In India , it’s said that women can have a job , not a career. But however dismal our workforce representation stats might be they can’t beat how misrepresented career oriented women are in popular cinema. In my Theme Reveal post I shared the finding of a recent study called Gender Bias Without Borders [ an investigation of female characters across 11 countries in popular films] . Amongst many other findings [objectification, under representation, lesser screen time etc] it clearly showed the men were twice more likely to have an occupation in a popular film than a woman. We were in the bottom two of the 11 counties studied that portrayed working women.
Further , across all the countries (including India) that were examined, females were underrepresented in the film workforce compared to their actual percentages globally [ 15% of women in Indian movies are likely to have a job viz 25% of women in real world actually contributing to workforce].
Sounds gloomy? Well , at least not for you or me if as a writer if we wish to see a central female protagonist that’s one of our kinds. But ever wonder if the stereotypes that men belong to boardrooms or operation theaters or political offices while women take care of home are getting reemphasized through movies? For a working woman like me , the chances of climbing up to the senior leadership level in my current organization is actually higher than coming across a female lead in a similar role.
Further , occupational stereotyping is something we may have observed , but the study precisely documents. Women are more like to be a nurse or a teacher than hold a vital STEM job [ Science Technology Engineering Math ] or be a sporting athlete or a law reinforcement person Vs their male actors in the movies.
While these gaps are glaring, my focus so far has been and shall continue to remain during this 26 part series on highlighting the positives. The percentage of women who are representing our gender and its potential might be small but it exists and in the recent past , strong female leads and supporting characters have emerged as the change makers .
Shivani [ Mardaani ] a cop who interesting has a family life , chases bad guys and thankfully doesn’t need a man to rescue her in the climax when she gets stuck . Raina [ Ladies Vs Ricky Behl ] a high performing business professional who chases the con man who dupes her to get even. Romila [ Lakshya ] is so career oriented , she breaks up with her boyfriend [ the hero] when she realized he had run off from military academy training. She further calls off the engagement with her fiancé when he doesn’t approve of her decision of taking up a journalism assignment in a war affected zone. Sona [Luck by Chance] is a struggling actress who has her ethics better placed than the hero and Shruti [ Band Baaja Baraat ] sets up a wedding planning business with the hero of the movie as her side kick!
In all these movies the men were shown as weaker , more emotional , less accomplished , less ethical or less ambitious . The women called the shots , kicked the goons and truly excelled at what they did. They also showed women as everyday , grounded , balanced women – with perfectly normal family lives .
It’s stories like these that young girls want to see on-screen instead of constantly seeing female leads as arm candies , waiting to get rescued by their knight in shining armour . The misplaced notion of how ‘Women cant have it all’ – a career and a life beyond in its cinematic representation needs to meet the reality off screen . After all aren’t the very actresses who portray these roles or write these movies are accomplished and don’t have one-dimensional existence?
Women in real life are working mothers , working daughters , working wives and working people . They have the choice to be workaholics or earn more than their partners or choose to not get into a relationship at all. The choices exist for us , how we wish to earn our daily meal and not just cook it and finally the movies are depicting that change too.
I am collaborating with Jaibala Rao who is blogging about Iconic movies of our generation here . Click here to Join me in my #AtoZChallenge journey this April as I explore Women representation in contemporary movies. If you are participating in AtoZ too , do leave your link and I’d try my best to drop by .