Glass Ceiling: Smashed or Cracked?

Kathryn Bigelow's winning the Best Picture and Best Directing Oscars last night indeed made for proud moments not just for women working in the film industry but for women everywhere. And although I loved the moment just as much as the next, I wondered whether Kathryn Bigelow had crashed through Hollywood's glass ceiling or had merely put a crack in it.

According to Melissa Silverstein on her Women and Hollywood blog, it would appear that women still have a long way to go before they will be crashing through Hollywood's glass ceiling. Take a look at some of the statistics posted on Silverstein's blog:

In 2008, women accounted for:
  • 9% of all directors
  • 12% of writers
  • 16% of executive producers
  • 23% of all producers
  • 17% of all editors
Another important fact: 6 of the 50 highest grossing films in that year starred or were focused on women* (Think Chick Flick). Therefore, not only were women underrepresented on film crews, but they were also underrepresented in terms of the focus of the films that were the biggest box-office hits.

But these discouraging statistics have not stopped women from finding other means to get their films made. In a pre-Oscar interview with Sarah Seltzer, Silverstein commented on a trend she had noticed when predicting what the major Oscar moments for women would be,
There are several women nominated for documentary feature. One thing I've noticed, a trend in writing and directing in the documentary category, is these pairs: a man and women. . . . One way for women to get funding and to get noticed is to partner with a guy. Only one documentary is directed by a woman herself. Three others done in partnerships.
My concern with Kathryn Bigelow's victory last night is the perception that the battle of the sexes in Hollywood is over--women are in. Few people will question how hard Bigelow had to work in this male-dominated industry to get where she is today. I am also not very optimistic that other women's problems working in Hollywood will end with Bigelow's awards.

That perception, however, may still have some positive repercussions. Bigelow's win might push girls and young women to pursue their passion and become filmmakers, and more parents might now encourage their daughters to become directors. Although Bigelow and many other women have been pushing against the glass ceiling for decades, at least now there's a crack, and with a lot of hard work and drive, it will be easier for other women to push through.

*Melissa Silverstein's statistics come from the Center for Study of Women in TV and Film at San Diego State University.

Women and Hollywood
A Feminist Guide to the 2010 Oscars

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A Hypothetical Society


Anonymous | March 9, 2010 at 9:41 AM

I think just epitomises women's roles everywhere; even though we live in a somewhat equal society, it will always be a man's world.

CJ xx

Heather | March 9, 2010 at 7:08 PM

That is true, but I'd like to think that I'll be six-feet under before I give up challenging the status quo. When the unfairness gets me down, I just think of what my mother's world was like, and I can see the changes that have taken place. Shall I burn my bra now...

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