Ageism In Focus: Womxn in Cinema

Over the last decade, energetic conversations sparked around sexism in Hollywood, the heart of the American cinema. A-list celebrities came out one after the other sharing their incredibly toxic stories in the industry, reiterating how sexism can take many faces and forms. Here are examples of womxn who recently shared their stories:

(Photo by: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Kerry Washington, actress and producer, recalls how studios applauded ABC for taking a "risk" by casting a Black woman as the lead role on "Scandal."

(Photo by: Danny Moloshok/ Reuters)

Reese Witherspoon, actress and producer, was warned by her financial adviser that she would make "drastically" less money in her 40s.

(Photo by: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for AMC)

Gemma Chan, actress best known for her roles in "Crazy Rich Asians" and "Captain Marvel" shared how she was turned away from interviews as the producers were "only going to see white people."

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Sexism in Hollywood, like many other things, answers to the offer and demand. In other words, the audience is also responsible for accepting and participating in this sexism. Consequently, a question we must ask ourselves is, "what I would like to see in cinema as role models for myself and the future generations?" It appears evident that, as of right now, that industry is creating negative bias, particularly towards womxn, but also towards other communities. For example, children will learn that:

  • Being gay is something disturbing and joke-worthy, and "real men" cannot be affectionate, emotional or intimate with other men: In an interview, the actress Helen Hunt observed, "if I really looked at how many comedies are driven by thirty-year-old men, with the necessary homophobic joke where they almost hold hands and then scream and run away, I'd probably just take my ball and go home."

  • Womxn should be quiet or silent: Out of thirty Disney movies analyzed in 2016, twenty-two of them have a majority-male dialogue. For instance, in Mulan, a movie with a female character lead, the male pet dragon, Mushu, has 50 percent more lines than her.

  • Racial diversity is not a thing: Out of the top 100 films of 2019, 68% of all female characters were white, 20% were Black, 7% were Asian, and 5% were Latinx.

At Envisâge, we want to specifically highlight the destructive ageism behaviors towards womxn in the Hollywood industry. Womxn are stigmatized, mislabeled, and antagonized, as industry places inordinate value on womxn's sexuality, youth, and appearance, which their male counterparts don't suffer.

We would like to underline the work of the many womxn and allies working as the pillar of change right now in the Hollywood industry. Out of many whose work is helping in ending age bias against womxn in cinema, we would like to give a special shout out to the following individuals:

(Photo by Refinery29)

Taraji P. Henson (49), actress and gender activist: Taraji vowed to break Hollywood's ageism glass ceiling for womxn as they approach and move past the age of fifty. Taraji emphasized that older womxn are as much able to carry out movies to box office with as much great success. She explained in an interview, "[w]e bring the husbands to the movies, we bring our families, our boyfriends, we are the box office draw so why not cater to women. That's a no-brainer."

(Photo by NPR media)

Tracee Ellis Ross (47), strong spokesperson against sexism, racism and ageism in Hollywood: Tracee is emphasizing in this context of the #BlackLivesMatter movement to create sustainable changes in the narratives surrounding womxn in cinema. Looking at her career, the actress and activist says, "I'm 47 years old and I'm the hottest I've ever been. I'm the most comfortable in my skin I've ever been. I feel the sexiest I've ever felt. I know more than I've ever known. I have a bigger and more compassionate heart than I've ever had. I understand the things I don't know. I'm happy to, to name the limits of my own knowledge. Like, I mean, come on. What do you want, (want) me to go back to being 22? No, thank you!"

To continue to learn about ageism towards womxn in Hollywood, visit Women and Hollywood - #Ageism by clicking here!

Article based on

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Cadet D. (2019). Taraji P. Henson Is Going To Break The Ageism Glass Ceiling. Refinery29.

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NPR Team. (2020). Tracee Ellis Ross Continues To Hit 'The High Note' In A Sexist and Racist World. NPR Media.

Simmons R. (n.d.). The Astonishing Sexism of Hollywood and What it Means for Girls. RachelSimmons.

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Willen C. (2020). 26 women who have opened up about experiencing sexism in Hollywood. Insider.