If you consider yourself a film buff, then you should be up to date on all the latest Oscar trivia. Well, can you answer this question? How many women have won Best Director? I’ll save you the googling: one. Just one woman has won Best Director in the 89 years the Academy Awards have been around. And, how many women have been nominated for Best Director? Spoiler alert; the answer is four. I’ll cut to the chase; gender inequality in the film industry is a problem.
If you are a socially conscious person, then you are probably aware of the 21 percent gender pay gap. You know, the one where women working full time make only 79 cents for every dollar that a man makes. Well, if you can believe it, that pay gap within Hollywood is even worse.
According to Forbes salary statistics, women actors, producers, directors, and writers on average make just 40 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. That is a 60 percent pay gap. A study done by New York Women in Film and Television, states the percent of women protagonists reached an all-time high in 2016. Sadly, that “all-time high” is only 29 percent. Stick that statistic in your memory bank for the next time some ignorant misogynist says, “We don’t need feminism anymore,” because according to these statistics, we do.
A study conducted with the help of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media analyzed the sexualization of women and girls in film as well as the substance making up their characters. Art imitates life, so it’s no surprise that women were seldom shown in positions of leadership and power. In the few cases that women were shown working, they were overrepresented when it came to characters such as school teachers, stay-at-home moms, secretaries, and sex symbols.
These are not archetypal characters, and they can and should be challenged. The same goes for those notorious positions of power. Women can be bosses the same way men can be secretaries. One’s position of power is not defined by their gender identity, and the mainstream film industry needs to stop insinuating that it does.
Kathryn Bigelow, the only woman to win Best Director, gushed in her acceptance speech to Barbara Streisand, “I’m so honored. I am so honored.” Oddly, Bigelow didn’t mention the milestone that she had achieved in her acceptance speech .
While critics have hemmed and hawed over this apparent forgetfulness, it is actually quite a statement in itself that Bigelow said nothing. She should not have had to mention outright that she was the first woman to win Best Director because the fact that it didn’t happen until 2010 is, frankly, very embarrassing.
According to an article by The Guardian, it seems the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is likely to sue major Hollywood studios for discriminatory behavior against women directors. Due to the grand influence pop culture and art have over economical, political, and social life; if Hollywood would mainstream gender equality, so many limiting, discriminating barriers would finally be broken down.