As a lover of film, what blows my mind is how ingrained sexism seems to be in the process of film making.
For years now people have talked about gendered pay-gaps, the unequal treatment of the sexes as actors age, the numeric dominance of males as crew, writers, producers and directors and, of course, the sexual harassment and violence that females in the industry have experienced. What I don’t hear people talk about – maybe they do somewhere out there – is the way producers, directors and writers talk about gender.
If you’ve watched the extras on many a DVD over the years then you’ll have heard it:
- Why was a particular actor cast? Yes there’s talk about talent, but more often than I’d like to hear they also mention the representation of a certain type of “femininity” or “masculinity”.
- How would you describe the hero? The response is almost always about gendered stereotypes. Typically males as protectors and females as nurturers.
I had to scrape my jaw off the floor recently when an interest in making things with your hands – the character was an engineer – was described as an expression of a “nurturing masculinity”. Because masculinity doesn’t inherently include nurturing (sorry all you loving fathers, partners and male pet owners). And do female engineers just not exist, or are they masculine women?
You might say “that’s one comment from an individual working on one film” and you’d be right. Though I’d ask is it a co-incidence that the main cast of the film had one female and three males, despite there being no reason for two of those three characters being male? Or that the gender of the bit-players represented stereotypes (a woman’s friends are female / a ship’s crew is mostly male and the captain male)?
If on that specific film – and each other film where I’ve heard these comments – it was only one person’s view then it shouldn’t be expressed in so many aspects of a film. Surely others involved would suggest changes? If they aren’t then is that because they don’t see anything is wrong, or because they see it as unimportant in the range of battles they need to fight to get the thing made? Or is there something about the industry that self-selects for people who think like that or teaches people to?