THIS Is Why So Many Women Love Netflix

Photo: Courtesy of JoJo Whilden/Netflix.
Feminists have a long history of beefing with mainstream media. From damaging stereotypes to unrealistic beauty standards, lack of diversity, and sexist narratives — the laundry list of issues with the representation of women on screen is troubling. It's also disappointing considering women comprise a whopping 51% of audiences. For so long we’ve craved content we could connect with — authentic female experiences and perspectives. Enter: Netflix.

When Netflix first stepped onto the scene, we were just thrilled for a way to rent DVDs without leaving the house. We had no idea that the relationship would get so serious. Fast-forward to what’s now an on-demand streaming service and cultural phenomenon where women are noticeably less absent. With 50 awards under its belt, Netflix earned much of its success by representing and building a rapport with women.
Not to be mistaken with niche outlets that solely cater to women — Lifetime, for example — Netflix does the job without losing equilibrium. The beauty of Netflix is that you can jump between a female-driven show like Jessica Jones to something entirely different like Narcos. It’s these strides toward a more gender-balanced media that make Netflix so special. Only time will tell if they’ll keep the momentum going.
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During a time when the media confines women to the peripheral and clings to the myth that female-driven content isn’t profitable, let’s count the ways that Netflix raised the bar and stole our hearts.
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Categorically Speaking

Only on Netflix will you find categories like “Tearjerkers,” “Deadly Disasters,” “Animation for Grown-ups,” and — drumroll, please—“Featuring a Strong Female Lead.” According to The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, only 22% of protagonists in the top 100 grossing movies of 2015 were female, so “female lead” categories allow women to cut straight to the good stuff instead of hunting through hundreds of titles.
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Original Series

Speaking of shows with strong female leads, Netflix joined the party with its own lineup of original shows — notably: Orange Is The New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Jessica Jones, and Grace & Frankie. These groundbreaking shows proved that women can hold their own on screen and their raw storylines don’t need to be watered down for TV. With 20 Emmy nominations and 4 wins for its female-driven series' since 2014, Netflix emerged as the leader in the industry's representation of women — and they're just getting started. Three more seasons of OITNB were just ordered, and Sophia Amoruso’s bestseller #Girlboss has been greenlit as their next highly anticipated series.
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Photo: Courtesy of JoJo Whilden/Netflix.
A Case Study On Diversity

In the words of OITNB star, Laura Prepon: “This is what we mean when we talk about diversity.” With this one show alone, Netflix is running laps around movies and TV. Besides excellent writing, the casting of OITNB is unprecedented. It's like an Ocean’s Eleven — but better — for women. Black, white, Latina, and Asian? Check. Lesbian, straight, bisexual, and transgender? Check. Loud, shy, noble, and conniving? Check. All shapes and sizes? You get the idea. What a relief to finally see women on screen who look like women on the street.
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Age Is Just A Number

If you’re frustrated with the media’s underrepresentation of women in your twenties, just wait until you get older and disappear completely. Instead of treating actresses like fine wine who get better with time, women past “childbearing” age are left out to dry. Not even queen Meryl Streep is exempt from this problem — she’s taken a stand by funding a screenwriting lab for women over 40. The director of the New York Women in Film and Television has said, “The complex voices of mature women are in danger of being lost entirely.” Yikes.

High fives to Netflix for going against the grain with their original series, Grace & Frankie — a comedy starring senior gals, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Fellow female and co-creator of Friends, Marta Kauffman, worked her magic on this one, and without Netflix it’s likely they wouldn’t have a platform.
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Photo: The WB/Photofest.
Bringing Back The Classics

As if bestowing us with several brand new programs wasn’t enough, Netflix announced plans to revive two fan favorites: 90s feel good sitcom Full House, and every girl’s favorite mother-daughter duo, Gilmore Girls. Rebooted as Fuller House, the storyline picks up with America’s favorite big sister, D.J. Tanner, as a widowed, working single mom, and centers on how Stephanie (how rude!) and Kimmy Gibbler rally around her for support. Basically, it’s what the original would have been if Bob Saget, John Stamos, and Dave Coulier had been cast as women. Is it award-winning stuff? No — but it takes us down memory lane while showcasing a relatable challenge many modern women face.

Scoring even more points is Gilmore Girls, one of the most beloved female-driven series of all time. Netflix is making every ‘00s fangirl’s dream come true with this reboot. The show is so normcore that on paper it’s probably hard to understand the allure — it’s set in the fictional small town of Stars Hollow, the single mom protagonist manages an inn, she gets along with her co-star daughter who’s also pretty clean cut — yet it works. It’s relatable yet unpredictable, full of clever dialogue, and the bond between Lorelai and Rory is addictive to watch. Cynics have tried to dampen the buzz by dubbing the reboot as more of a business decision than an authentic attempt to connect with women — but, hey, it’s a move in the right direction and shows how in touch Netflix is with their audience.
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Fall In Love With Female Comedians

Trying to succeed as a female comedian is like trying to get a spot on the boys football team — just take a look at America’s male dominated late night TV. With the conversation on the gender gap in comedy heating up, Netflix gives funny ladies the platform they deserve and proves that comedy isn't just a man’s world. The next time you have a lousy day or just need a break from binge-watching House of Cards, press play on Netflix’s collection of female comics. From well-know to obscure, Netflix boasts a lineup of original stand-up specials: Chelsea Handler’s Uganda Be Kidding Me, Chelsea Peretti’s One of the Greats, Jen Kirkman’s I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), Iliza Shlesinger’s Freezing Hot, and Anjelah Johnson’s Not Fancy. Other female comics you should add to your queue include: Joan Rivers, Mo’Nique, Leslie Jones (now one of the Ghostbusters), Kathleen Madigan, Debra DiGiovanni, and Heather McDonald. New stand-ups are added every month so you’ll never run out of options.
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Photo: Courtesy of Girls Club Entertainment.
Discover Feminist Documentaries

Filmmakers often create compelling content only to be left with no outlet, and consequently, no audience. Documentaries especially fall prey to distribution challenges — unfortunately, social impact isn’t a lucrative part of show business. Netflix, however, has made documentaries more accessible. The streaming service has grown its documentary catalog to over 400 titles. Other than viral sensation, Making a Murderer, it’s a treasure trove of thought-provoking films spanning a wide variety of women’s stories and issues. From pop culture (Miss Representation) to porn (Hot Girls Wanted), abortion (After Tiller), stigmas (Breastmilk), military rape (The Invisible War), and race (Dark Girls), Netflix connects both male and female audiences with non-fiction female narratives and gives these stories a chance to be heard.
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Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux.
Behind The Scenes

We all know that Netflix pushes boundaries on screen, but they also apply that approach behind the scenes. Maternity and paternity leave has been a core subject in the American workplace for as long as we can remember, so no one saw Netflix’s unlimited time off policy coming. Last August the company announced that
new moms and dads could take off as much time as they needed during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption. In the words of their Chief Talent Officer,We’ll just keep paying them normally...Each employee gets to figure out what’s best for them and their family, and then works with their managers for coverage during their absences.” It sounds too good to be true, but women everywhere are crossing their fingers that other employers will follow suit.
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