Female characters in films today

Did you know that the ratio of male-to-female characters in film today has remained the same since 1946? Yes, you read that correctly: the same since 1946. This comes from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media, which recently released the results of a study titled Gender Bias Without Borders, investigating female characters in 120 popular films across the world. There are more statistics to go with that, none of which should be surprising if we pay close attention when we watch movies, but here are some:

  • crowd scenes contained approximately 17% female characters
  • only 30.9% of all speaking characters went to women and girls
  • ratio of men to women playing attorneys and judges were 13:1, and professors 16:1
  • females were over two times as likely as males to be shown in sexually revealing clothing, partially or fully naked, thin, and five times as likely to be referenced as attractive

Here’s a three minute interview with Geena Davis from CBS News:

Geena Davis suggested two easy steps that Hollywood and others can take to make their films less sexist:

The first step was for writers and producers to sift through the projects they’re already working on, and immediately switch several of the male characters to female ones. “With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch,” Davis contended. If this exercise was practiced across the industry, this would acclimate audiences to seeing significantly more females in traditionally male roles such as plumbers, taxi drivers, politicians, scientists, techs and engineering experts. Davis argued that by exposing young girls to shows depicting more females holding such jobs, the result would be more girls growing up to pursue these jobs in the future.

The second step Davis advocated was for writers to specify in the script that the story’s crowd gatherings include “half female” gatherers. “That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise,” Davis insisted.

-excerpted from Casting Frontier

The Geena Davis Institute’s motto is “if she can see it, she can be it.” We couldn’t agree more.



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One Comment:

  1. Barbara Cole Gates

    Fascinating. I also read that less than 3% of roles are for women over 50 – something along those lines AND of that 3% the majority go to “names.” Very tough business for women and for creative older women. Go GEENA D!!