Gender Inequality In Movies Essay

A bold statement for recognition of talent, the Oscar Award has become one of the most coveted awards in the film industry. Simply being nominated for an Oscar carries it’s own prestige. Every year, actors, film crews and fans alike anticipate nominations and winners for each category. A curious trend continues to arise with the annual Oscar nominees and winners. Not since 2004’s Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby, has a film featuring a strong lead female character won their Oscar nomination. In fact, of the eight nominees for Best Picture every year, 3 films – at most – featuring strong female leads are nominated.

The use of female stereotypes in films could account for this continued trend. The film industry perpetuates stereotypes of females through storytelling, causing a continuation of gender inequality by normalizing female inferiority, however the increased involvement of females during film production is one solution to reduce stereotyping females in films. Filmmakers perpetuate stereotypes of females in the name of storytelling. In order to create meaning in their work filmmakers choose universally recognizable characteristics. These characteristics often include stereotypes.

The research article, “An Ambivalent Alliance” by Peter Glick and Susan Fiske, notes observed female stereotypes as a,”classical representations of women [that] fit[s] into the polarized categories of goddesses, whores, wives, and slaves… similarly extreme characterizations of women in popular culture, such as film depictions that divide women into faithful wives and murderous seductresses. ” (Glick & Fiske, 2001, p. 110). Glick and Fiske explain stereotypes against females have a range of subordinate labels. All of which give a negative image to women. Filmmakers label females timid, ditzy, or vengeful by scripted mannerism.

As well as, casting females in subordinate roles such as secretaries, stay-at-home-mothers or nurses. In the male dominated film industry, females have become a subgroup at the mercy of negative portrayals due to stereotyping. The more filmmakers rely on stereotyping to tell their stories the more they perpetuate these stereotypes about females. The film industry’s perpetuation of female stereotypes normalizes the idea of female inferiority causing the continuation of gender inequality. Stereotyping females creates a domino effect that leads to maintaining gender inequality.

The film industry’s long standing portrayals of female stereotypes have socially normalized these ideas. Normalizing females stereotypes pose an issue for women because it implies inferiority in the community. Socially accepted ideas seem to be normal and become strange to contradict. Thus, causing the continuation of gender inequality. Gwyn Kirk and Margo Okazawa-Rey’s book, “Women’s Lives: Multicultural Perspectives” explains why circumstances that cause inequality are effective. “Maintaining systems of inequality requires ongoing objectification and dehumanization of subordinate peoples.

Appropriating their identities is a particularly effective method of doing this, for it defines who the subordinated group/ person is or ought to be” (Kirk & Okazawa-Rey, 2013, p. 106). The passage explains that a method that maintain inequality need to portray the oppressed as either objects and less than human because it effectively labels the oppressed. The film industry’s use of stereotypes for storytelling has become a method of inequality that labels females as inferior. As the film industry continues to use female stereotypes the more normal the idea of female inferiority in the social community will become.

Ultimately continuing gender inequality. Despite the film industry’s by-product of continuing gender inequality one solution to reducing gender inequality in films lies in the incorporation of more female involvement during film production. The old saying, “a woman’s touch” is true in many instances. Allowing women to have more involvement in the production of films would limit stereotypes used by the male dominated industry. New studies are correlating the involvement of women behind-the-scenes with the more positive portrayals and opportunities for women on the big screen.

Reporter, Lindsay Hunter Lopez reported on a University of Southern California School of Journalism study on the film industry. “The study found that when women make or write movies, they feature significantly more female characters. [Professor Stacy L. ] Smith says this is the outcome of male writers and directors telling the stories they know. “If the numbers behind the scenes move,” Smith says, “we’re likely to see numbers on-screen move” (Lopez, 2011). Lopez reports Professor Smith’s comments regarding the study was, the more females in production the more actresses and female perspectives will be seen in films.

Seeing more actresses and having a female perspective in films will give audiences visual representation that disproves long held female stereotypes. As the female stereotypes wane away the film industry begins to show more gender equality. The University of Southern California’s study is similar to a University of San Diego’s study that examined the change in female character roles with the involvement of female directors and/ or writers. Dr. Martha M. Lauzen’s statistical conclusion to the study stated, “in films with at least one woman director and/ or writer females comprised 50% of protagonist.

In films with exclusively male directors and writers, females accounted for 13%” (Lauzen, 2016, p. 4). Dr. Lauzen data concluded that when women are involved in production the opportunity for females to be the lead character drastically increase as opposed to when women are not involved in production. Both studies come to the conclusion that there are more opportunities to gain the female perspective when women are a part of film production. When females contribute their perspective on situations, men shortened to a single stereotype, will reduce the amount of female stereotypes audiences see in films.

In summary, the filmmakers use female stereotypes to tell their stories causing the perpetuation of female stereotypes, however the solution to reducing female stereotypes in film is allowing more females to be involved in film productions. Female stereotyping is abundant in films because filmmakers are predominantly males. Their use of stereotypes has less to do with prejudice and more so with ignorance of the opposite sex. Female stereotypes are present in their filmmaking because it suits the story from the filmmaker’s perspective.

Unfortunately, the more filmmakers use female stereotypes in their work the more they give the impression that females are inferior. Visual representations have a strong impact on audiences. Due to our technologically connected world these representations have the power to reach billions of people and influence their opinions. If billions of people are continually shown female stereotypes it hinders achieving gender equality because billions of people view women as inferior. Lastly, the solution to reducing gender inequality in films is to allow women the opportunity to input their perspectives.

Males dominate the film industry and give their depiction of the best way to tell their story. However, inserting the female perspective broadens the scope of how best to storytell. Involvement in film production is a macro-level solution to reducing gender inequality. A micro-level solution that all females can participate in is taking an interest in male dominated fields. Males write about what they know. If they know females are capable in a variety of areas that’s what they will write about. When we can prove to one another that we are truly equal, that is the best way to end gender inequality.