Photo: BEImages/Jim Smeal.
A new study from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has a startling finding: When it comes to the portrayal of women in films, we may as well be living in a Michael Bay movie. The Institute studied 120 films from 11 countries to see how females were represented. Not only did the research reveal a significant lack of women as the lead or co-lead, female characters mostly served as eye candy or "the girlfriend of the person that's having all the adventures," actress Geena Davis tells USA Today.
Even in crowd scenes, only 17% of people onscreen were female. How does that even make sense? Where are these large groups of human beings with disproportionately fewer females than there are in the general population? Unfortunately, this image enters our heads, and "seeing this imbalance [starts to look] normal," Davis points out.
Films from the United States performed particularly poorly in the study. "South Korea had 50% of the lead characters female. China, Brazil, and Australia had 40% female characters as the lead. The U.S. is very far from that," Davis says. The study also found that in movies, 80% of the characters who had jobs were male. There are virtually no women in strong leadership roles.
"What's holding everyone back — really in all sectors of society — [is that] the percentage of women in leadership positions has stalled out at around 17 to 20%...It's kind of everywhere," Davis says. Seeing this poor representation of themselves on screen can have an effect on girls' self-esteem.
"The more hours of TV a girl watches, the fewer options she thinks she has in life," Davis points out. Still, she remains hopeful. "Art doesn't have to imitate life; we can turn it around so life can imitate art." Davis says that simply showing more women in positions of power and pursuing STEM careers in movies and on TV will help shift the balance.
It's pretty depressing that in 2014, we need a study to remind us of the concept of putting more females onscreen, and not just as sexy objects. But, this is where we are. Let's hope this is the last time research ever finds results this grim. (USA Today)