Ruth Dawson, Resident Blogger (’12, Emory University School of Law)
“…And perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.” – Cate Blanchett, accepting the Academy Award for Best Actress
Earlier this week, Cate Blanchett won the Academy Award for Best Actress, and used her bully pulpit to highlight the film industry’s implicit gender bias. Despite the highly problematic context around Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, the movie for which she won, Blanchett’s statement about women in film rings true at all levels of the entertainment industry.
Women actors, writers, directors, and producers alike face an uphill battle in this town. This infographic from the New York Film Academy highlights some of the dismal statistics. Perhaps the most shocking number is the most basic: there is a 5:1 ratio of men to women working on films. Another is that the Forbes 2013 list of the ten highest paid actresses made a combined $181 M, compared to the $465 M made by the ten highest paid actors. Yes, the men made over twice as much from their craft. In 2014, I have to say this is fairly depressing. I live in Hollywood – in fact, the Academy Awards ceremony took place just a few blocks from my house. So though I am decidedly not in “the industry,” these numbers hit home. Gender justice is at the core of reproductive justice. Women (and other non-male-identified folks, though these numbers don’t reflect this nuance) must be able to work in their industry and support their families, free of systemic discrimination.
The good news is that engaging more women at all levels of the film process isn’t just good for gender equity – it’s increasingly good for business. As Blanchett mentioned, movies with female protagonists or heroines are increasingly blockbusters. We just have to get out there and see them. Despite the uber liberal façade, Hollywood has a long way to go.