It is no secret that the film industry is made-dominated. According to Lauzen (2018), staff involved in the film production process from conceptualisation to release and distribution consisted of only 20% females in the year 2018 (pg. 1). To see a successful woman in the film industry is a rarity. Although initiatives have been created to help eradicate this immense inequality between females and males in the film industry, gender stereotypes and bias are still standing in the way of significant progress.
While roles in the production process such as producing, designing, and editing have seen an increase in the number of women, the reason for such progress is a sexist one. Women are given the task of slicing films together because it is comparable to sewing, a traditionally feminine activity. Similarly, the increase in the number of female producers can be attributed to producers being “facilitators who get stuff done rather than captains of the ship.” (Francke, 2016). Although there are a larger number of women in the aforementioned roles, the intention behind giving women those roles are insincere and based on unfair stereotypes. In addition, production crew members that deal with the most physical labour have remained mostly male dominated on the basis of yet another sexist stereotype that lugging around heavy camera and sound equipment is too physically taxing for women. The notion that women are not physically capable of handling heavy equipment is absurd considering women have been involved in military combat roles in the US since the ban was abolished in 2013, making up 15% of the nation’s mobilised troops (Gibbons-Neff, 2018). Women are also actively involved in physically taxing jobs such as firefighting and police work. Even so, due to the popular preconceived notion that women are physically incapable compared to men, traditionally masculine roles that require the individual to make big impactful decisions or perform some form of heavy lifting such as directing, cinematography, and music composition stay at a disappointing 12%, 8%, and 6% female makeup respectively (Quick, 2018).
Granted, one might argue that although progress in gender equality in the film industry has remained stagnant, it has led to uproar and anger among the film community, inspiring them to take action—which has led to louder initiatives being taken up that will create a female-friendly film industry in due time. One of these initiatives in the 4% challenge which was be created in order to remedy gender inequality in the media industry. According to the website for the 4% Challenge (2019), the challenge was initiated to feature at least one female director on a feature film in 18 months. Supported by big names in the media industry such as J.J. Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, and John Legend, many major Hollywood studios such as Paramount and Warner Bros. have taken the leap into bringing inclusivity to directing roles in film (Sakoui, 2019), —signalling the start of a major shift in gender equality in creative media roles.
Nonetheless, using these initiatives as a point to prove some sort of positive progress is rather tone-deaf, considering the biasness and unfair standards placed upon women in the film industry. Women that have worked in such roles are far from being treated as equals to their male counterparts. Female directors are still faced with unfair standards and expectations. According to Coles (2016), Failures made by female directors—amongst other creative roles, are gender-specific. In other words, if a female director fails to make it big in the box office, it is because she is a woman, not because of her abilities or personal shortcomings. In comparison, if a male director were to fail to make it big in the box office, his shortcomings are individualised (pg. 3). For this reason, even if there were to be an increase in women working in lead production roles, gender bias and stereotypes will still plague their working environment and create an unfair playing field against male counterparts.
Hence, while it can be argued that gender inequality in the film industry has inspired both individuals and big conglomerates to create equality initiatives that may or may not lead to an increase in the number of women in lead production roles, true progress cannot be made unless gender bias and stereotypes are completely eradicated or at the least, suppressed.
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