No matter which career a woman chooses, she faces certain cultural biases. In a male-dominated arena such as film, the blatant sexism shows itself with little remorse.
There is a certain idea going around that “female filmmakers” are different than their male counterparts. The fact that people feel the need to slap the word “female” in front of “filmmaker” is evidence of this fact. The continuous segregation of filmmakers – not only female filmmakers, but other “minority” filmmakers, such as LGBT filmmakers, African-American filmmakers, etc. – needs to stop.
Being a woman is different from being man, this is true. Women have different life experiences than men. But there is no difference in creativity and imagination between the sexes. Most people do not separate writers by the sexes – they do not say that the Harry Potter series should be judged differently or looked at in a different viewpoint than the Chronicles of Narnia simply because the author happens to be a woman. To say that the ideas of filmmakers who are women should be looked upon differently than those of men is demeaning and wrong.
Compared to other creative careers in entertainment, such as the music and publishing businesses, the film business just does offer the same opportunities for women. The facts and figures for women who want to go into film are very discouraging:
- Out of eight-six years of its existence, only one woman has won the Oscar for Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow in 2010), and only four women in have ever been nominated for the award.
- 91% of all feature films that appear in movie theaters are made by men.
- A scant 2% of cinematographers in film are female.
- More male screenwriters get jobs than female screenwriters.
Some say that the lack of female presence in film is due to lack of interest. This is a reasonable theory, but it seems that it is untrue. The more disappointing truth is that women do not get hired to direct films, especially studio films, and do not receive the correct amount of financial backing to make their films.
Then there is the problem of romantic comedies. Most men dismiss romantic comedies as “chick flicks” – they are movies about women made for women, right? Well, the vast majority of these so-called chick flicks are made by men – they are written, produced, and directed by men. So the fact is that we have men making films for women about women and what women should like. And consider the fact that even with films marketed toward men – actions films, thrillers, etc. – women are likely to be interested in seeing these films and buy tickets to see them, while only a small amount of men pay to see women-centric films. Not only is the film industry sexist in itself, but the audience is as well.
One of the age-old “concerns” about “female filmmakers” is this: what if they decide to have a family?
The only difference between a man and a woman filmmaker who decides to have a family is that the woman carries the child. That is it. If a woman in film wants to have kids it should not seal her doom in her career. Plenty of women have children and a career. Think of all of the actresses, singers, etc. that have had children and still are able to have an active career. Beyoncé, Amy Poehler, Angelina Jolie, Helena Bonham Carter…and the list goes on. Why should a woman who is a filmmaker be treated differently than any of these women who have decided to have families? The notion is ridiculous, and extremely one-sided.
Nobody ever expresses concerns about men in the film business who decide to have families. Nobody asks men, “How do you do it? How do you balance a family and your career?” That question, that responsibility, seems only to loom on women. Fatherhood is just as important as motherhood. To place such a heavy burden on mothers is to not only create an unnecessary issue about “working moms”, but demeans fatherhood.
The cold, hard truth is that there should not be the amount of bias for women in the film industry (or any career path). There are no excuses.
We should hope there will be a day when female directors are not an anomaly, not “special”. We shouldn’t hope for an equal amount of men and women directors; that notion is ridiculous and unrealistic – only that women who are fit for the role of director and deserving of the title receive an equal opportunity for the job and are seen with just as much respect and normality as men. Creative leadership is an immense amount of responsibility for anyone. That the stigma of women leaders comes to end – that should be our hope.