After logging out of Hotmail, I was faced with the question in the graphic you see to the left: “Is society sexist against men?” My initial, knee-jerk reaction was to snort with sceptical contempt… but then I slapped my wrist, opened my mind a crack, and clicked on the link, hoping to be enlightened.
Apparently David Benatar, head of the philosophy department at Cape Town University has bashed out a book called ‘The Second Sexism’ (pun!), which suggests that men are now getting screwed-over more than women, in many fundamental areas. Obviously I haven’t read the book in question, and don’t really have a strong enough grasp of socio-economic trends to debate the issue in any great depth… but, getting back to the main theme of this blog, it amused me to see this allegation come up in the same week that San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reported that females were “dramatically under-represented” in the United States’ top 100 grossing films last year, accounting for only 33% of all characters at a time when they made up nearly 51% of the U.S. population.
To quote from the LA Times article: The 33% figure represented an increase over the findings of a similar study in 2002, when females comprised 28% of the movie characters… But while there were more female characters overall, fewer of them were “clearly identifiable protagonists,” the study found – 11% in 2011 versus 16% in 2002. “Thus, while there are more female characters on screen today, fewer stories are told from a female character’s perspective,” according to Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center.
The report mirrored a study of women’s behind-the-scenes participation that the center released in January, which found that women made up 18% of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on the 250 highest-grossing movies last year. That was only one percentage point higher than when the center began studying employment figures in 1998.
Lauzen’s latest report said that, on average, female characters in last year’s films were younger than the male characters, less likely to be portrayed as leaders and more likely to be identified by their marital status. It said that 73% of the female characters were Caucasian, 8% African American, 5% Latina and 5% Asian (with the rest in smaller categories, including aliens and animals).
So, whatever the merits of Benatar’s research in other areas, his theory doesn’t seem to apply to the one industry I actually care about!
Meanwhile, I’m doing all I can to correct this oversight: Just this week I submitted two screenplays to competitions, and 100% of them feature a Desi woman as the central character or group leader… and if/when I get to Hollywood, you can bet I’ll be pitching starring vehicles for M-Rod ‘till they kick me out again! So there.