Weekly Word Watch: inclusion rider, bronze ceiling, and Kimoji
Experts confirmed this week the discovery of the world’s oldest message in a bottle, cast from a German ship in 1886 and washed up in Western Australia earlier this year. Its message? Inclusion rider, bronze ceiling, and Kimoji.
Sadly, not. The note included information about who wrote it and where it was thrown overboard, all part of a German experiment. But those three terms did make our women-themed Weekly Word Watch for International Women’s Day 2018.
After putting down her statuette and patting it on the head, Frances McDormand closed her acceptance speech for Best Actress at the 2018 Academy Awards last Sunday with a lexical mic drop: inclusion rider.
McDormand’s two-word call-to-action sent at-home viewers and red-carpet reporters alike to the internet, where all searches led back to Professor Stacy L. Smith, director of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (AII).
The AII think-tank researches, advocates, and takes action for greater equality and representation – or inclusion – for women, people of colour, the LGBTQ community, and persons with disabilities in film, television, and music. One way to bring about such inclusion, as Smith has notably proposed, is for top talent to leverage their star power by adding a clause to their contracts – a rider – stipulating that their participation in the production is contingent upon certain diversity proportions in cast and crew.
Smith called such a stipulation an equity rider in a 2014 op-ed in The Hollywood Reporter. And she first used the particular phrase inclusion rider in a 2016 TED Talk alongside equity clause and the original equity rider. Her institute brought inclusion rider to Twitter in November 2017:
Want to see inclusive storytelling in film & tv? Ask us how. A listers & power brokers can change their contracts w/an inclusion rider.
— Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (@Inclusionists) November 6, 2017
Thanks to McDormand taking advantage of her spotlight, the term inclusion rider is quickly spreading into the popular lexicon – and into the lexicon of fellow A-Listers like Michael B. Jordan. Jordan announced this week he heard McDormand’s ‘two simple words’ loud and clear:
In support of the women & men who are leading this fight, I will be adopting the Inclusion Rider for all projects produced by my company Outlier Society. I’ve been privileged to work with powerful woman & persons of color throughout my career & it’s Outlier’s mission to continue to create for talented individuals going forward. If you want to learn more about how to support the cause – link in bio. #OutlierSociety #AnnenbergInclusionInitiative
As for those two words, the Oxford English Dictionary first attests a contractual rider in 1975. Early on, the term was especially associated with food and drink, with stars demanding high-end products or high-maintenance requests (e.g., Van Halen’s notorious ban of brown M&M’s) backstage in food riders.
The contractual rider is an extension of a legislative rider, or ‘an addition or amendment to a bill after its initial drafting’, a sense dating back to at least the 17th century, the OED finds.
Meaning the ‘policy of including persons in any activity or organization regardless of identity’, inclusion appears in the written record by 1955. By the 1970s, the term especially named the educational practice of including students with special needs in mainstream classrooms.
Elsewhere in inclusion efforts (and statue news), the leader of the UK Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, added his signature this week to a letter sent to The Guardian. It calls for breaking the ‘bronze ceiling’ and celebrating the ‘extraordinary life and legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft’.
Co-signed by some 40 other prominent men in British politics and culture, the letter is part of a campaign, Mary on the Green, wanting a statue to founding feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, on Newington Green in London. Her memorialization would help break the so-called bronze ceiling, as the campaign notes that ‘90% of London’s statues commemorate men, leaving many incredible woman uncelebrated and ignored, like Mary Wollstonecraft’.
The bronze in bronze ceiling refers to the traditional construction of statues out of bronze, and the phrase cleverly riffs on the metaphor glass ceiling.
The glass ceiling is the ‘unacknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and minorities’. The expression turns 40 years old on 24 May this year, the day in 1978 management consultant Marilyn Loden is first credited with discussing an invisible glass ceiling.
Loden’s invisible helps explain her figurative glass: we fail to see, or simply look past, the institutional obstacles to women’s progress, but they are very real nonetheless. Ceiling, of course, has been an ‘upper limit’ since at least early 20th century.
After spreading in the 1980-90s, glass ceiling has since inspired many variations on its theme. The stained-glass ceiling describes the underrepresentation of women in religious leadership positions. The Latinx-American community has described its workforce as held back by a blue-collar ceiling and brown ceiling. Smith and McDormand’s inclusion riders seek to break a celluloid ceiling in Hollywood.
In 2008, Professors S. Alexander Haslam and Michelle Ryan coined glass cliff – shortlisted for Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 – for the corporate ‘tendency to appoint women to precarious (or simply suboptimal) leadership positions’. And in 2012, Merlyn Deng offered glass beaker ceiling to explain a lack of female role models in the sciences.
Mary on the Green’s bronze ceiling isn’t quite original coinage, if still novel and helping the phrase gain greater traction. In an August 2017 article in Time magazine, Maya Rhodan dubbed the glaring absence of women in US statutes, street names, and public art the bronze ceiling. And during Women’s History Month in 2014, the Boston Art Commission provided a yet earlier instance of bronze ceiling in a tweet about a sculptor whose winning design for a statue of Senator Charles Sumner was rejected in 1878 after it was discovered… she was a woman:
— BostonArtCommission (@PublicArtBoston) March 29, 2014
The commission’s description of the statue explains the brazen tale:
Shortly after Sumner’s death in 1874, a competition was held to design a monument to him. Boston artist Anne Whitney initially beat out a roster of well-known competitors… Nevertheless, the judges disqualified Whitney when they discovered she was a woman. Claiming that it would be improper for a woman to sculpt a man’s legs, they chose Thomas Ball’s design instead — an ironic story behind an artwork intended to honor Sumner’s fight for equality.
Kim Kardashian, meanwhile, was trying to shattering a pixel ceiling this week, apparently, when she released a new pack of ‘feminist’ KIMOJI in time for International Women’s Day:
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 7, 2018
For a mere $2.99, you can download Kim-based emoji (hence Kimoji) and GIFs of the superstar’s bosom and bottom, peaches and pizzas, and lipsticks and hairdryers – and now, stickers with slang-y, girl-power slogans like ‘Slay In Your Lane’, ‘Grab America Back’, and ‘The Future Is Nasty’. Her many fans may be delighted, but critics are crying foul of Kardashian’s capitalization on feminism.
Lexicographers, for our part, are noting that emoji have not only given us new communication tools, but also a combining form, -moji, that continues to produce new words.
The moji in emoji, you may recall, means ‘character’ in Japanese (with e, ‘picture’), and in recent years it has prompted plenty of blending in English.
Apple debuted Animoji in 2017, as we remarked on the blog. And in 2016–17, many celebrities followed Kardashian, who first launched her Kimoji in 2015, with their own branded emoji: Justmoji (Justin Bieber), Kevmoji (Kevin Hart), Heidimoji (Heidi Klum), Gagamoji (Lady Gaga), and the slightly less elegant Sheenoji (Charlie Sheen).
Ellen DeGeneres’ brand, Ellen Emoji Exploji, suggests we are definitely seeing an exploji of –moji compounding – and will be for some time to come.