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Women in Entertainment

Caroline Heldman, PhD, and Nicole Haggard, PhD

March 12, 2019

In 2018, the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s launched a companion piece to The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™. Collectif is an online anthology of original writing created by University faculty and students, along with spotlights on the Center’s work with community partners. 

Among the writings highlighted in the inaugural edition of Collectif, published in March 2018, is a paper investigating why progress for women in television and film has been so slow. Gender justice advocates have been pushing for reform — both inside and outside the industry — for more than half a century. Authors Caroline Heldman, PhD, and Nicole Haggard, PhD, examine the status of women in key roles in the industry today and find that they remain vastly underrepresented behind the scenes in key decision-making roles, and on both the big and small screens. 

Heldman is an associate professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles and the research director of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s. Haggard teaches in the film, media and social justice program at Mount Saint Mary’s. Through her project “Race, Sex and Hollywood,” Haggard has spent 14 years studying and contextualizing the intersection of race and gender in American culture and the media’s ability to impact society. Haggard founded the Center for Women in Hollywood and serves on the board of the Center for Restorative Justice Works.

MSMU: Why did you choose that particular research topic for your Collectif submission?

Haggard: Given the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement there were a lot of questions circulating about the history of problems women have faced in the industry and what is happening to create real change. We wanted to share the longstanding issues women have been having in Hollywood, contextualize why, and point to some great solutions surfacing in the industry. The images on screen have a profound impact on the lives of women and girls in California and beyond, it is important to know who is creating our media and how we can demand from them workforce parity and balanced representation. We hope readers were inspired to use their consumer power to be a part of the movement. 

MSMU: What other research or course work are you doing related to this topic? 

Haggard: This semester I am teaching our annual Women in Hollywood course. Inspired by The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California, Women in Hollywood examines the historical and current status of women working in film and television, including the sociopolitical & economic dynamics that influence their participation as leaders in the workforce. Building on our relationship with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, it also explores the representation of women in Hollywood & how these images impact the roles of women in society, especially as they relate to the development of women’s power & social equity. As Geena says, “If she can see it, she can be it!” Every week we are lucky to have a guest speaker come to the class and share her experience and insights about working in the industry. Ultimately we are exploring why it matters that we do not have gender parity in Hollywood.

Title: In 2018, the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s launched a companion piece to The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™. Collectif is an online anthology of original writing created by University faculty and students, along with spotlights on the Center’s work with community partners. 

Among the writings highlighted in the inaugural edition of Collectif, published in March 2018, is a paper investigating why progress for women in television and film has been so slow. Gender justice advocates have been pushing for reform — both inside and outside the industry — for more than half a century. Authors Caroline Heldman, PhD, and Nicole Haggard, PhD, examine the status of women in key roles in the industry today and find that they remain vastly underrepresented behind the scenes in key decision-making roles, and on both the big and small screens. 

Heldman is an associate professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles and the research director of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s. Haggard teaches in the film, media and social justice program at Mount Saint Mary’s. Through her project “Race, Sex and Hollywood,” Haggard has spent 14 years studying and contextualizing the intersection of race and gender in American culture and the media’s ability to impact society. Haggard founded the Center for Women in Hollywood and serves on the board of the Center for Restorative Justice Works.

MSMU: Why did you choose that particular research topic for your Collectif submission?

Haggard: Given the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement there were a lot of questions circulating about the history of problems women have faced in the industry and what is happening to create real change. We wanted to share the longstanding issues women have been having in Hollywood, contextualize why, and point to some great solutions surfacing in the industry. The images on screen have a profound impact on the lives of women and girls in California and beyond, it is important to know who is creating our media and how we can demand from them workforce parity and balanced representation. We hope readers were inspired to use their consumer power to be a part of the movement. 

MSMU: What other research or course work are you doing related to this topic? 

Haggard: This semester I am teaching our annual Women in Hollywood course. Inspired by The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California, Women in Hollywood examines the historical and current status of women working in film and television, including the sociopolitical & economic dynamics that influence their participation as leaders in the workforce. Building on our relationship with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, it also explores the representation of women in Hollywood & how these images impact the roles of women in society, especially as they relate to the development of women’s power & social equity. As Geena says, “If she can see it, she can be it!” Every week we are lucky to have a guest speaker come to the class and share her experience and insights about working in the industry. Ultimately we are exploring why it matters that we do not have gender parity in Hollywood.

 

Women in Entertainment Media: The Ongoing Fight for Equality

Authors: Caroline Heldman, PhD, and Nicole Haggard, PhD

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this report is to investigate why progress for women in Hollywood has been so slow despite gender justice advocates pushing for reform both inside and outside the industry for more than half a century. We begin this report by addressing the question of why gender equity matters. This is followed by an assessment of women’s status in key decision-making roles in film and television. In the third section, we address two major obstacles to women’s advancement in the industry: gender discrimination and sexual harassment. We conclude with a discussion of what we can do to effectively reform the industry. After a half-century of research and activism, Hollywood is ripe for reform. Today, activists are addressing gender discrimination, gender and race disparities in representation, training a new generation of female leaders and leaders of color in the industry, and harnessing consumer pressure to demand change in the industry.

WHY IT MATTERS

As 2017 came to a close, Salma Hayek published a penetrating op-ed in the New York Times asking, “Why do so many of us, as female artists, have to go to war to tell our stories when we have so much to offer? Why do we have to fight tooth and nail to maintain our dignity?”[i] For decades, researchers have been studying the impact of workforce parity on the content of our media, and now, this watershed moment full of first-hand revelations has delivered an additional level of depth by adding the impact of gender discrimination and sexual harassment to our analysis of on-screen representation. Hayek’s piece, “Harvey Weinstein is My Monster Too,” unravels the thread of this “socially accepted vice” as it moves through her own personal violation onto the big screen. When Weinstein demands that Hayek lose the unsexy unibrow and limp and callously manipulates her into performing a nude, full-frontal lesbian sex scene, the voyeuristic camera also hypersexualizes our collective memory of the powerful feminist icon Frida Khalo.[ii] These abuses degrade not only the women struggling to pursue their passion and livelihood, they enter the world of cinematic imagination where objectification thrives and sexist behavior is normalized.

To read the entire Collectif piece, click here:

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[i] Hayek, S. (2017, December 12). Harvey Weinstein is my monster too. New York Times, retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/13/opinion/contributors/salma-hayek-harvey-weinstein.html

[ii] Ibid.