images / resources / texts and contexts

Women in the film industry: then and now

I recently read B. Ruby Rich’s article in the most recent issue of Camera Obscura, ‘The Confidence Game, in which she talked about the state of women in Hollywood and filmmaking today. It got me thinking about the continuity between Women & Film‘s moment in 1972 and the present, and how little has changed. In her article, Rich is doing the same thing, only here she considers the legacy of Women Make Movies, the women’s distribution company based in New York that supports women gain training, funding and audiences for their filmmaking practices. Rich mentions the Guerilla Girls and their poster campaign that, since 2002, has targeted the Oscars and other award-giving bodies and festivals such as Sundance.

In its first issue, Women & Film also presented some statistics on women’s presence in the film industry:

1.1 Table

The table shows the membership numbers of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Motion Picture Machione Operators, the industry labor union established in the 1890s, as well as those of the Screen Writers’, Producers’ and Directors’ Guilds of America (many founded during the 30s). As the table makes clear, certain areas appear to be more hospitable to women than others: costume (58%) , script supervision (66%), and, interestingly, cartoonists (49%) are roles where around half the membership is female, whereas the position of grip, electricians or gaffers and projectionist is exclusively male (all at 0%). Very few women are working as photographers(0.4%), art directors (1%) and scenic and title artists (5%) and a minority as film technicians (19%) and publicists (15%).

According to the membership figures related to the Guilds, 1% of directors are female. 2% of assistant directors, 12% of writers, 3% producers are women and in TV, women make up 8% of associate directors or stage managers.

As the illustration that accompanies these figures hints at, this disparity is perhaps the result of women’s continued relegation to the domestic realm, signified by the various household products that litter the table on which the female figure is trying to conduct her editing work.


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