This Is What Frances McDormand Meant When She Said ‘Inclusion Rider’ at the Oscars

Acclaimed actress Frances McDormand just took home the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in the film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. As she concluded her acceptance speech, the Fargo actress said something very powerful. She proclaimed, “I have two words for you: inclusion rider.”

While people at home and in the audience applauded McDormand, many of us were left a bit puzzled. So what did McDormand mean when she said, “inclusion rider”?

A time for women

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Actor Frances McDormand accepts Best Actress for 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' onstage during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Frances McDormand was one of the many women to deliver a powerful speech. | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In just under a year, the entertainment industry has changed drastically. Since news of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein broke last fall, many women in film and TV have come forward with accusations of sexual harassment against the former movie mogul and other prominent men. The Times Up and Me Too movements have become so powerful that new legislation and laws have been formed to protect people from these types of behaviors.

As more women from in front of and behind the camera speak up, it’s certainly a time for women to shine in Hollywood.

Next: Unheard voices 

Acknowledging the voices

(FromL) Actress Ashley Judd, US-Italian actress Annabella Sciorra and Mexican-Lebanese actress Salma Hayek deliver a speech about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry during the 90th Annual Academy Awards show on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. / AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

These three got a chance to speak out. | Mark Ralston /AFP/Getty Images)

For too long, women’s voices have been shunned across the globe, and though there is a long way to go, the Academy Awards honored women who risked so much to speak out about what has happened to them. Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, and Annabella Sciorra, three women how have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, all spoke to the Academy Awards audience.

Judd said that moving forward she hoped to “empower these limitless possibilities of equality, diversity, inclusivity, intersectionality — that’s what this year has promised us.”

Next: Mixing it up

Diversity and inclusion

Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez pose in the press room with the Oscar for Original Song during the 90th Annual Academy Awards on March 4, 2018, in Hollywood, California. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez talked about the importance of inclusion. | Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Women aren’t the only people finding their voices in Hollywood. Minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, and other underrepresented groups are also finding their stride in an industry that has historically left them out.

In their acceptance speech for their Best Song Award, Coco songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez spoke about the importance of inclusion. Anderson-Lopez said, “When you look at a category like ours, it helps to imagine a world where all the categories look like this one.

Next: Available to all 

Inclusion rider

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Actor Frances McDormand accepts Best Actress for 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' onstage during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Frances McDormand delivered this powerful reminder. | Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

So what on earth did McDormand mean when she discussed an inclusion rider? Backstage at the Oscars, she elaborated:

I just found out about this last week. [An inclusion rider] has always been available to all — everybody who does a negotiation on a film — which means you can ask for or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting but the crew. The fact that I just learned that after 35 years in the film business — we aren’t going back.”

Next: Making movies better

Access

A screenshot of Whitney Cummings tweet

Whitney Cummings reiterated the importance of inclusion riders. | Whitney Cumming via Twitter

McDormand was right when she said that all actors have access to inclusion riders. In fact, they can demand them in their contracts.

Comedian Whitney Cummings went on to explain on Twitter saying, “An inclusion rider is something actors put into their contracts to ensure gender and racial equality in hiring on movie sets. We should support this for a billion reasons, but if you can’t find a reason to, here’s one: it will make movies better.”

Next: Setting an example

Setting the tone

Ava Duvernay claps her hands

Ava Duvernay is leading by example. | Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

There are already two major shows setting the tone for women, in particular. Since its first season, OWN’s Queen Sugar created by Ava DuVernay has had only female directors behind the camera. That will remain the same when the third season premieres in the summer.

Netflix is following in DuVernay’s footsteps with the second season of its Marvel series Jessica Jones. Only women will be seated behind the camera.

Next: An immediate change 

A change we can see

Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o (L) and US actress Danai Gurira arrive for the 90th Annual Academy Awards on March 4, 2018, in Hollywood, California. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

These riders could make a big difference for women in the industry. | Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

If all A-list actors began demanding inclusion riders, we would begin seeing a change almost immediately.

As Stacy Smith, USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, told The Hollywood Reporter back in 2014,

What if A-list actors amended every contract with an equity rider? The clause would state that tertiary speaking characters should match the gender distribution of the setting for the film, as long as it’s sensible for the plot. If notable actors working across 25 top films in 2013 had made this change to their contracts, the proportion of balanced films (about half-female) would have jumped from 16 percent to 41 percent. Imagine the possibilities if a few actors exercised their power contractually on behalf of women and girls. 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. In other words, reality.

Follow Aramide on Twitter @midnightrami.

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