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Kim Novak and Alfred Hitchcock on the set of "Vertigo"

(Kim Novak and Alfred Hitchcock on the set of "Vertigo")

Two insightful articles about sexism in cinema have recently appeared in British newspapers.

From the Guardian – “Where Have All the Good Women Gone?” by Kira Cochrane.


[The] women who people today’s romantic comedies seem to have three main obsessions. There’s shopping, of course, as seen in Confessions of a Shopaholic and Sex and the City. There’s babies, as witnessed in Baby Mama, Juno and Knocked Up. And there’s marriage, which was front and centre of the noxious recent release Bride Wars, featuring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway fighting over their dream wedding – described by Purkiss as “what some drunken bozo who never got a date in high school thinks women are like”. Marriage is also at the centre of Made of Honour, License to Wed, The Wedding Date, The Wedding Planner and 27 Dresses.


Now, at a time when 70% of women are in the workforce, career women in romantic comedies are generally either portrayed as incompetent, cruel, or both. Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald, an academic at the University of Kent and an expert on romantic comedies, says that she finds it “quite insulting that a career woman now is something that is so frowned upon. You see depictions of women who are supposedly at the top of their game, yet they can’t walk down a corridor in a white suit without pouring coffee on themselves or walking into a bush. The films are not very subtly saying ‘yes, they may be at the top in their jobs, but actually what they really need is a man. In fact, a husband.'”

And again from the UK’s Guardian: “Is cinema just the ultimate boys’ club?” by Bibi van der Zee.


Hollywood is monstrously, demonstrably sexist. It’s sexist in a way that must make industries like construction and engineering take off their hard-hats and whistle with admiration. According to the Celluloid Ceiling review, of the top 250 films of 2007, women made up just 15% of key behind-the-scenes roles. They were just 6% of the directors, and just 2% of cinematographers.

In front of the camera things appear to be slightly better: you can see women, they’re all over the place. But actually, with all those male directors, directing films about men, the women really don’t get much of a look in. Of the 6,833 speaking characters in the films nominated for the best picture Oscar between 1977 and 2006, only 27.3% were female (only one woman director has ever been nominated for an Oscar: Sofia Coppola, in 2003, the same year that Fernando Meirelles was nominated for City of God without his female co-director, Katia Lund).

In Alison Bechdel’s cartoon strip Dykes to Watch Out For, the character Mo explains that she only watches films in which 1) there are two female characters, who 2) have a conversation which is 3) not about men.

Think of your top 3 favortite films… Do they pass the test?