What Does the Oscars Have Against Women? #oscarwomen

It’s time for a serious national conversation on male bias in the film industry.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

February 20, 2013  |

Stop the presses! Hollywood is still a man’s world. If you have any doubt, consider this: last year, six entire Academy Awards categories were completely free of female nominations. It’s even worse this year, up to seven. The roster of 2013 nominees includes 140 men and a paltry 35 women. Getting nominated is a huge factor in career success for every aspect of the film business, from acting and directing to editing and production.

So what’s up with the man bias?

Might have something to do with the fact that a bunch of older white dudes hold the cards when it comes time to pick winners. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the brainchild of Louis B. Mayer, the legendary head of MGM, comprises mostly working professionals in film and television. Its membership is highly secretive, and includes only people who have been nominated for an Oscar, recommended by at least two current members, or endorsed by the branch’s membership committee or the academy staff.

Sound kind of like a frat? It is. According to a 2012 study by the L.A. Times, 77 percent of Oscar voters are male. They also have a median age of 62. The study found that some of the academy’s 15 branches are nearly all white and male. “Men compose more than 90% of five branches,” noted the Times, “including cinematography and visual effects. Of the academy’s 43-member board of governors, six are women; public relations executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the sole person of color.”

That is a sorry state of affairs. As Julie Barton, president of the Women’s Media Center, recently put it: “In a film industry where 78% of the top-grossing 250 films of 2012 had no female writers, and 89% of them had no female directors, the Hollywood boys’ club needs to start admitting women.”

Academy leaders say they have been trying to diversify, but they face a daunting problem: the entire industry lacks diversity. Fewer than one in five screenwriters is female, and women directors make up less than 10 percent of the total. A vicious, self-reinforcing cylce exists in which guys pick the winners, winners get the jobs, and then these same folks go on to join the boys club.

There are very few signs that the circle will be broken any time soon, despite the recent success of women like Kathryn Bigelow, whose film The Hurt Lockerlanded her a Best Director award in 2009. (Her most recent film, Zero Dark Thirty, is up for several awards this year, including Best Actress, though Bigelow was not nominated for Best Director this time around.) Unfortunately, Bigelow is the exception that proves the rule in a business where sexism pervades every aspect. Consider pay scales: in 2009, the median annual pay in film was about $76,500 for men, compared with just $62,500 for women.

Predictably, movies made by men are also made for men. The Bechdel test, invented by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, tests movies for gender bias. The test is based on three questions: Does a movie contain two or more female characters who have names? Do those characters talk to each other? If so, do they discuss something besides men? The test demonstrates that movies in which women act as the handmaidens to male adventures are still the norm, and even in films with female characters, the interactions between the women are primarily concerned with what the male characters are doing.

Looking at recent movies, Zero Dark Thirtypasses the Bechdel test, because even though the women in the film talk to each other about Bin Laden, he’s certainly not a love interest, and their conversations have a political context and often concern the planning of strategy. Gangster Squad, on the other hand (one of the most stupifyingly tedious films I have ever seen, and that’s saying a lot) flunks the Bechdel. There are two named female characters, but they don’t have anything to say to each other, and they probably couldn’t hear each other if they did, for all the pointless shooting.

Americans are patting themselves on the backs right now for Oscar-nominated films like Lincoln and Django Unchained that purportedly further the conversation on race. But there’s a deafening silence on how the film industry remains stuck in testosterone-soaked aspic when it comes to sexism.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of ‘Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.’ She received her Ph.d in English and Cultural Theory from NYU, where she has taught essay writing and semiotics. She is the Director of AlterNet’s New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.


Oscar-Nominated ‘Invisible War’ Reveals Hidden Rape Crisis in the Military #Vaw

By Ely Brown, abcnews

Feb 22, 2013 1:41pm

Women have reached some of the highest echelons in the military.  They command fighter pilot wings and fly the president on Marine One. They have earned silver stars for courage fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a general’s four stars.

But while they may be succeeding on the front lines, there is an invisible battle that is taking its toll.  According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, some 30 percent of women have been raped or sexually assaulted while serving their country,  and in total numbers, more men than women are victims of sexual assault.

Shining a light on this hidden epidemic is “The Invisible War,” an Oscar-nominated documentary by filmmaker Kirby Dick.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2013 Awards

“I was just astounded by the statistics,” Dick told “Nightline” anchor Cynthia McFadden.  “Nineteen thousand men and women are being sexually assaulted each year in the United States military.”

The film unveils not just the high prevalence of attacks, but also focuses on the military’s response.

“We interviewed more than 50 survivors on camera,” Dick said.  “You keep hearing the same stories over again and again.  Three times we heard a story, a woman who was single, raped by a married man.  Yet, she was charged with or threatened to be charged with adultery.”

Jessica Hinves is one of the many survivors who shared their stories with the filmmakers.  Hinves comes from a military family and joined the Air Force, rising through the ranks to become a crew chief for an F-15.

“I was always taught that it’s every citizen’s duty to join the military,” Hinves said.  “I looked forward to retiring in the military. Unfortunately I was medically retired with PTSD from being raped.”

It happened in 2009.

“I went to go to sleep and this guy was in an adjoining room and he broke in through my bathroom and raped me.  [He] walked back out to the adjoining room, grabbed his book bag, didn’t say anything to anybody and left. I went and got a rape kit and because the girl in the next room reported it, the case was opened.”

ht jessica hinves jef 130222 wblog Oscar Nominated Invisible War Reveals Hidden Rape Crisis in the Military Credit: Jessica Hinves

Hinves’ case was investigated, but in the meantime she was forced to transfer to another base.  Her attacker claimed that he stopped when she said no, but a court date was set to try the case.

Just days before, however, the chain of command weighed in and stopped the case from proceeding.  In the military, the decision to investigate rape and sexual assault cases belongs not to law enforcement, but to the commanders.  Only 8 percent of assault cases are prosecuted.

“I felt like this is a threat to justice and this is so wrong,” Hinves said.

Attorney Susan Burke agrees.  “It is fully controlled by the chain of command,” Burke said. “It is not an impartial judicial system the way we expect as Americans. So from my perspective what we have is the very people who are the bravest among us, most willing to get out there and sacrifice to defend the nation [and] they don’t enjoy the same justice that we as Americans take for granted.”

Burke represents Hinves and about a dozen of other servicemen and women in a lawsuit against the military.  The case was recently dismissed.

“There is a judicial doctrine that basically insulates, immunizes the military from any kind of lawsuit from civilian court. If the activity is – the buzz phrase is incident to service – so it’s an occupational hazard.”

Burke is appealing the decision.

As for the military, rather than criticize the film, the filmmakers say it has been used in sexual assault training programs.

“We estimate that in 2012 alone ten percent of the military saw the film,” Dick said.  “We hope that changes culture.  But again the most important change has to come.”

And that may be happening.  Days after screening the film, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta underscored that sexual assault has no place in military service and offered changes in how military assault cases are investigated and prosecuted.

But Susan Burke wants to see a change in the law.  “If Congress doesn’t step forward and fix it we have made our troops second class citizens in our own nation.”

It is a fixable problem.  “It doesn’t need to take another 20 years or even a year or two,” Hinves said.  “This can be done immediately and effectively.”



Dr. Manmohan Singh wins lifetime achievement Oscar for acting as India’s Prime Minister

Dr. Manmohan Singh did India proud by bagging the Oscar for Lifetime Achievement for acting as the Prime Minister of India from 2004 to present.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science said Dr. Singh’s Irving Thalberg Memorial Award was given to “a mild mannered and soft-spoken economist whose body language reflects a steadfast commitment to keeping up appearances of being in control and operating in silence, which in turn has spawned a plethora of behind the scenes state and non-state actors”.

It was of course more than a coincidence that on the night honoring one of the greatest practitioners of silent acting, ‘The Artist’, a silent movie, won 5 Academies including the best picture award. French star, Jean Dujardin, who won the Oscar for best actor in a leading role for portraying a fading film star of the silent movies era, acknowledged the mountain of debt he owed the Indian Prime Minister.

In stark contrast to the commonplace black ties and ubiquitous strapless gowns on display, Dr. Singh graced the red carpets attired in an elegant bandgala and spoke in a well rehearsed, flat tone without betraying any hint of emotion during his acceptance speech.

Read more here



Documentary filmmaking threatened by court ruling

English: Official Reporters Without Borders lo...

Image via Wikipedia

7 February 2012

SOURCE: Reporters Without Borders

(RSF/IFEX) – 7 February 2012 – Reporters Without Borders is deeply disturbed by the precedent that a court in the northern city of Lille set on 26 January when it ordered documentary filmmaker Sophie Robert to remove interviews with three psychoanalysts from her film about the treatment of autism and to pay them a large sum in damages for “misrepresenting” their views.

“By basing his ruling on how Robert chose to edit her film, the judge assumed the mantle of journalism critic,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The ruling’s consequences increase its gravity. Even if she appeals, Robert is now at the mercy of bailiffs who are demanding immediate payment of more than 25,000 euros. After the seizure of the original interview footage in October, we are shocked yet again by the disproportionate nature of the judge’s decision.

“His arguments are extremely dangerous for the future of documentary filmmaking. Taking a position, defending a point of view – which is only natural with such a controversial subject – has been treated as misrepresentation. Will any person interviewed for a documentary now be able to request seizure of the footage and its withdrawal from the documentary? Will only toned-down, anodyne documentaries now be tolerated?”

The court ordered Robert to pay between 5,000 and 7,000 euros in damages to each of the three psychoanalysts – Eric Laurent, Esthela Solano-Suarez and Alexandre Stevens – she interviewed for her film, “The Wall – Psychoanalysis put to the Autism Test.” The court also ordered her to withdraw the interviews from the film and publish an apology, and ruled that its orders should take immediate effect, even if she decided to appeal.

The film is a scathing criticism of the way French psychoanalysts treat autistic children. It portrays their methods as backward and accuses them of blaming the parents. Although the three psychoanalysts she interviewed signed releases allowing her to edit their comments, they nonetheless brought a suit accusing her of distorting their views.

“The Wall is a contribution to the debate on a issue of public interest – using psychoanalysis to treat autism – and is therefore protected by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concerns free expression, and by the jurisprudence stemming from this article,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“At no time did the judge refer to the right to inform the public or the principles recognized by the European Court in Strasbourg, namely accepting a degree of exaggeration, taking account of good faith and tolerating ideas that shock or offend. He also ignored the principle that a penalty should be proportionate to the harm inflicted and the defendant’s ability to pay. Applying article 1382 of the French Civil Code, concerning civil liability, was also regrettable as it prevented Robert from benefitting from the guarantees granted by more specific legal provisions.”

Reporters Without Borders supports Robert’s appeal and hopes that the appeal court will take account of the principle of free expression, as enshrined in the constitution.


For more information:

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51


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