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Men still do the talking, women stripping in films, finds Hollywood study

Washington: A new study has shown that women still do not get as much respect as men in Hollywood, with the former still getting roles that require stripping and showing off skin, while the latter get more speaking roles.

Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California studied 100 top-grossing films of 2008 and found that men had 67 percent of the speaking parts, while women had only 33 percent.

Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti and their research team found that 39.8 percent of teenage female characters were seen in sexy clothing, and 30.1 percent were shown with exposed skin in the cleavage, midriff or upper thigh regions.

The research found that teenage male characters were drastically lower in numbers when it comes to stripping, with just 6.7 percent shown in sexy clothing and 10.3 percent showing skin.

The study also found that conditions for women behind the camera were similar, as for every female director, writer or producer, for films in 2008, there were nearly five men chosen for the same creative positions.

"These findings are troubling given that repeated exposure to thin and sexy characters may contribute to negative effects in some female viewers," Smith said.

"Such portrayals solidify patterns of appearance-based discrimination in the entertainment industry," she stated.

Across four out of six measures of sexuality - from wearing sexy clothing to being described in dialogue as attractive - female characters were much more likely than their male counterparts to be portrayed with objectifying attributes.

Nearly one quarter of female characters were shown exposing skin in 2008``s most popular movies.

The researchers found some evidence that movies with women in creative production roles may help give young female viewers better role models to follow.

In movies with at least one female director, 44.4 percent of speaking characters were females as well, compared to 31.7 percent in all-male-directed films.

A similar gender boost was observed in movies written by women.

"There is a possibility that what we are seeing here is the power that individuals may have in affecting change on a large scale - in this case the number of working females in film," Choueiti said.

"Amidst the unsettling statistics, this may prove to be a beacon of hope; however more research is needed to determine the cause and direction of this relationship," he stated.

This year’s study follows a similar analysis of movies released in 2007, and reveals some trends.

There was a substantial increase in movies with at least one woman director, with 8 percent of 2008 films helmed by women (compared to only 2.7 percent in 2007).

The proportion of female speaking characters in stories released by Hollywood studios also increased, climbing to 32.8 percent from 29.9 percent.

While this ratio represents the slimmest the gender gap has been across multiple studies conducted by the research group, the report points out that females still have a long way to go.

In 2008, there were more twice as many men in speaking roles than women.

"Females are still being marginalized and sexualised in popular film," Smith said.

"While the higher percentage of females on screen in this sample of movies is a step in the right direction, gender equality for female actors and those working behind the camera is still nowhere in sight," she added.


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