An excerpt from “Imagining a Cinematic World without Rape”


The problem with cinematic gendering is that when it comes in the form of fantasized characters made for the purpose of entertainment, then the foundations are conventions, not innovations. Audiences can connect to the mother figure, but they are not supposed to admire the femme fatale: what happens if they do? Is it because the filmmaker made some sort of mistake in editing this character? Would a mistake like this be worse if it made her sympathetic or if she tapped into some part of us that we admired but had to keep secret?

Women and men are divided into categories of “male and “femaleness”  in film plots to support movies made by men and male characters, but also the general structure of social convention (wherever they may be). This holds women back on and off screen as well as behind the scenes. It affects the ways that we see and the ways we judge women who make films.

Film is even more gendered behind the scenes. The project of imagining a cinematic world without rape began with confusion about why women do not make as many films as men. My hypothesis was that the concepts of sexual violence and the lacking female presence, specifically in the areas of producing and directing films, must be connected. I considered that there might be a key piece of information on this topic that would illuminate/improve the status of women as victims on screen. After surveying the plots, characters, and creators of over 1,000 American films from the past decade, I accepted that my hypothesis was and is strikingly accurate.

The rundown: Men make more movies. Men make movies about men. And when men make movies about women, they make them, overwhelmingly, about the hardships of women or – on the other hand – about the hardships of women in comedic form (i.e. romantic comedies).  After all, it’s funny to be female, isn’t it?

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