Media and the Gender Gap
Hollywood's Pursuit of Diversity
In 2015, when only white actors were nominated in the Academy Awards actor category, criticism surged online with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. This trend caused significant ripples and prompted a reevaluation of not only the diversity of actors in the film industry but also the diversity among production staff.
However, according to a 2022 study by UCLA, women film directors constitute less than 22% of the overall workforce, and female screenwriters make up only 33% or less, indicating a noticeable gender gap among production staff. One factor contributing to this gap is the issue of funding in film production. Female directors often have significantly less funding, up to $20 million less, compared to their white male counterparts.
These disparities not only highlight the lack of diversity among production staff but also influence the content of films. In fact, films directed and written by women tend to feature more diverse casting choices.
To address these issues, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Oscars, announced that starting in 2024, they will introduce new criteria related to race and gender in the selection process for the Best Picture award. As a media that connects the world through screens, Hollywood aims for industry-wide change. This week, we focus on the relationship between media and gender.
Disney princesses, glamorous and radiant.
When I was in kindergarten, “playing princess” was a popular trend. The character image labeled as a “girl’s aspiration” has been significantly updated over the years. The gentle, delicate princess who catered to the prince’s every need may no longer exist.
A recent example is the live-action adaptation of “Aladdin.” While the animated version ended with a happily-ever-after of Aladdin and Jasmine getting married, the live-action version portrayed Princess Jasmine being recognized for her talents and appointed as the next ruler. Her ambition to build a career beyond the confines of home life was emphasized.
Seeing such princesses, I am excited about how children’s visions of their future and its possibilities are expanding. However, we should be cautious not to blindly pursue an Americanized gender perspective as the ultimate truth. We should consider the flexibility of ethical views across regions and religions worldwide.
Rather than seeking one correct image, we should critically examine the gender perspectives depicted in movies from a more “neutral” standpoint.
Segmentation or Stereotypes?
Advertisements are estimated to be seen an average of 10,000 times per day by individuals, consciously or not. With such exposure, it is evident that advertisements influence our thoughts and values. Among the concerns raised, one of the most significant is the reinforcement of gender stereotypes.
In Japan, for example, many advertisements for hair removal salons can be seen on trains and YouTube. However, the majority of these ads are targeted at “women,” with very few featuring men. Additionally, some ads instill messages like “women won’t find love if they have body hair” or “having no body hair is virtuous,” invoking fear.
Ads for household products like laundry, kitchen supplies, and baby items often heavily feature women, suggesting that women are primarily responsible for household chores.
To attract the pure vote of the younger generation, the advertising industry needs to be more attentive during the segmentation process to ensure the absence of gender stereotypes.
Higher Education and the Gender Gap
One of the gaps I felt in Danish universities was the prominence of female professors. According to data from Aarhus BSS in 2020, the gender ratio is almost 1:1 for positions below Associate Professor. While the proportion of female professors is 30%, which is lower compared to some, it still exceeds the 18% of female professors in Japan.
A 2017 survey by the Japanese government revealed that reasons for the scarcity of female researchers include difficulties in work-life balance and returning to work after childcare. On the other hand, in Denmark, it is common to witness professors lecturing online with a baby bump.
Efforts to improve work-life balance support are gradually increasing in companies, but it is equally important for research environments, including higher education institutions, to promote such discussions and initiatives.