Arzu Aliyeva discusses how to promote women of color through the film and TV industry

Arzu Aliyeva

In this post, Arzu Aliyeva examines the state of women stereotypes affecting women of color in the film industry.

Film and TV are at the center of the entertainment industry and showcase societal issues. 

Film producer Arzu Aliyeva points out how they do not accurately represent what society looks like.

Only in documentary films, you might understand the plight of minority groups and women of color.

When minority groups are displayed in films, the concept is usually stereotyped.

Viewers unconsciously buy the idea, affecting how they think, feel, and act toward women of color.

The relations between Women Stereotypes and Women of Colors

Arzu starts by discussing the image of men, as a matter of default, who are seen as natural leaders. 

On the other hand, whether white or colored, women must prove themselves competent and confident enough to handle leadership roles

However, both women groups face different challenges in films, says acclaimed filmmaker Arzu Alieyva.

The white woman is easily accepted. She’s kind and cares about others. But she must strike a balance, so she won’t be seen as weak or ineffective. 

The black woman is regarded as assertive and angry. 

People think she has an attitude. So, she must try not to be any of those things without being seen as too compliant, weak, and dependent.

In addition to gender bias, black women encounter racial bias. 

They are treated unfairly when it comes to attending training and getting promotions. As a result, they cannot rise to the peak of their career. 

And when they do, it is battle-ridden.

Lizzie Damilola Blackburn captured a bit of this bias in her book, Yinka, Where is Your Huzband?

In collaboration with LeanIn.Org, McKinsey analyzed women’s representation in The Women in the Workplace 2021

The study considered all categories of women, including women of color, women with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ women.

The authors reported that women are rising to become stronger leaders, supporting their teams, and doubling their inclusion efforts. White women are more likely to ally with women of color but less likely to advocate for them.

Niching down to the entertainment industry, a celluloid ceiling report shows the percentage of women film directors decreased in 2021. 

Another 2021 report explained that TV programs spearheaded by women creators employed more women as writers, editors, and directors. 

Therefore, there is a need to get more women into the industry for a wider representation.

The male dominant Film Industry is closed to different perspectives, claims Arzu Aliyeva 

In the film industry, it is common to see more men occupying creative positions such as directors, writers, and editors. 

Lauzen’s 2017 Celluloid Ceiling Report analyzed gender representation in the top 250 domestic grossing films.

The report highlighted that only 18% of creatives (editors, writers, cinematographers, executive producers, directors, and producers) were women. 

This figure is not different from what it was in 1998 (17%).

The government has come up with different initiatives to tackle inequality in the workplace. Yet, women and racial minorities are not faring any better in the film industry.

From personal experience, Arzu Aliyeva said, the film industry recruits based on interpersonal networks. While social capital is good, it tends to exclude certain people from accessing the industry. 

And women suffer more from this informal practice.

Research shows that films whose producers are male tend to have over 70% males in their creative teams. In the same vein, female producers will have an average of 60% male team members. So, whichever angle you view things from, men will always dominate key creative roles.

Arzu Aliyeva describes the harmful effects of stereotypes from the Film and TV industry

The Merriam-Webster dictionary, describes a stereotype as a standardized mental image that a group holds in common about another group. It represents an oversimplified opinion, a prejudiced attitude, or an uncritical judgment.

Because stereotypes are misleading, they present false impressions about a group or community. 

In the film and TV industry, women do not have equal opportunities as men. 

Even when they get a role, they are less likely to be portrayed as independent and strong-willed. 

For example, in James Bond’s movies, female characters are presented as damsels in distress, victims, and needy. 

Generally, most women play characters that do not depict who they really are. 

This misrepresentation might be because of a lack of female film writers, particularly women of color, who can tell the real story of women.

There is also the issue of censorship when it comes to showcasing “taboo” issues like rape, sexuality, and harassment. 

In conservative cultures, women suppress things because they are considered taboos. Very few platforms like Netflix allow women to talk about taboo topics.

Stereotype has several harmful effects. 

It affects one’s self-esteem, decision-making ability, as well as mental health. It may even result in self-stereotyping where an individual starts behaving in a certain way to have a sense of belonging.

And that’s why a push for diversity is crucial, Arzu Aliyeva claims.

The Push for Greater On-Screen Diversity

In February 2020, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) College of Social Sciences released a report – Holywood Diversity. The report examined relationships between diversity and the baseline in Hollywood.

It considered high-ranking films at the global box office between 2018 and 2019. It looked at the level of participation of women and people of color in front and behind the camera.

The good news it reported was that women had made significant progress in the film industry. 

However, they are still underrepresented in key areas such as heads of studios, film leads, directors, actors, and film writers.

A huge problem is created when women, especially women of color, are relegated to the background on TV. 

Sharing her experience on Quora, Brianna Richardson was the only black child in a class filled with white children. Because of the poor representation in the media about women of color, she wished she were white.  

In the words of Genna Davis’s said, “if she can’t see it, she can’t be it”. 

This is the main reason we need to see more women on our screens. If not, how will the young girls be motivated to become the best irrespective of their race or color?

Films and TV shows should normalize women playing roles as executives and pursuing careers in STEM fields. 

Besides, the representation should be inclusive. 

As much as white women are given equal opportunity, women of color should get the same.

Arzu Aliyva claims reality can change after the image on the screen changes

Since time immemorial, women have always struggled to get what they wanted. It becomes even worse if the woman is black. 

After decades of protests and agitations, it wasn’t until 1920 that American women gained the right to vote. 

Yet black women remained disenfranchised because of certain state laws.

Even in the workplace, women of color must work twice as hard to attain positions that their white counterparts won’t have to struggle to get. They also must deal with gender bias and microaggressions. 

Minda Harts, author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table, shared her friend’s experience. 

The said friend had worked in a company for about six (6) years, yet her boss didn’t know her name. Unlike her colleagues who were whites, she was forced to wear a name tag.

To not be invisible women and women of color need to take a seat at the table. 

Better representation on the screen can be achieved through greater diversity in the film and television industries.

Following the idiom “seeing is believing”, society will be more inclusive towards women of color and other minorities.

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BSV Staff

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