But half of law school, med school, art school are girls! Aren’t boys the ones who need more support?

Um, no.

I get some version of the comment pasted below all the time. Oliver is responding to my post about how “Adventures of Tintin” featured almost no female characters, typical of most animated movies made for kids.

From Oliver:

You keep focusing on how sexist American and Hollywood still are as you focus solely on women, because, you course, you ARE a woman! You say Hollywood keeps making kids movies that say that boys are more important to girls, but the reality is that is how YOU are reading it and how you want to see it. The reality is, studies have shown time and again that the way public schools in America function is actually detrimental to boys and young men and the way they think, function and learn. Boys, many many times more often than girls, are left behind in school and there are increasingly more and more girls going to college and less boys. A large majority of college-attendees are now girls. Girls have plenty of support today telling them they’re important, they can accomplish whatever they want, they can do everything a boy can do. The reality is that in our modern time there became as much equality between boys/girls and men/women as realistically possible. Pretty soon women became more equal than men. Girls more equal than boys. The focus shifted. Women found their voice. So don’t sit here telling us there is too much in America telling us boys are more important than girls. EVERYTHING points to the contrary. Girls have plenty of media that caters SOLELY to them. If anything, young boys need to be reminded of their importance and be shown better role models and given more emotional support while they grow up. You have everything backwards, you dumb, irrational, zealous feminist.

PS Nobody I watched this movie with, boys, girls, men or women noticed this lack of women. Do you know why you noticed it? Because you focus on it in your life. You look for these things and try to find meaning that’s not there. You’re the same as all the people who post on the IMDB forums accusing movies of being racist because there are no black people. You have a chip on your shoulder that you need to break off. You’ve been owned.

My response:

Hi Oliver,

I wish these facts were just my opinion. Women don’t make it past 16% in power positions in most professions all across the board. Women are half the students in med school, law school, art school etc but it doesn’t translate to equal status or pay beyond education.

That no one you saw Tintin with noticed the lack of girls only shows how used to invisible females we are. Do you think if the movie had all female characters you might have noticed?

Here are some stats, More at the Geena Davis institute on Gender and Media:

Women are 51% of the U.S. population

Over half of college graduates but less than a quarter of full professors and a fifth of college presidents are female

Women are 50% of new entrants to the profession, but less than a fifth of law firm partners, federal judges, law school deans, and Fortune 500 general counsels

Only 16% of protagonists in film are female.

The female characters in G rated movies are just as likely to wear revealing clothing as in R rated movies.

Women make up 8% of all writers of major motion pictures.

Women are 17% of all executive producers

95% of top grossing Hollywood films directed by men

Women are 2% of all cinematographers

Women are 7% of film directors

In 84 years, 4 women have been nominated for best director, only one has won

2012 Academy Award nominations, 98% movies directed by men, 84% written by men, 70% starring men

77 percent of Oscar voters are male.

Women and girls are the subject of less than 20% of news stories.

Women make up 14% of all guest appearances on the influential Sunday television talk shows; among repeat guests, only 7% are women.

Only 15% of the authors on the The New York Times best seller list for nonfiction are women.

Only about 20% of op-eds in America’s newspapers are by women.

Women hold only 15.2% of seats on the boards of Fortune 500 companies.

In the financial services industry, 57% of the workers are women but 2% tof the CEO’s are female

Women are one third of M.B.A. classes and 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs

16 % of board directors and corporate officers

Only 7.5% of the major earners at those Fortune 500 companies are female.

Only 3% of advertising’s creative directors are women.

Women are 50% of divinity students but 3 percent of the pastors of large congregations in protestant churches that have been ordaining women for decades

Women are just 19% of partners in law firms.

Women represent 17% of the United States Congress.

There are currently only six female governors (12%)

23.6% of state legislators are women

9% of Mayors are women in largest 100 cities in U.S.

U.S. ranks 71st in the world in female legislative representation, behind Bangladesh, Sudan and United Arab Emirates

Throughout our history only four women have held the office of Supreme Court Justice.

There has never been a female President of the United States.

Pay attention to this correlation: Only 16% of protagonists in films are female (Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media/ Miss Representation.)

Here’s a quote from Barnard president Deborah Spar in a post from Leslie Bennets on The Daily Beast where many of the stats listed above are from:

“Women remain hugely underrepresented at positions of power in every single sector across this country,” said Barnard College president Debora Spar at a White House conference on urban economic development last month. “We have fallen into what I call the 16 percent ghetto, which is that if you look at any sector, be it aerospace engineering, Hollywood films, higher education, or Fortune 500 leading positions, women max out at roughly 16 percent.”

Do you think that the narratives we surround ourselves with and the parts that we assign males and females to play matter? What does the gender imbalance in the imaginary world from animated movies to LEGO minifigs tell us about ourselves and our expectations for our children?

14 thoughts on “But half of law school, med school, art school are girls! Aren’t boys the ones who need more support?

  1. I noticed Tin Tin had no female characters within ten minutes. then i remembered that the book rarely had female characters. I also realized that – that was the way the stories were written at the time. Do I think it was punished at the Oscars? nope. I do think on craft alone, it deserved credit. I certainly don’t think that Spielburg was unaware of any of those facts when he made the movie, and I’m sure given his heritage, he knew the “nazi” stories behind the writer. Now all this being said, I think that these things do raise important issues of gender. I’m a film maker, and I am fortunate to be in a community that strives for equality – turning out a rare equal number of working artists. I serve on an arts council that is “fairly” represented by 7 women and four men. one being black. Im that black man. Now. when I write my stories, I get an equal amount of flack for my lack of black characters. I grew up in a white community, and i know all too well what both sides of that coin are like – so I explore it. I’m not excluding females, or black females, or black males, or white males. But if my story calls for something, I go with that alone. Some of my stories are from what I know. that is a black male point of view.

    I’m saying all this because I think these questions need to be raised. Especially in hollywood. However, I do agree that males are represented strangely in the arts as well.
    Before my career as an actor film maker, I was a modern dancer, where I was on the receiving end of some pretty heavy sexism myself – on my first day touring with a company, bags were dropped for me to carry. Some people have said, “now you know how we feel”, but remember, I am also black, from a white community. so i’ve had some interesting encounters everyday of my life. I don’t believe everything is racist. But I keep a close eye on it. that example hit me in more ways than the sexist factor, it was also painful to be seen as a “porter”. It wasn’t meant but still. I had to raise it to my peers. it never happened again, nor did the other treatment.

    In regards to female presence in film. I recently worked a youth film camp, where another female instructor requested all girls, leaving me with none. I felt that that was a pure act of segregation and set a horrible example. If I had asked for all black , I would have had half the women. I wanted to work with girls too, since I have much to learn from everyone.

    Okay, so back to my point. I think that talk is important, especially with our kids, but these situations actually prompt questions from kids, and what a joy it is to have a conversation. We don’t need to shy away – we don’t need to have a hard time explaining why there are no girls. They need to have these questions. children are not naive as we think. I remember asking my mother why there were no female transformers, because how would they have babies. Her response? They’re probably one gender, male and female, they just have deep voices. (funny).
    my other question was about the cartoon, Jem. I loved jem and the holograms – but one day I noticed that the hero, Jerica, was dating the one male character in the show. Now, her alter ego, Jem, was also dating the man. I asked mom why she didn’t just tell him , since the porr guy had no idea. She told me the figured Jem was afraid, and that he was a jerk, and that they were both jerks – and we got into a discussion about marriage, dating and cheating. It was funny, but I look back and think that it was very cool. Those discussions, shaped me to this day.
    there’s much to raise eyebrows about in this industry. As soon as I make a film, my face gets plastered on an organizations banner as “diverse”. I find this preposterous. But It’s great to talk about.

    Margot, I read your blog for many reasons. Sometimes i agree, sometimes I don’t. many times I laugh out loud (really). But it it always resonates and stays with me. I think for the male readers – we should really stop taking everything so personal. A battle of sexes is useless. We all face injustice, and there is no real way of solving it forever. But working together and creating healthy talk, and challenging each other in earnest is much more fulfilling than such lame hate mail like Oliver’s…sorry but that sucked – it was true at some points but it goes out the window when we call names.

    there’s my two sense..

    not all of us are filled with disgust.
    we do listen.
    we do try
    we hope it goes both ways..

    thanks peeps

  2. I’m also confused about this part: “Pretty soon women became more equal than men. Girls more equal than boys.” How can something be MORE equal?

    He is right that boys are fairing poorly comparied to girls in some areas. But that doesn’t negate the very real issues facing girls. I have both a son and a daughter, and I am concerned about what the future holds for both of them, for different reasons. One does not cancel out the other.

  3. There is so much that is obviously awful about Oliver’s post and I don’t have the time or energy to address it all right now. But I do believe there are grains of truth in his rant; for example that there DOES need to be more encouragement and support for men and boys in a lot of areas (education being a good example), that there ARE ways in which women have gained some advantages over men (such as the right to wear either skirts or pants as they choose).

    And what is deeply, deeply tragic about Oliver’s view on all this, is that he seems to think that we as a society can’t address the problems facing both males and females at the same time. That we can’t help boys to be more in touch with their emotions and more engaged with education at the same time as seeing that girls become 50% of protagonists in children’s movies. Why, why oh why, does he insist on believing that improvements for one gender must necessarily come at the expense of the other gender?

    As evidenced by this awful view of the world, and also by the claim that women have become ‘more equal’ than men, Oliver does not understand what ‘equal’ means at all. It looks to be as though he thinks that to be equal means to have no problems. What a horrible misconception to blunder through life with, constantly feeling that you must be getting trampled on by other because you’re not getting everything you want. No wonder he is so full of anger and bitterness. 🙁

  4. When did women pull even with men in education of the top tier fields? Was it within the past decade? If so, it’s only a matter of time before women make gains at the tops of those fields. The current male-heavy power players have to retire sometime, and that’s where the women who are just entering the fields now can make their marks. That’s assuming they don’t drop out in droves to be SAHMs, though.

    This also doesn’t consider “popular vote” stats that you provide, such as Hollywood filmmaking and politics, where women will have a more difficult time overcoming the barriers.

    • Hi Meghan,

      I wish you were right but I don’t think you are. Women have not been making it to the top, for example female lawyers haven’t been making partner or been getting equal pay since they were allowed to go to law school. Women make it to the middle. The reasons are complex. The one I focus on in this blog has to do with kids media nd toys, its influence on us and how it reflects our expectations.


  5. You dumb, irrational, zealous feminist, Margot! Because there was nothing irrational, zealous or dumb in Oliver’s comment at all, nooooo siree.

  6. I couldn’t (didn’t wish to) finish his comment, but, maybe he should call for help, his’ read like extremely personal rants… :/

  7. That’s the disadvantage of internet, if he had boasted something like that in a class full of people, specially the pathetic punchline, a painful silence of awkwardness would have followed, and he’d be humiliated to find out he just made himself a butt monkey. But that would be like, what, in front of 100 people? Nothing compared to the number of people reading this blog, his sheer lack of intelligence and capacity to even offend someone will be here for anyone to read at any given moment…

    “The reality is this…” “The reality is that …” Oh wow, how convincing, his fingers must be a special type if their merely writing things makes them real.

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