Why Female Justice and the Hyper-sexualization of Women is Relevant (with Olivia Wilde and Hollywood)

As I’ve been getting older, issues of feminism and sexism–especially in the media–have been growing in importance to me. I guess, with age, you begin to lose the rose-colored glasses and realize some of the injustices surrounding you.

As a woman growing up in this post-feminist kind of society where people are challenging each other with what is considered feminist and what is not–blurring the lines between its actual definition and what is just ‘rebellious behavior’–it’s interesting to see how we live in a high-time where women all over the world are just fighting for their voices to be heard and respected.

Hyper-sexualization of women has grown rampant over the years in media, I’ve found. Seeing women dressed in scant-clothing, showing off their bodies and obsessing over their looks compared to movie stars has become a norm. Young women like Miley Cyrus can prance around in her underwear on national television and publications can proudly feature intellectual porn-stars like Stoya who share thoughts on sex, the industry and women. (I’ve nothing against this feminine expression, however.) Yet, men can easily wear what they wore for centuries and not be judged for it. They can sit back and revel at the events taking place before their eyes. You tell me if there’s nothing a little fishy about that.

Of course, hearing me say this may just sound like I’m complaining. But, it’s important to recognize that this has been a growing pattern and trend for centuries.

In the attempt to combat violence against women and girls worldwide through creative awareness projects, the V-Day movement was launched in hopes of creating “a world where women [can] live safely and freely.”

And, as the media and Hollywood is oftentimes the first ones to blame for the lack of female representation and voice in filmic works, I highly appreciate what one actress–who has been involved in the industry for a long time, enough to be both an object and pioneer–has to say about combatting that discrimination against women in “The State of Female Justice.”

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In a February 12 panel, actress Olivia Wilde spoke upon the media and Hollywood’s incredible ability to reach international audiences–yet we just aren’t doing enough with it today.

“Our responsibility is to be story tellers, so why aren’t we telling the stories that are educating the masses to empower them to avoid a lot of these situations?” she poses.

Also, in light of the Academy Awards, the idea that white men run Hollywood hasn’t changed all that much.

“Women got only 28 percent of speaking roles — often hypersexualized roles — in the 100 top-grossing fictional films from 2012. About 32 percent of female characters wore “sexy” clothing, compared to 7 percent of male characters, and 31 percent of these women were shown partially nude, compared to 9 percent of men.

Seventy-seven percent of Academy voters are male, 99 percent of “Best Director” winners are male, and 98 percent of both producers and writers are white.” (Source)

The idea of how women are objectified and how we objectify ourselves is an issue that greatly interests me, because it seems that, although we are critical of it for the most part, we still seem to allow it and be open to it happening. Also, the difficulties in finding roles about women, or finding men who are interested in working on films about women, still persists, enforcing that gap of inequality between men and women.

I guess, to bring this back to myself, my sensitivity to these issues goes back to the fact that I have a great deal of self-respect (sometimes to the point of my being too cautious). Growing up around boys for the majority of my life with very few and far between female role models (except for those I would see and aspire to be in the media), I grew a natural liking for inspiring women who reminded me of myself in the arts. Musicians, writers, actresses and storytellers… The arts became the best way to express myself when I physically and verbally never felt comfortable. And, when we’re young, we all want someone to look up to. My love and respect for people came from a natural faith in the well-being of others. And, when something came up that would challenge that, I felt compelled. If there was one thing I could completely own in myself, it was my individuality and femininity–and I was never planning on giving that away.

As Olivia Wilde continues to be interested in “how can we adjust that [inequality], considering that it’s all based on the demand,” she reveals, perhaps most significantly, “Movies are made based on what people are asking for. Magazines are sold based on what they think people are asking for. So really the power is in our hands. And it’s just a matter of really asking for it much louder.”

You go Olivia Wilde–and to all you self-respecting women who love what you do out there. Sometimes, there may not be enough of you out there. Live for you–not for the man you’re trying to impress, or the woman you’re trying to be. When you are being you, only then can we rise and become a collective.

View Olivia Wilde’s panel on “The State of Female Justice” below:

Or, read the full transcription below:

“I’m offering up my voice here as a representative of the media, which is often (I think) fairly criticized for being a big part of the problem when it comes to justice for women, equality for women, how women are objectified, how we objectify ourselves. I think a lot about where that problem is stemming from. Our responsibility is to be storytellers, and why aren’t we telling the stories to empower the masses, to educate them to avoid a lot of these situations. It seems like that’s really part of the healing process — the community coming together and empowering themselves through the power of the group and understanding that they don’t have to put up with that sh-t anymore.

Why isn’t that coming from the media? Why aren’t women in particular being empowered from a young age from the media. So I’m really interested in that. It’s not entirely surprising that within the media, in Hollywood, they can’t even figure out their own system of injustice. And that is something that I confront on a day-to-day basis. Any woman working at any level in any part of Hollywood will tell you … it’s really hard to get any stories made that are about women … not just women being obsessed with men or supporting men. And it’s really hard to get men to be a part of films that are about women in a leading role.

I’m really interested in how we can adjust that considering that it’s all based on the demand. Movies are made based upon what people are asking for. Magazines are sold based upon what they think people are asking for. So really the power is in our hands, and it’s really just a matter of asking for it much louder.

I don’t know if some of you have been to these live reads at LACMA, where a classic film is read live on stage by actors who just sit and read the script. We did one recently of American Pie, but we reversed the gender roles. All the women played men; all the men played women. And it was so fascinating to be a part of this because, as the women took on these central roles — they had all the good lines, they had all the good laughs, all the great moments — the men who joined us to sit on stage started squirming rather uncomfortably and got really bored because they weren’t used to being the supporting cast.

It was fascinating to feel their discomfort [and] to discuss it with them afterward, when they said, “It’s boring to play the girl role!” And I said, “Yeah. Yeah. You think? Welcome to our world!” It was also fascinating to see how the movie was just as entertaining and hilarious and exciting with women getting these roles. It clearly should be done more often. When we switch the roles, which has been done with movies, many of you probably know already that in Aliens, Sigourney Weaver’s role was written for a man. In Salt, Angelina Jolie’s role was written for Tom Cruise. These things, when reversed, have proven to be just as exciting and entertaining with women in leading roles.

2 responses to “Why Female Justice and the Hyper-sexualization of Women is Relevant (with Olivia Wilde and Hollywood)

  1. I think it was nice to see that the movie “Gravity” and “Zero Dark Thirty” had a strong female lead. =]

    But the market demand may not be in favor for making movies “about women” just yet.

    • Yes! I completely agree. If you watched the whole panel, she talks of how Angelina Jolie’s role in “Salt” was originally written for a male, but they made it into a female and it worked flawlessly. I LOVED those other female lead roles. Especially Sandra in “Gravity”–her role was taken completely seriously and wasn’t sexualized at all. But yes, we need a greater demand of female writers and roles in general.

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