Sexism in Cinema: We Need to Do Better

Director Kathryn Bigelow at the reception for the Foreign Language Film Award category for the 86th Oscars®, on Friday, February 28, 2014. The Oscars® will be presented on Sunday, March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre® in Hollywood, CA and televised live by the ABC Television Network.

Award ceremonies such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars are a momentous occasion for both film lovers and those working in the industry alike. Their job is to celebrate and represent what cinema has achieved over the course of the year; unfortunately, however, they also seem to represent the casual sexism still apparent in Hollywood today. From ‘Mani Cams’ to “Who are you wearing?”, women’s biggest achievements seem to be how they’re dressed as opposed to how they’ve contributed to the world of film, whereas if a man is even asked who he’s wearing at all it’s usually an afterthought to questions focused on his career. Case in point, at the Golden Globes ceremony this year Rosamund Pike was nominated for her fantastic performance as one of the most complex roles of the year, yet on the red carpet was mainly asked about being a new mother as well as having the “bravery” to show so much skin after just recently being pregnant; not two minutes later, Eddie Redmayne was being asked questions solely about him taking on such a challenging role.

Then there’s the women behind the camera, or lack thereof. The latest Celluloid Ceiling Report conducted by the Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University revealed that in 2014, women comprised just 17% of all directors,  writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing films in the USA, while only Angelina Jolie, director of Unbroken, and Ava DuVernay, director of Selma, cracked the top 100; what makes matters worse is the fact these are the exact same results from seventeen years ago. You would think that in the Academy’s eighty-seven years female representation would have vastly improved but we have still yet to see a year where multiple women are nominated for Best Director, one of the biggest categories of the ceremony.GTY_ava_duvernay_sk_141215_16x9_992Of the 520 Best Picture nominees in Oscarhistory, only twelve were directed or co-directed by women, while only four women have ever actually been nominated: Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (1976), Jane Campion for The Piano (1993), Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003), and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2009). So far Bigelow has been the only female winner.

Is it any wonder then that fewer women are finding work behind the scenes given how we’re represented on-screenjennifer-lawrence-oscar-2013? According to the same report, in the top-grossing films of 2014 females comprised a mere 12% of protagonists (a 3% drop from the previous year) and just 30% of roles with a speaking part. If more women were given the opportunity to write and direct their own films we’d surely see a massive difference given how the report also shows that 39% of protagonists in films from female writers and directors were women, whereas that number drops to a measly 4% from male filmmakers. The fact female-led superhero movies have only just been confirmed when the genre has been dominating cinema over the past decade is also appalling, particularly since thus far we’ve primarily been portrayed as either the disposable love interest or family member of the male hero, and while many do recognise this as an ongoing problem, a lot of people (mostly men) are still desperate keep it that way – when the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters was announced, for example, many took to Twitter to complain about the “gender pandering”. It seems some people are afraid of a little balance when it comes to who gets the complex and iconic roles.

It’s no secret that the Academy has a shocking lack of interest in women, exemplified best by the fact that every Best Picture nominee this year focused on stories of men, with only one of the Best Actress nominee’s films garnering a Best Picture nomination. Given how women make up around half of the population, things need to change. Cinema needs to do better and so do we as an audience – let the big bosses know we’re worth being invested in by giving your money to projects led and helmed and worked on by women. Make a point of seeking out films that actually make an effort to show our strengths, our weaknesses, our highs, our lows, and above all represent us for the multifaceted people that we are.

Words by Samantha King

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