According to the Center for Study of Women in Television & Film, 95.7 percent of all directors are male. Merely 4.3 percent are female. This statistic was produced by analyzing the top grossing 1,100 films made from 2007 to 2017. For every 22 male directors, there is only one female director. Women are represented by men. Incredible levels of sexualization and objectification of the female body are the consequence. There is no contrasting point of view; women do not have an equal voice. Unbalance in power, even when the power is held by open-minded, benevolent figures, leads to the submission of large parts of the population to one overpowering ideology. Women are submitted to the widespread and almost sole perspective of men.
James Cameron, renowned for having strong female leads in his films, was recently interviewed by The Guardian. He spoke about female sexualization and objectification on screen. He said, “All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over ‘Wonder Woman’ has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit. And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!”
“Half the population is female!” Cameron stated. Women are underrepresented and treated as a minority. Women are not a minority. The Center for Study of Women in Television & Film states that women make up 50 percent of the average audience. Yet, women are still told what to feel, how to act, how to dress and how to present themselves almost solely by men. A study by the University of Southern California (USC) analyzing gender, race, ethnicity and disability claims that 25 percent of female characters are presented on screen wearing ‘sexy attire’ in contrast to only 5 percent of men in similar clothing; 25 percent of female nudity is presented in comparison to only 9 percent of male nudity; finally, 10 percent of women are referred as attractive, in relation to merely 3 percent of men. There is a highly unbalanced gender representation. Women are not being given the chance to depict themselves. They are not speaking through popular media to other women.
But Hollywood is trying. The same study by USC claims that there was a 3 percent increase in female speaking characters between 2014 and 2015. This increase is matched by the findings of another USC study which examines the numbers of women in leading positions. This study claims there was an increase of female directors by 5 percent in the same time frame. Furthermore, Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 won the Academy Award for best director. She is the first woman to ever win in this category. Finally, in 2018, Rachel Morrison became the first woman to be nominated by the Academy for best cinematography. Things are changing. About a 100 years ago, women could not even vote.
Today, men’s desires and demands are widely portrayed in mainstream media. Women’s are yet to be. When men and women’s perspectives are finally equally voiced, equality will have been achieved. Calculating the number of female speaking characters will be nonsense. Applauding the shocking win of a female director will be exaggerated and unnecessary. No one will compare the number of male directors to the one of female directors. Gender representation will be free. There will be no supremacy.
Jacqueline Pantano can be contacted at