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Sexism in Hollywood demands greater social change

As actress Issa Rae read the Best Director nominations for the 2020 Academy Awards, women everywhere felt the door slamming in their faces as each of the nominees were male filmmakers. Those watching felt Issa Rae’s unforgiving attitude toward the list, as she said: “Congratulations to those men.”

Three years after the rise of the #MeToo movement and two years following the rise of the Time’s Up movement, which both revolved around coming forward and ending sexual assault and violence in Hollywood, people like Rae are disappointed in the lack of female representation in Hollywood. 

Patty Stokes, an assistant professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at Ohio University, feels that since the rise of these movements, there hasn’t been as much change as there should be. Stokes notes that men who are accused of sexual violence against women mostly end up getting off with a mere slap on the wrist. 

“Has there been noticeable progress in the last two and a half years? I’m very skeptical about that,” Stokes said. “For a lot of men, ‘their lives were ruined,’ but not for all that long. So people see that yes, there is a penalty that there didn’t used to be for this kind of behavior, but it’s not the death penalty, so to speak, for people’s careers.”

Though Stokes notices more women speaking up for themselves and getting more involved in the industry, be it acting or directing, she still has yet to see a major breakthrough of the “glass ceiling” that is women’s respect.

The biggest example of this may be the lack of female directors in the nominee list for the 2020 Oscars, but Stokes also sees a sexism issue with what movies count as serious films. For example, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women has received a lot of critical acclaim through awards, nominations and reviews, but it tells a very domestic story that only begins to touch on female empowerment. 

Further, Stokes seeks a solution that elevates women in various facets of the Hollywood industry, rather than tokenizing them, which can quickly turn from an exciting feat for a woman as a person, to a gender bias. 

Not only do people notice an unbalanced scale of women and men in Hollywood, but Maddie Moore, a sophomore studying social work, notices the lack of intersectional feminism throughout the industry. 

“That’s a big thing, is the lack of racial diversity in the field,” Moore said. “It’s really awful. And it happens with so many award shows, even the Tonys and the Grammys and other things like that. It’s awful to see how we think so many steps are being taken and yet we look back and see that there’s still so much left to do.”

Moore believes that if women were more elevated in Hollywood, a domino effect would ripple throughout other aspects of life, be it among women or men. 

Stokes also believes in the domino effect, because of how people idolize figures in Hollywood. 

“If nothing else, emotionally, representation matters to people,” Stokes said. “In terms of what stories are thinkable and what stories are told, showing women as strong protagonists, people who are not just sex objects or side kicks, I think has a positive impact in other aspects of women’s lives.”

Her logic is, if people see women in more powerful roles and being praised in the industry, women will benefit in everyday life. However, she doesn’t just believe that women will benefit; she thinks men would benefit from the elevation of women because it will create a broader scope of understanding among the genders. 

It’s not just up to women to make this grand social change. Ian Dickens, a sophomore studying journalism, sees sexism in everyday life, as well as the industry, and tries to do his part to act as an ally to women.

“It’s Hollywood: it’s riddled with just powerful men, stepping on people below them like women and minorities, just so they can get a role,” Dickens said.

Dickens believes that men must understand their privilege and use it to help people rather than for their own good. 

Though there is no clear solution for solving the “Hollywood Boys Club” complex, Moore and Stokes both agree that integrating more women into the Hollywood industry in an organic way is a great first step. They think another progressive step would be providing women with more opportunity to succeed without any sort of gendered bias. 

“I think that getting more women in the pipeline is important,” Stokes said. “We're still seeing, at the higher levels, that men still dominate. Part of it also needs to be more equity in front of the camera. So roles for women for sex minorities, for people of color, you know. I also think it’s important to recognize that social change is slow. So as long as it still keeps moving in one direction, it’s good.”


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