Sometimes you don’t notice how prominent something is until a study comes out and slaps you in the face with the grim statistics. The University of Southern California recently did a study titled “Gender Inequality in Popular Films: Examining On Screen Portrayals and Behind-the-Scenes Employment Patterns in Motion Pictures Released between 2007-2009.” Many of their findings point to several disturbing trends in popular movies: women have far fewer speaking roles than men, and when women/girls are on screen, they tend to be sexualized much more often than men. Here are a few of the study’s key findings:
- “32.8 percent of the speaking characters are female and 67.2% are male. This translates into 2.05 males to every one female. The percentage of female characters in 2009 films is identical to the percentage in 2008 films.”
- “In 2009, females are more likely than males to be shown in sexy attire (25.8% vs. 4.7%), partially naked (23.6% vs. 7.4%), and attractive (10.9% vs. 2.5%). Looking at females specifically, 13-20 year olds are just as likely as 21-39 year olds to be shown in sexy attire (33.8% vs. 33.5%, respectively) and partially naked (28.2% vs. 30.5%, respectively).”
- “…[F]emales accounted for only 3.6% of directors, 13.5% of writers, and 21.6% of producers. This calculates into a ratio of 4.51 males to every one female.”
Considering that women represent half the population and “purchase roughly 50% of domestic movie tickets sold”, it’s shocking and disappointing that women are so underrepresented on screen.
However, the news isn’t all bad. The study also found that “A 10.2% increase of females on screen is observed when one or more women are involved as screenwriters on motion pictures.” Awesome! This just proves how vital it is that we expose girls to the types of media careers they can pursue, which is exactly what our Media Literacy® programs do. Often, girls may not even realize the wide array of media careers available to them. We want them to know that they don’t need to be the star of the show to be involved in making a movie—why not be a director instead! Kathryn Bigelow may have been the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director in 2010, but she certainly won’t be the last if we have anything to do with it!