Gender inequality in film is largely realized through everyday interactions. Oftentimes, women in the entertainment industry are met with casual to outright hostility visa ví mannerisms and speech. Whether by thought or sound, these behaviors create an environment where success is difficult. It ranges from being pigeonholed as “pretty to look at,” to being told their bodies are, to receiving “Indecent Proposals.” From Sh*t People Say to Women Directors:
Me (as a PA): Ok I am done that task you gave me, what can I do to help now?
My superior: Just stand there and look pretty.
(Said to me on almost every shoot).
“Why don’t you change into a more revealing dress before going, so we can get the filters with a discount?” – Said to me by my teacher, when I was producing a student short film. I was 17 years old.
“It squashes the comedy flow in the room because you’re too hot to be a total pig in front of.”
I’m an editor. A director once informed me that sitting next to me all day made him want to look at porn.
Me: So, what’s next after this project?
Male Producer: I think we should f*ck.
Sexuality is a major vehicle of gender inequality in film. The New York Film Academy reports that in the top 500 films over the last six years, 26.2% of actresses get partially naked (as opposed to 9.4% of men). In that same time period, the percentage of teenage girls depicted with some nudity increased 32.5%. With an ever-increased focus on sexuality and hyper-sexuality in Hollywood, women are judged on societal beauty norms first, rather than any other litmus.
Names hold power, as the old adage goes. Deliberately or casually, there’s an undercurrent of malice in the act of erasing women’s actual identities. When an assumption about a woman’s role is made, that’s where you begin to see the root of the problem. Hundreds of women in Hollywood have shared their experiences anonymously and in person:
I was ACing for a male DP whom I’ve worked with many times. He kept alternating between various pet names for me, but never for the male AC. When I confronted him and asked him to call me by my name instead of dear/darling/sweetie, he got the entire G&E department to call me Barbie.
In the AFI Conservatory as a Director Fellow, one of our professors would come into the class each morning and greet our group with “Good morning, Gentlemen.” The other woman and I were nonentities.
According to a 2014 study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, in 120 films made worldwide from 2010 to 2013, only 31% of named characters were female.
This demonstrates that women are literally background imagery or noise in most films, which is just another way gender inequality manifests itself in film.
In the minds of many, a woman either fits the “traditional” mold or she’s “a raging feminist”. In the minds of many, there is no “in between”. (Note: For the purpose of this blog, “a raging feminist” is a good thing.) Once that assumption is shattered, though, opposition falls into a stereotypical response.
“You are going to have to let me know when you have your period, so I know when to expect your work quality to be an issue.”
A male colleague offered to carry my tripod. I politely refused his help (mostly because I like to be responsible for my own gear). His response? “Oh, so you’re one of THOSE kinds of women are you?”
“I wish you wouldn’t wear heels. I don’t like you being taller than me.”
My boyfriend told me that he didn’t believe women were supposed to work in postproduction or cinematography, because it wasn’t a female thing to be “compositionally and technically creative.”
A survey of movie buyers and sellers conducted by the Female Filmmaker’s Initiative found that 12% of the participants questioned the competence of female directors.
I was in the middle of managing a complex, high-stress documentary shoot. And a male academic involved in the project leaned over and said kindly: “You’re going to be a great producer one day!” I said, “I am the executive producer.”
I was working as a Cam Assist on my first music video. One person asked if I was the makeup person and another asked me if I was one of the background dancers.”
Greeted by 2nd AD upon arrival to set: “Good morning! Make-up right? I’ll take you up to —” “I’m the director.”
The Female Filmmaker’s Initiative survey of movie buyers and sellers found that 44% perceived that women make films for a “subset and/or less significant portion of the marketplace.” The findings go on: “One explanation for this difference is the tendency to ‘think director, think male.’”
This is usually the part of the Hollywood story where things get wrapped up in a tidy, pretty bow. But that’s not this story. This story is To Be Continued in the truest sense of the word. But, as always, here’s some advice: keep working, keep creating, keep observing, keep thinking, and keep sharing. You might be facing rampant gender inequality in film right now, but change is coming; it’s up to us to decide how quickly it’s ushered into the room.
Missed Part 1? Read it here: Women In The Film Industry: Shove, Don’t Lean (Part 1)