Women In Film… Or Not

According to a recent study commissioned by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, with support from UN Women and The Rockefeller Foundation, women account for less than a quarter (22.5 per cent) of on-screen roles in contemporary popular film.Besides being a wildly inaccurate portrayal of humanity (after all, half of the world’s population is female), these stats constitute trends that should be concerning to women and men alike. Women and girls who do make it onto the screen are twice as likely as their male counterparts to be shown in sexually revealing clothing, partially or fully naked, and/or thin. And, they’re five times as likely to be referenced as “attractive.”
Tomes of research from feminist psychology and beyond point to the importance of media in the gender socialization of youth. Documentaries like Dreamworlds – 3  and Killing Us Softly 4 (both directed by Sut Jhally) provide powerful illustrations of media messages and their potential consequences.
What should be done? Increasing women’s roles and addressing the disproportionate sexualization of women would be a start. But it isn’t enough. Consistent with the Bechdel test, the Geena Davis study found that females played only 15 per cent of on-screen high-powered roles (e.g., those of business executives, political figures, or STEM professionals). Is this the message we want to be sending our youth? It’s critical for us, as a society to look not only at how much but also at how we’re portraying women.
-Written by Corianna Elizabeth Sichel

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