Opinion
Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
Opinion Opinion L.A.
Opinion

TV is a vast wasteland for women, and the Emmys prove it

Emmy's a girl, but not very many of the TV award nominees are women.
The Emmy nominee list tells the tale: Women aren't making enough headway in Hollywood

Something interesting happened on the way to the modern Emmy Awards. Two aisles were created in the acting category: one for men and one for women.

The awards didn’t start out that way. At the first Emmy ceremony in 1949, there were only three categories — best film, most popular tv program, and most outstanding television personality. The nominees for the latter were three women, two men and a dummy. (Shirley Dinsdale won, along with her puppet, Judy Splinters.)

It was two years later, in 1951, that the acting categories were added, in genderized form. Interestingly, Betty White was nominated for an Emmy then, as she is again this year — 63 years later. She can count seven Emmys in her collection now, and surely hopes to add an eighth for outstanding host for a reality or reality-competition program. The category isn’t bifurcated by gender, and it has never been won by a solo female.

Emmy nominations 2014: List of nominees

The fact is that in the Emmy Award categories that aren’t bifurcated by gender, male nominees tend to outnumber female ones, often by huge margins. There are only four kinds of categories in which women outnumber men, including reality hosts.  (Perhaps that should be hosts and hostesses? ) As for the other kinds of categories in which women outnumber men, they are … well, we’ll get to that.

The Women In Film foundation was organized more than 40 years ago with the idea that “entertainment created by and for women should represent 50% of all content worldwide, in sync with the voice of the population itself.” A quick look at its list of financial supporters — ABC, HBO and Universal among them — might give you the idea that with so much of Hollywood interested in gender parity, WIF’s goal ought to be in sight.

But the truth is in the Emmy nominee list.

Of the 34 nominations for directing awards, only four went to women: Gail Mancuso ("Modern Family") and Jodie Foster ("Orange Is the New Black") for comedy series, Beth McCarthy Miller ("The Sound of Music Live") for variety special, and Jehane Noujaim ("The Square") for documentary.

The writer nominee list is similarly skewed. No more than one show “written by” a woman or women is nominated in any category other than variety series.  In that category, of the 71 nominees — so many that it would be utterly embarrassing for any show to exclude women entirely — only 12 are women, with only a single female “head writer.”

According to a recent study by Martha M. Lauzen of San Diego State University, women remain underrepresented not just in the award ranks, but in the television business as a whole. In 2013, women accounted for only 28% of the creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors and directors of photography working on prime-time programs airing on the broadcast networks.

Timeline: Emmy winners through the years

It may be that women apply in equal numbers but don’t get jobs from those in charge, who are largely male. It may be that fewer women aspire to be directors and television writers, but if so the discrepancy may circle back to the ways the media and society shape and imagine the role of women.

The fact is that gender stereotypes on TV and in film remain ubiquitous and often unrecognized. The Lauzen study found that while 43% of speaking characters on television last year were female — a historical high — women characters were both younger and less likely to be seen at work than men. A study of G-rated movies by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found three male characters for every one female, with most of the female characters stereotyped and/or hyper-sexualized. Female aspirations were almost exclusively romance, while male goals almost never were. The top occupation for females? Royalty.

Is it any wonder that the more hours of television a boy watches, the more sexist he becomes, while the more a girl watches, the fewer options she believes she has in life?

On-screen princesses have not, on the whole, been dreaming of careers. They may be heroic or good-hearted, but they must be beautiful. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the other Emmy Awards in which women nominees outnumber men can help with that. They are all in the categories for costume, makeup and hair.

Meg Waite Clayton is the author of five novels, including "The Wednesday Sisters," "The Wednesday Daughters" and the forthcoming "The Race for Paris." www.megwaiteclayton.com

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • 'Orange Is the New Black' Emmy nods a win for women
    'Orange Is the New Black' Emmy nods a win for women

    In this year's Emmy race, "Orange Is the New Black" embodies the most important change in television in recent years.

  • Does Congress know we're at war?
    Does Congress know we're at war?

    When President Obama announced nine months ago that the United States was going to war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Congress reached an unusual near-consensus on two big points: Entering the fight was a good idea, but it was also important that the legislative branch formally authorize...

  • Chris Christie's political 'machine' — it's not such a bad thing
    Chris Christie's political 'machine' — it's not such a bad thing

    Here's a question whose answer may seem obvious, but isn't. Which is worse, a system in which political hacks can cause a massive traffic jam as a form of political payback, or a system in which it's a federal crime for political hacks to exact such retribution?

  • Stanford's Jon Krosnick: On climate change, most Americans want action
    Stanford's Jon Krosnick: On climate change, most Americans want action

    Another presidential election, another chance for Republican candidates to step out of the denial zone and deal with climate change. That would put them on the same side as a large majority of Americans, if you ask Jon A. Krosnick. He's a Stanford University professor who directs the Political...

  • So long, California: The next drought remedy?
    So long, California: The next drought remedy?

    Gov. Jerry Brown is calling for fines of up to $10,000 for the state’s biggest water wasters. "We've done a lot. We have a long way to go," Brown said. "So maybe you want to think of this as just another installment on a long enterprise to live with a changing climate and with a drought of uncertain...

  • 4 things Princess Charlotte should keep in mind growing up in Britain's royal family
    4 things Princess Charlotte should keep in mind growing up in Britain's royal family

    I have some words of advice for the newborn Princess Charlotte (Elizabeth Diana) of Cambridge, the first of which -- get a good first name -- her parents have already taken on her behalf. So she’s off to a fine start.

  • How deep are the problems in Baltimore's police department?
    How deep are the problems in Baltimore's police department?

    The decision by Baltimore State's Atty. Marilyn J. Mosby to bring murder, manslaughter and other criminal charges against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray brought cheer to protesters in that embattled city and their counterparts in other cities where civilians have long complained...

  • Trust issues at DWP, and City Hall
    Trust issues at DWP, and City Hall

    After a year and a half of political fights, lawsuits and protests, City Controller Ron Galperin was finally able to open the books of two nonprofit trusts associated with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and reveal, at least partially, how managers spent millions of dollars in ratepayer...

Comments
Loading