A blog posted by USC in the Communication Leadership and Policy links to a study conducted by Annenberg, School of Communications. Faculty fellow Stacy Smith researched the top 2008 grossing films to reveal a study of gender in the film industry. Their findings showed that female stars overwhelmingly were showcased in situations where they were “seen and not heard” while dressed in provocative clothing.
Although these findings are not necessarily surprising, it does seem to contradict what appears to be claims of women beginning to up their status in the movie industry. Unfortunately, an article by USA Today focusing on this study demonstrates that in the 100 top grossing movies of 2008, men had 67% of the speaking roles; women had about half that, 33%. For every 5 male directors or writers, there was only 1 female director. The film industry always always been an overwhelmingly male dominated one; despite claims that times are changing, it seems that the roles of women in film aren’t advancing as fast as society believes them to be.
The most troubling find, however, is that the majority of the girls placed into these situations are teenage girls. They were 40% more likely to wear sexy clothing than other women (even women aged 21-39). And they were as likely to appear partially naked. Stacy Smith commented that, “data speaks to an overemphasis on beauty, thinness and sexualization of women at younger and younger age”.
When children idolize these movie characters, often their behavior begins to imitate their role models. Jennifer Stevens Aubrey, a University of Missouri researcher, says the sexualization of these girls is “rampant in films, television, music videos, and the marketing of clothing” and is “sending a powerful message that it’s important for girls and young women to be sexual objects from a very early age”.