A child growing up in the United States today can be anything she wants to be – right? The glass ceiling that has held so many back for so many years has supposedly been cracking further and further, rising higher and higher, to the point that it’s rarely talked about anymore. Recently, however, the New York Times published a collection of editorials about the prevalence (0r lack there of) of women in film & television. Never had I thought before that my aspirations to be a producer or director could be hindered by the fact that I’m female. By my lack of connections, my choice of a liberal arts college instead a film school, by the fact that I live in St. Louis instead of Chicago, New York, or LA – yes. Those limitations have occurred to me, but the fact that I’m a woman? Really? Still?
According to the Center for the Women in Film & Television, only 24% of positions as directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, and editors on films appearing at top U.S. film festivals are held by women and women hold only 16% for domestically produced feature-length films. The situation in television is much the same. Women comprised only 25% of all individuals working as creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography on broadcast television programs during the 2010-11 prime-time season.
Women are drastically under-represented and this has to change. There is no reason for such a split. Women are no less talented, hard-working, or creative, so why are they being treated so? Cathy Schulman with Women in Film hypothesizes in her article that this is because many of the few women who earn high up positions assimilate too much into the male-dominated patterns. They, like their male co-horts become afraid to take a chance on a woman’s film because if their women-based film fails, it could be disastrous for their career, and, as an audience, women are seen as fickle & inconsistent. Susan Cartsonis points out in her article that there is little evidence to support that. In fact, she says, there is little research done on women’s movie choices at all even though over half of theater tickets are purchased by women. Looking at the success of films such as The Help, When Harry Met Sally, and Julie & Julia, she sees evidence that research on women’s movie-going habits & preferences would only help women – both those making movies and those deciding which to go see.
The Center for Women in Film & Television further reports that females accounted for 33% of all characters in the top 100 domestic grossing films. This represents an increase of 5 percentage points since 2002 when females comprised 28% of characters. While the percentage of female characters has increased over the last decade, the percentage of female protagonists has declined. In 2002, female characters accounted for 16% of protagonists. In 2011, females comprised only 11% of protagonists.
If we want a break in the cycle of same old story at the movies, if we want new films, different films we have to start supporting the women in film, and especially the women who make them, consistently.