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Here's something I thought was right up our collective alley - apparently Geena Davis (currently playing the American president on some ABC show I'm only aware of through a hideously large bulletin board behind our neighborhood Rite Aid) has started a new organization to address "the lack of female characters in television, movies and other media, particularly for young children." Their website, SeeJane.org includes the following findings:

- There are three male characters for every female.

- Fewer than one out of three (28 percent) of the speaking characters (real and animated) are female.

- Less than one in five (17 percent) of the characters in crowd scenes are female.

- More than four out of five (83 percent) of films’ narrators are male.


It's an interesting thought, and once I started working over the movies (especially kids movies) I've seen recently, I realized that most of them fit the trend exactly. It's the kind of thing that hardly gets noticed in our culture, I think, because we're so used to it, but I like the point that this really messes with the opportunities for kids to have female role models (or even just female images) to deal with.
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thoughtful thoughtful
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On May 17th, 2006 09:59 pm (UTC), divalea commented:
I've noticed it, but oh my goodness the beatings I took from some quarters for pointing it out. (See January this year in my LJ.)
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On May 18th, 2006 04:43 pm (UTC), rivendellrose replied:
It's funny how many people view equality as some kind of infringement on their gods-given rights, isn't it?

"Funny," of course, in the sense of "dear god, what are you, five?" Ahhh, immaturity. :P Glad to see you've been taking the opportunity for consciousness-raising, though. I think eventually people will get used to the idea that this kind of thing just plain isn't okay. The world won't end if we level the playing field.
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On May 18th, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC), rivendellrose replied:
I'd noticed with main characters, but the crowd thing had never occurred to me. Now I have a feeling I'll be analyzing every crowd-scene I see. ;)
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On May 18th, 2006 02:42 am (UTC), miss_arel commented:
This is definitely one of those things that you don't reall ynotice till you sit down and think about it, but it really is everywhere. It made me really stop and think, the first time I realized that both Bleach and LOST, two shows I enjoy with large casts that seemed to me to have an unusual amount of strong female characters... still had only a 3:1 or 2:1 ration of men to women.

Still, taking a story (say, Harry Potter) and imagining what it would be like if all the genders were flipped is... interesting. ^^
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On May 18th, 2006 02:51 am (UTC), sixth_light replied:
Lost may have strong female characters, but the fact that every single one of them has been beaten up/kidnapped/held hostage/killed/is bat-shit insane diminishes my respect for the program. I mean, the Others are the big scary all-powerful menace - and was one single Other female?

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On May 18th, 2006 03:01 am (UTC), miss_arel replied:
Yeah, you're right that all the female characters have been put through the mental and physical wringer, but isn't that true of the male characters, as well? I mean, Delenn Danielle is pretty crazy, but Jack, John, Micheal, Hurley, and Sayid aren't exactly bastions of sanity or good judgment either. Sawyer got tortured. Charlie and Walt got kidnapped. *SPOILER* got killed. It doesn't seem (to me) like the male cahracters are being put up on a pedestal while the females are abused -- these are all seriously flawed and messed up people, and they all go through the some really messed-up shit -- I wouldn't say that the men are in any way less exempt from it than the women are.

As for the Others -- I admit I'm about 4 episodes behind so I'm not up on the most recent stuff -- but we haven't really seen that many Others, have we? I can't really judge on their demographics yet.

Don't get me wrong, the show is definitely not perfect -- that skewed male:female ration for starters -- but I don't think its treatment of womenis as one-sided as your comment makes it sound.
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On May 18th, 2006 03:14 am (UTC), sixth_light replied:
I was thinking of times like where Kate is told to Not Follow The Boys, because they have Important Male Stuff to do, and a severely injured guy is still better than a girl, after all. When she disobeys, is kidnapped and held hostage. This is despite the fact that it has previously been established that Kate can kick ass at the Important Male Stuff in question. The show validates the order that she stay behind by having her end up in a powerless position, even though it was a stupid and plain wrong order that ignored her proven ability to do the required task. That's the kind of thing that annoys me.

You're right - Lost is into beating up everyone - but I just dislike the way that the women in particular are alternately kickass then powerless in positions where they wouldn't put a man.
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On May 18th, 2006 03:23 am (UTC), miss_arel replied:
That particular incident definitely annoyed me, too -- but to ome, it seemed less of the writers condoning that sort of behavior, and more Jack Being Stupid Again. He seems to do this a lot. (I'm not paricularly fond of him, or of Kate, for that matter...) I don't think Jack told her to stay behind not because she was a girl, but because he likes her and didn't want her to get hurt, and decided that Kate not getting hutr was more important than Kate making her own decisions, which I felt was a very stupid decision. But then, Jack has always been kinda stupid where Kate's concerned, it seems.

As for Kate getting caught by the Others, I still kinda feel like even if it hads been a man in that position, he still wouldn't have fared any better; so far, no one who's gone up against the Others directly has had any luck at all. So while I think Jack made a mistake by telling Kate to stay behind, and Kate made a mistake by going off into the jungle alone, I'm reluctant to attribute it to sexism on the part of the writers. I dunno, that's just how I see it. ^^;
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On May 19th, 2006 12:05 am (UTC), sigelphoenix replied:
*butts into conversation*

I'm one of those people who thinks that everyone is sexist (i.e., has internalized sexism and goes along with it, even if they don't actively try to be sexist), so I have no problem in saying that the Lost writers are motivated by sexism. :P

Joking aside, though, I see a lot of trends in the show that prevent me from calling it gender-equal or feminist (even if I think the portrayal of women is better than most shows). It feels like Kate's kickass-ness has been gradually declining since season 2 began. She doesn't fight or outsmart anyone these days. Getting caught by the Others was part of that, even if the individual event wasn't sexist on its own. Plus, there was that whole Jack "I may or may not have ever shot a gun in my life" Shephard making the shot that Kate (who made that killer shot in the fake bank robbery) missed. (This was the "net" incident, which might be in an episode you haven't seen.)

I feel similarly about Ana Lucia. I think that the writers were trying to introduce a strong female character - but since that hasn't worked, her "masculine" physical strength has declined, and her "feminine" sexual strength increased. (I wish I could point to the specific examples, but the big ones are in recent episodes.) I don't think that's a conscious choice - as if the writers said something like "let's make Ana more womanly" - but I don't doubt that sexist biases fueled it.
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On May 19th, 2006 01:33 am (UTC), miss_arel replied:
XD Right, right, I know that everyone has internalized sexism; I'm just hestiant about whether it was the writers deciding "Kate can't take care of herself", or Jack deciding "Kate can't take care of herself". Maybe it's splitting hairs, but it seems like a distinction to me, at least. ^^;

You know, I've definitely found Kate less interesting this season, and I wasn't really sure why. I'd definitely found Jack annoying, but I've never liked him much to begin with. Yeah, I did see the net incident, and that made me go 'WTF' as well. >_>

Gah, no! Not Ana! I liked her the way she was. I thought it was an interesting contrast, how she was strong in traditionally masculine ways, and Kate was strong in traditionally 'feminine' ways. I'll be so pissed if they are messing with that.
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On May 19th, 2006 04:40 am (UTC), sigelphoenix replied:
Oh, yeah, that's definitely an important distinction - are the writers saying this is right, or Jack thinks this is right, even though it's not? They could be portraying sexist boys-club-only attitudes without endorsing them.

I used to think this was part of their plan - that Jack would be an ass, and we would see that. Lately, though, their treatment of Kate makes me lean toward the other side. I think they can still "redeem" themselves, though.

Well, it's not like Ana gave up guns and started knitting. XD You can see for yourself what the changes are, and decide if you like them.
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On May 18th, 2006 04:36 pm (UTC), rivendellrose replied:
...large casts that seemed to me to have an unusual amount of strong female characters... still had only a 3:1 or 2:1 ration of men to women.

Tell me about it. I vividly recall how exciting it was to have four female characters on ST:Voyager when it started. Wow, four! Out of a cast of nine, that seemed like some kind of miracle, especially considering the previous series' numbers (2 out of 8 seems to be the "magic number" for ST series - aside from Voyager, that's what I came up with for every series. Except Enterprise, because I pretend it didn't exist. XD)

Hmm. B5 actually comes out slightly ahead of the 90s standard with 3 regular women. Firefly is actually an outlier, post-Serenity, with four women and only three men.

Still, taking a story (say, Harry Potter) and imagining what it would be like if all the genders were flipped is... interesting.

It is, isn't it? Just try to imagine that - two girls who don't give a crap about studies and their slightly unpopular nerdy guy-buddy who's always trying to get them to work harder. Not to mention the whole SPEW thing...
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On May 19th, 2006 01:19 am (UTC), miss_arel replied:
As I recall, Enterprise only had 2 female characters, at least for the 1 and a half seasons that I watched.

So I was bored on the bus today, and started thinking of my favorite shows and looking at how the numbers of female characters compared to males. "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" was the only one I coudl think of where the female main characters outnumbered the males. And on the new Battlestar Galactica, they're almost equally matched, which is also pretty cool. Certainly beats 3 to 1, anyway. XD

Haha, yes. And the whole Dark... Lady? I guess that'd work. And crazy-old-woman!Dumbledore. That would kinda rock.
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On May 18th, 2006 02:55 am (UTC), sixth_light commented:
This doesn't surprise me one bit. I noticed a few days ago that the current series of Doctor Who has a surprising number of strong female characters - certainly the speaking roles balance would be much closer to 50/50 - but most of the Random Extras still tend to be male. Gotta give them credit, though - I can't think of a single episode without at least one important and interesting female character, not counting, of course, the core female role.
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On May 18th, 2006 04:20 pm (UTC), rivendellrose replied:
The funny thing, particularly about the Random Extra characters, is that the last time I checked, there were still a hell of a lot more women in the acting field than there were men. You'd think it'd be easier for them to find a handful of random actresses...

I wonder if there's a reason for the predominance of men - not a good reason, necessarily, but I know casting directors are famous for having their little 'formulae' for how to run stuff, and the cattle-calls for background scenes and stuff have to be pretty formulaic. The best I can think is that the only time we see more women than men in background scenes is... something like a club or casino, where there are female dancers and waitresses and all (hmm), or maybe in school scenes in movies like "10 Things I Hate About You"?
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On May 18th, 2006 08:59 pm (UTC), sixth_light replied:
Schools and clubs - sounds about right. Though I suppose you do have to take setting into account. A lot of movies and TV shows are set in places and times where there would not have been that many women around in the background. It's when they're set in the modern-day and there's absolutely no reason for the balance not to be in the area of 50/50 that we get a problem.

Hospitals, I think, usually have a lot more female extras around. Teaching, nursing, and waitressing - so many new and different role models there...
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On May 18th, 2006 11:50 pm (UTC), sigelphoenix commented:
Ooh, I'd heard about that organization - great job on pointing it out!

It should be noted that most programming decisions, especially for children's programming, is blatantly gender-biased. It's a common assumption in the industry that girls will watch "boy's" shows, but boys won't watch "girl's" shows. As a result, there is far more "boy" stuff out there than "girl" stuff - girls just have to adapt and watch things that aren't made for them, or not watch anything at all.

Industry will skirt the blame for sexism by pointing to the audience and saying, "That's just how it is! We just show what the audience wants." Of course, you'll notice that industry doesn't really do much in the way of trying to actually *change* this gender preference.
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On May 20th, 2006 03:11 pm (UTC), kawaiigami commented:
You know, now that I think about it those stats sound just about right. These days, though, I don't watch much TV aside from Food Network and Animal Planet, so I can't comment too much on recent popular shows.
I agree with the comment that because it is far more acceptable for girls to like "boy" stuff, there's just more boy stuff out there. The fact that, according to the network research, boys watch more TV and are hence the target audience probably influences the decisions as well. I wonder if it occurs to them that if they'd gear more stuff to girls, girls would watch more. I know the network execs and idea people have to worry about ratings and such and therefore just go with what they know works, but still. It would be nice.
random aside: Does anyone but me find it interesting that the old He-Man cartoon is being rereleased, but She-Ra isn't (at least to my knowledge)?
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