Cue the ominous movie trailer voice: “In a world where half of the population is female, barely one in three people speaking onscreen are female.” That was the tenor at at Monday’s 2nd Global Symposium on Gender in Media, hosted by The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. But this was no press junket for a doomsday blockbuster – it was a presentation of facts painting a very real picture of how poorly women and girls are represented in some of the world’s most popular movies.
The study, “Gender Bias Without Borders: An Investigation of Female Characters in Popular Films Across 11 Countries” examined a total of 120 films produced by the United States, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United Kingdom. (Because so many popular films were collaborations between the U.S. and the U.K, these hybrid films were also examined, creating a hypothetical 12th territory.) The results are profoundly disturbing. In the last few weeks, the N.F.L. implosion over player violence against women has dominated the news cycle, and in May, the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil rights began investigating more than sixty colleges and universities that may have violated federal law in their mishandling of campus rape complaints. Sadly, the list of news about threatened, alleged and proven violence against women and those who speak on their behalf is interminable.
I’ve encountered many people who say that representation in media is not a big deal – they say that it’s just a movie, or just a commercial, and we should all lighten up and learn how to take a joke (example: comments section on LAMPlatoon’s Dr. Pepper “Men” video; many more unpublishable comments have been denied). But popular media play an undeniable role in establishing societal norms, validating certain behaviors and reflect the world both as it is and how it can be; they must be examined and questioned, and basic literacy skills must be applied. Even so, without more women in leadership roles both on screen and behind the scenes, the media industry has to take responsibility for shaping a culture of abuse, degradation and inequality.
— Emily Long
Follow me on Twitter: @emlong
Follow The LAMP on Twitter: @thelampnyc