Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ovaries Before Brovaries -- You Are What You Eat

I just came across an interesting and rage-inducing article on NPR called "Hollywood Needs More Women."  It's here, and I highly encourage the reading of it.

Some highlights:
Maybe you've noticed something missing at the movies - like women. I'd like to say hooray for Hollywood, but women make up a minority of movie creators: 7 percent of the directors, 13 percent of the writers, 20 percent of the producers. That's nearly five men for every woman working behind the scenes. Our cover story today: film's forgotten females.

Out of last year's biggest movies, 28 percent of the speaking characters were female. That's down from a third, five years ago. Those numbers are from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California.

UGH.  Gross, right?   Women are half the population!

Do you notice when only 28% of the speaking characters are female?  I sure as hell do, but I didn't always.  When we grow up watching TV and movies and the low percentage of women is everywhere, we get very used to it.  I would encourage anyone to really begin paying attention to the gender and racial makeups to the media you consume -- you'll find it to be overwhelmingly White and male.  Now, some of my best friends are White dudes, but sometimes I enjoy looking at somebody different.

More from the article.  Caution:  anger, ahoy!

(Geena) DAVIS: My theory is that since all anybody has seen, when they are growing up, is this big imbalance - that the movies that they've watched are about, let's say, 5 to 1, as far as female presence is concerned - that's what starts to look normal. And let's think about - in different segments of society, 17 percent of cardiac surgeons are women; 17 percent of tenured professors are women. It just goes on and on. And isn't that strange that that's also the percentage of women in crowd scenes, in movies? What if we're actually training people to see that ratio as normal so that when you're an adult, you don't notice?

(Jacki) LYDEN: I wonder what the impact is of all of this lack of female representation.

DAVIS: We just heard a fascinating and disturbing study, where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there's 17 percent women, the men in the group think it's 50-50. And if there's 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.
LYDEN: Oh, my goodness.

DAVIS: So is it possible that 17 percent women has become so comfortable, and so normal, that that's just sort of unconsciously expected?

Let me repeat one of those tidbits in there:   ...they found that if there's 17 percent women, the men in the group think it's 50-50. And if there's 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.

Just think about that for a second.  Anything more than 17%, and women have overstepped our welcome.  That's disgusting!  And I'm not even addressing the gross imbalance and poor representation of People of Color in the media.  (Here's a great place to start on that score -- Racialicious articles about representation in media.)

What can I do about this?  Well, I don't write for the screen as of now, but I do write books (and I wouldn't mind one of them becoming a movie.  Abrams, call me!), and I now think about gender imbalance whenever I create a new character.  I used to find myself defaulting to men every single time, unless I needed a M/F pairing.

AAAAHHHHH YES!  Even me, the female-character lover, the pro-female-person champion!  EVEN I have been brainwashed into thinking that male = more interesting.  We all have.  So now, when I can make a character female, I do.  Isn't that just as bad as always defaulting to men? a small-minded person might cry.  Nope.  I'm seeking to address the imbalance, and creating as many female characters as I can is a way to help.  I'm not Nora Roberts or Julia Quinn, but maybe, just maybe, I can help in my own, small way.

I would encourage anyone reading this to choose books and films, if you can, that serve both the sexes.  This weekend, I'm going to see The Heat starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock.  Both because I hear it's AMAZEBALLS funny, and because I just plain want to give a woman-centric film my money.  Vote with your dollar -- money is the only thing that changes the landscape.  Buy a book written by a woman or a Person of Color, maybe even one with a protagonist who is not a dude.

Don't worry, you're already giving the male-centric stuff your attention.  You can't help it.


  1. Oh my goodness. You are totally right. It's almost always just the heroine or her and her BFF in romance. If there's another woman, she's the villainess who is trying to steal the hero.

    How awful!

    Except...I kind of don't mind. Is that weird? Having lots of females in the supporting cast would throw me for a loop. I'd be looking for possible heroes for them like Marge Simpson in that scene where she insists everyone belongs in pairs. She even shoves the cat and dog together to make them a pair.

    It's probably an effect of reading so many books where there are few supporting females in the cast. If the balance were more even, that would probably feel normal to me.

    Good topic, Lucy!

  2. Hey, Jessi! Yes, we must learn to change our mindsets and represent ourselves better. The brainwashing we receive is pervasive, and it takes effort to demand the change we want to see. Hey, maybe think of it this way -- some of the ladies in your supporting cast could enjoy other ladies if they simply must pair up! ;)