A young friend of mine came to LA 8 months ago to pursue an acting career. She is at a stage, where, as most people know, you need to be saying ‘yes!’ to every opportunity offered to you. She is however, having to say no. She goes out for tonnes and tonnes of auditions a month. Over 50% of those, she says, are for ‘floozy’ roles, or the ‘dumb blonde’. She doesn’t want to be stereotyped in that way… so she says no. She should not have to be put in that position.The film industry is arguably the most influential industry in the world, each year over 225 millions people go to the cinema in the US/Canada alone. So why is the film industry choosing to continue to promote sexism in the way it does? How can we stop it? Well… I’m not entirely sure, but here are seven ways we can make a start…
1. Treat sexism like racism – Why is sexism not entirely booted out of Hollywood? Because it has an audience, rather a large one in fact (around half the worlds population). That is the reason, there is no other rational than that…. But try and think about it in a slightly different way – racism is, generally (and rightfully so) treated with disgust around the world. Yet, if we think about it, racist people exist, they may well want to see racism (their beliefs) portrayed on the big screen – an audience does exist.
So, surely, just because an audience does exist, why should we pander to them? Treat sexism like racism, and make the bigger decision to just stop it.
2. Call everyone ‘actors’ – Lots of people already do this, but come on, it’s a word, it’s even shorter than the word actress, so it saves you time – use it, save yourself time, spend more time doing the things you love rather than (while probably subconsciously) reinforcing a negative gender stereotype.
3. Stop it at a grass roots level – I was sitting in class the other day, when a boy started to pitch his idea – the entire premise centered around a boss betting his employee he couldn’t have sex with a female employee at the company. Nobody batted an eyelid. Why? Because Hollywood is full of this stuff! Changing the writers and producers currently established in the industry will be tough, but surely we can stop it at the source – don’t accept sexist new material into the industry. This was the first film the guy had ever written. What did he want to do? Write a big bucks ‘Hollywood’ film? Why did he go for that kind of idea? You get my drift…
4. If strongly influencing Hollywood is a step too far (I suspect it may take a while longer) then focus on Indie films. There is no reason to include sexism in an indie film, unless it is a story which shows it being tackled. So this is an easy point – most people watching indie movies are going to care about cinema – you don’t need to sell out to get them to come and watch. So just cut out any sexism in indie films, it isn’t needed, it isn’t necessary – bin it.
5. Counter it – so somebody is insisting on putting a sexist character in the movie? Easy – make sure it is sexist to both sexes! De-stabilize the male characters – undermine them. Level the playing field.
6. Get more female writers – there are already many female writers in the television world (although there could undoubtedly be more) but only 15% of the writing staff in the film industry is made up of women. Talking about an audience, how about we let women create what women want to see, rather than letting men create what they think women want to see?
7. Stand up to it! Members of the film industry are INCREDIBLY influential… it isn’t a coincidence that many presidential advertising campaigns utilize Hollywood film stars. So take a stand! If you can make a difference then do so, Hollywood – people will listen!
For total transparency (if you haven’t read my blog), I am a white British teenage male writer. Thanks for reading.