Women Are Less Visible In British Cinema Today Than They Were In 1913

Photo: Thomas William
Women in the UK have come a long way in the last century. These days, we have the same sway at the ballot box as men, and we can control our fertility, to name just a few ways in which our lives have changed for the better.
But one thing that hasn't improved is our visibility on screen, which is particularly depressing given how much the experience of watching a film has changed over time (because there was a time when sound was considered high-tech, after all).
In fact, the gender imbalance in British cinema is actually worse in 2017 than it was in 1913, according to a report by the British Film Institute. The Filmography of British film, which analysed more than 10,000 films and 250,000 cast and crew members, makes for a very bleak read indeed.
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In 1913, 31% of actors cast in films were women, compared with the 30% cast in 2017, The Guardian reported. This is despite an increased awareness of the issue and a revolution in society's attitudes towards women.
The proportion of women behind the camera has scarcely improved, either. Less than 1% of films made between 1913 and 2017 had crews that were mostly women and only 7% of films since the turn of the century. Even the number of films with "man" in the title (211) far outnumbered those with "woman" (71).
Gurinder Chadha, who was named the most prolific working female film director, said she was “faintly amused and saddened” by her title, given how difficult she's found it to make each film. “The tragedy of what we are talking about is that our stories aren’t there and that is a great loss to us as a nation and to us as an industry," she told the Guardian." The whole point about film is that it reflects who we are."
The BFI also highlighted the extent of gender stereotyping in film. 94% of unnamed prostitutes on screen are women and no woman has ever – we repeat, ever – played the role of an unnamed police sergeant or police inspector in a British film, reported the Guardian.
But there were some interesting findings that won't necessarily make you want to crawl back under a duvet for the next few decades. Dame Judi Dench was named as the most prolific working female actor, having starred in 41 films during her career, closely followed by Maggie Smith with 40 films. Meanwhile, Michael Caine was crowned the most prolific male.
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