspectives in this way and articulating the injustices they have been subject to elicits powerful emotions in the viewer and provokes action. For this reason, Amy’s films’ ripple effects have been so far-reaching, directly influencing American politics and culture and bringing real-world reform.
Amy’s film The Invisible War, a searing exposé of the rape epidemic in the United States Armed Forces, won two Emmy Awards in 2014 for Best Documentary and Outstanding Investigative Journalism and was nominated for an Oscar. More importantly, it prompted the US Secretary of Defense to announce significant policy changes, spurring the passing of 35 pieces of reform legislation, and the US military now uses The Invisible War as a training film.
Another masterwork is On The Record, which recounts multiple sexual abuse and harassment allegations against hip-hop powerbroker and co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, Russell Simmons. The documentary lays bare the intersection between racism and sexism that compels many women of color to leave the music industry.The #MeToo movement has been driven by filmmakers like Amy, alongside the courageous women who have shared their stories in her films. On The Record raises important concerns about how survivors of sexual violence who seek justice and accountability frequently face fierce backlash and attacks on their credibility and career and how the US justice system is failing women of color. Following the film’s release, Equality Now joined over one hundred organizations and individuals in co-signing an open statement calling for an end to this re-victimization of women.