New Research: Females Are of Lesser Value Than Males

by Melissa Silverstein
April 28, 2011 2:05 AM
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New research from Stacy Smith and Marc Choueiti of USC's Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism has tracked women on screen and behind the scenes in the top 100 grossing films of 2008.

Here are the main highlights:
• Males outnumber females in speaking roles. Out of 4,370 speaking roles, 1,435 or just 32.8% of those roles are female.
• Girls aged 13-20 are hypersexualized in films. Compared to boys, young women wear revealing clothing - 39.8% vs. 6.7%..
• There are very few women working behind the scenes of films. (This research is very similar to Dr. Martha Lauzen's studies. Dr. Lauzen counts the top 250 grossing films and this study counts the top 100 grossing films. The numbers are close but not exactly the same because of the different parameters.)
The numbers in this study show:
Women directors - 8%
Women writers - 13.6%
Women Producers - 19.1%.

Not surprisingly, when there are women involved behind the scenes there is more of a chance for there to be a woman onscreen.

These findings suggest that b-­‐t-­‐s (behind the scenes) women may be advocating for onscreen female characters. Or, it may be the case that studios are more likely to attach above-­‐the-­‐line females as directors/writers when developing female-­‐driven storylines.

I think it's probably both.

Here's the conclusion:

Our findings reveal that motion picture content is sending two consistent and troubling messages to viewers. The first is that females are of lesser value than are males. This is evidenced by their on screen presence and the lack of employment opportunities  behind-­‐the-­‐camera.
The second is that females are more likely than males to be valued for their appearance. Roughly a fifth to a quarter of all female speaking characters are depicted in a  hypersexualized light. These numbers jump substantially higher when only teenaged females are considered. This result is particularly troubling, given  the frequency
with which young males and females go to the multiplex.

This research confirms what we already know. Women are valued less than men.

Sidenote: There was some confusion earlier this week about two new research studies released from Stacy Smith at USC's Annenberg School of Communications. I thought both of the pieces were from the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media. I was wrong. The piece I wrote about earlier this week was research for the Geena Davis Institute. This research is directly from USC.
Film study: Men talk and women show skin (USA Today)

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  • Crew woman | April 30, 2011 1:33 AMReply

    Thank you. I'm a woman who works behind the scenes, in a few different capacities. I am often the only female in my dept. ...sometimes the only non acting female in a position that is not make-up, wardrobe or scripty.

  • brooke | April 29, 2011 10:08 AMReply

    This is nothing new. It's been like this for as long as I can remember. Despite 40+ years of the modern women's movement, the depiction of women has gotten worse, especially in the last 10 years. Take a look at any of the shows on ABC Family Channel. Dear lord, I won't let my children watch those. What I would like to see is some research on how the hypersexualized depiction of teen-age girls contributes to the misogyny that is rampant on college campuses these days.

  • Lisa Gildehaus | April 28, 2011 8:10 AMReply

    This makes me crazy. Thank you.

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