From UBC Wiki

The issue in today's film industry is that women are highly underrepresented. However roles that are given to women are often over-sexualized or portray women in an unrealistic way. From 2007 to 2016, in front of the camera there averaged 2.3 males to one female. [1]The issue isn't just women on screen but also behind the scenes, directors, producers, writers are a frequently male dominated job. The lack of women behind the scenes is reflected in the films that are put out there, women objectified and over-sexualized in numerous films. These issues in Hollywood effect the way we see women can give young girls the impression that women are only seen as 'eye candy'.

Objectification on Screen

A popular strong female character on screen is Princess Leia from the film Star Wars. This character went beyond from the usual 'damsel in distress' kind of character that women were often seen as in previous films. Her character at first wore her signature white robe with the two buns in her hair; however in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, the character was placed in a metal bikini; an example of unnecessary sexualizing a character. It is instances like this that give young girls the impression that being 'sexy' is important and what men desire and being strong intellectual isn't.

It is more common that a film with a male lead will often have a female character that is over sexualized unnecessarily than a film with a female lead. As seen in the Transformers films, the female characters are often young women who are wearing revealing clothing. These films appeal to younger boys and give them the impression that this is was a women is supposed to look like.

Across a variety of popular genres, Hollywood representation is characterized by an insistent equation between working women, women’s work and some form of sexual(ized) performance.[2]Women in film, from the ages of 13-20 years old are more likely to be sexualized in some sort of way than adult women from the ages of 21-39.[1] This is why we seeing younger girls wearing more revealing clothing, wearing makeup but also causes more issues around body anxiety and negative mental health outcomes.[3]

This culture of sexualizing women has become the new gender norm. In films where the female is a 'working women' they are often seen as unattractive, and in this situation it mostly happens with women who are middle-aged. Society is no so unconscious to what they expect to see on screen and nearly half of films have some sort of sexualized character portrayed in the film.

Representation Behind the Scenes

According to a study, female directors accounted for about 18% of directors in 2017, the rest were men. The number of directors however is rising but very slowly. Along with that the number of women writers in the film industry is very little, about 83% of the top films in 2017 had no female writers.[4]It is the outdated thinking that women are not represented at the writers table and often it is the fear of being rejected that there aren’t more women writers. This issue is not just in Hollywood, in Canada female writers make up about 22% while only a small handful are cinematographers. It is the lack of women behind the scenes that puts women in front of the screen.[5]

Since 1977, only 5 women have ever been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director. Those women are Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties, 1977), Jane Campion (The Piano, 1994), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2004), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, 2010), and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, 2018). The only women to ever win the award was Kathryn Bigelow.[6]At the Golden Globe Awards, the only women to win Best Director was Barbra Streisand (Yentl, 1984), with only seven women ever being nominated.[7]

In 2018, the only women ever to be nominated for Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards was Rachel Morrison (Mudbound, 2017). The number of female cinematographers is much smaller, making up only 5% in Hollywood. Morrison stated that, "men get more opportunities to work on middle- and big-budget studio projects than women."[8]

Effects on Feminism

Hollywood has a long way to go when it comes to how women are portrayed on screen and that starts with the representation behind the scenes. Studies say that when a female protagonist is on screen women will more likely go see that film. When it comes to tackling feminist issues on screen, female directors are less likely to stereotype those issues and create strong respectable female leads.


  1. Saxena, Jaya (August 2, 2017). "Women are Still Grossly Underrepresented in Film". Elle.
  2. Tasker, Yvonne (1998). Working Girls. London: Routledge. p. 3. ISBN 9781134826605.
  3. McCall, Catherine (4 March 2012). "The Sexualization of Women and Girls". Psychology Today.
  4. "Women still only account for 11% of top film directors". BBC. 10 January 2018.
  5. Ahsan, Sadaf (28 October 2015). "Female directors and screenwriters are a minority in Canadian film and television, study finds". National Post.
  6. Wittmer, Carrie (9 February 2018). "Greta Gerwig is the 5th woman to be nominated for a best director Oscar - here are all the others". Business Insider.
  7. Dockterman, Eliana (8 January 2018). "Here's How Rare It Is For a Female Director to Be Nominated for a Golden Globe—Let Alone Win". Time.
  8. Cooney, Samantha (23 January 2018). "Rachel Morrison Just Became the First Women Nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar". Time.