In a recent interview with the Guardian, actress and human rights activist Emma Watson illustrated the sexism she’s experienced in Hollywood by sharing a few hard facts. “I have experienced sexism in that I have been directed by male directors 17 times and only twice by women,” she told the Guardian. “Of the producers I’ve worked with 13 have been male and only one has been a woman.”
“I think my work with the UN has probably made me even more aware of the problems. I went out for a work dinner recently. It was seven men…and me,” she said.
Her experience is in line with Hollywood’s gender gap. Though there’s no shortage of aspiring female filmmakers, a recent report by Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that only 7 percent of the directors in 2014’s 250 highest-grossing films were women — a percentage that’s actually declined by two points since 1998. The number of women behind the screen affects the representation women of on-screen, who are often given marginalising roles where they’re defined by their relationships to others as “the wife” or “the girlfriend.”
With more women at the helm, women on-screen are likely to gain equal representation too. The study found that movies that have at least one female director or writer had nearly 10 percent more female speaking characters than movies written and directed by men. Even more startlingly, nearly 40 percent of the lead characters in movies with female writers and directors were women; in movies directed and written by men, only 4 percent of lead roles were women.
Unlike some of her peers in Hollywood, Watson said that she has not personally experienced discriminatory treatment on the set, thankfully. But her treatment in the media is a different story: “But I am lucky: I have always insisted on being treated equally and have generally won that equality,” she said. “Most of the problems I have encountered have been in the media, where I have been treated so incredibly differently from my male co-stars.”
Being a woman on a male-dominated project can be alienating, Watson explained. “If something does go wrong in the workplace, the support network is not brilliant. The men at the top often find it difficult to relate to a lot of the problems women face and therefore we aren’t taken very seriously.”
There are so few spots for women that sometimes women see each other as competition rather than as allies. “Yet, women are just as guilty of discriminating against women,” Watson continued. “Some of the best feminists I have encountered are men, like Steve Chbosky who directed me in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and director James Ponsoldt who I am working with at the moment [on The Circle]. Some women can be incredibly prejudiced against other women!”
Watson was one of nine women who spoke candidly about her experiences with sexism in the industry, including Suffragette director Sarah Gavron and Belle director Amma Asante. You can read about their experiences here.