Category Archives: Sex

Charts of the day: Hollywood’s distorted lenses


Today’s Charts of the Day contains lots of charts, and they reflect a concern we’ve long held about the media shaping out visions of life and its possibilities.

Simply put, films, as seen from both the screens we watch and from behind the lens are radically divergent from the worlds we live in.

blog-morleyFilm portrays not the world as it is, but a world designed to sell, both the products they display so lavishly on screen When esnl was a tad, brand name products didn’t appear prominently, or brands were replaced by pseudonyms, most recently aped by the Morley cigarettes consumed so abundantly by The X Files Smoking Man. Similarly, liquor brands in films before the days of product placement were always pseudonymous.

But no more.

And just as the ads designed to sell those well-placed product are peopled with the the young, the attractive, and the nubile heterosexual, so are the films in which they are placed, creating worlds with little placed for those who fail to meet the implicit standards governing the entertainments we crave.

Similarly, today’s films are also dominated behind the screen by a cast of characters bearing little resemblance to the diversity that is the world of Homo sapiens.

Just how divergent are those two worlds is the subject of today’s Charts of the Day.

From the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism:

Though the conversation on inequality in Hollywood is now at peak volume, a new report reveals that little has changed on screen or behind the camera.

Authored by Professor Stacy L. Smith and the Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the study is the largest intersectional analysis of characters in motion picture content to date. The group examined the 800 top films from 2007 to 2015 (excluding 2011), analyzing 35,205 characters for gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT status and – for the first time – the presence of disability. The results reveal that Hollywood remains impervious to change.

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Just 31.4% of all speaking characters across the 100 top films from 2015 were female, a figure that has not changed since 2007. While race/ethnicity has been a major focus of advocacy in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, characters from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups were 26.3% of all characters. LGBT-identified characters represented less than 1% of all speaking characters. The report includes data on characters with disabilities, who filled a mere 2.4% of all speaking roles.

“The findings reveal that Hollywood is an epicenter of cultural inequality,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Founding Director of the MDSC Initiative. “While the voices calling for change have escalated in number and volume, there is little evidence that this has transformed the movies that we see and the people hired to create them. Our reports demonstrate that the problems are pervasive and systemic.”

The research exposes the depth and breadth of exclusion. Of the top 100 films of 2015, 49 films included no speaking or named Asian or Asian-American characters and 17 featured no Black/African American characters. Similarly, 45 films did not include a character with a disability and 82 did not feature a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender character.

One bright spot was an 11% increase in female lead or co-lead characters from 2014 to 2015. Even there, however, only 3 of the films featured a female lead or co-lead actor from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. Not one of the males or females in leading roles was Asian, echoing the concerns expressed by prominent Asian and Asian-American actors and others in that community.

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The report illuminates why these inequalities may exist by coupling new data on 2015 films with evidence from the group’s previous reports, reaching back to 2007. Behind the camera, female directors were just 4.1% of those hired on the 800 films evaluated. Women of color were almost absent from these ranks, with just 3 Black or African-American females and 1 Asian female in the director’s chair. Overall, directors from underrepresented racial groups fared poorly. Only 5.5% of the 886 directors examined were Black or African American and 2.8% were Asian or Asian American.

“Despite the advocacy surrounding female directors, film is a representational wasteland for women of color in this key role,” said Dr. Smith. “Advocates need to ensure that their work reflects the barriers facing all women, not just a select few.”

For the first time, the researchers present data on characters with disabilities. The few portrayals that exist—just 2.4% of all characters—are predominantly male, as just 19% of the characters with disabilities were female. There were also no LGBT characters depicted with a disability across the study sample.

“This is a new low for gender inequality,” said Dr. Smith. “The small number of portrayals of disability is concerning, as is the fact that they do not depict the diversity within this community.”

The report provides multiple solutions to addressing what Dr. Smith has previously referred to as the “inclusion crisis” facing Hollywood. These include simple strategies for reaching gender equality on screen within a short time frame—just three years. Other solutions invite prominent Hollywood figures to tackle the problem contractually and encourage institutions to set transparent inclusion goals for achieving change.

“Raised voices and calls for change are important, but so are practical and strategic solutions based on research,” said Dr. Katherine Pieper, one of the study’s co-authors. “The momentum created by activism needs to be matched with realistic tactics for creating change.”

The report is the latest from the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative.

Key Findings

Gender. Out of 4,370 speaking or named characters evaluated, 68.6% were male and 31.4% were female across the 100 top-grossing films of 2015. This calculates into a gender ratio of 2.2 male characters to every one female character.  There has been no meaningful change in the percentage of girls and women on screen between 2007 and 2015.

Of the 100 top films of 2015, 32% depicted a female as the lead or co lead of the unfolding narrative. This is an 11% increase from last year. Five of these films portrayed female leads/co leads 45 years of age or older at the time of theatrical release in 2015. In stark contrast, 26 movies in 2015 featured leads or co leads with males 45 years of age or older.

Females were over three times as likely as their male counterparts to be shown in sexually revealing clothing (30.2% vs. 7.7%) and with some nudity (29% vs. 9.5%). Girls/women (12%) were also more likely than boys/men (3.6%) to be referred to as physically attractive.

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Female teens (42.9%) and young adults (38.7%) were more likely than middle-aged females (24.7%) to be shown in sexualized attire. A similar pattern emerged for nudity (41.2%, 36.9%, and 24.4%, respectively). As age increased, females were less likely to be referenced as attractive.

Of the 1,365 directors, writers, and producers of the 100 top-grossing films of 2015, 81% were men and 19% were women. Of 107 directors, 92.5% were male and 7.5% were female. This translates into a gender ratio of 12.4 male directors to every one female director. Women fare slightly better as writers (11.8%) and producers (22%) but far worse as composers. Only 1 female composer but 113 male composers worked across the sample of 100 movies of 2015!

Across 800 films and 886 directors, only 4.1% were women. This translates into a gender ratio of 24 males to every 1 female. Only 3 Black and 1 Asian female directors worked on the 800 films examined. Even more problematic, only 1.4% of all composers were women from 2007 to 2015 (excluding 2011). This translates into a gender ratio of 72 male composers to every 1 female composer.

Race/Ethnicity. In 2015, 73.7% of characters were White, 12.2% Black, 5.3% Latino, 3.9% Asian, <1% Middle Eastern, <1% American Indian/Alaskan Native, <1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 3.6% Other or “mixed race.” Together, a total of 26.3% of all speaking characters were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. There was no change in the percentage of White, Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian or Other races/ethnicities from 2007 to 2015.

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Only 14 of the movies depicted an underrepresented lead or co lead. Nine of the leads/co leads were Black, one Latino, and four were mixed race. Not one lead or co lead was played by an Asian actor.

Only three female leads/co leads were played by female actors from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group, the exact same number in 2014. Just one of these actors was an underrepresented female 45 years of age or older.

A full 17% of films did not feature one Black or African American speaking or named character on screen.  This number is identical to what we found in 2013 and 2014. Even more problematic, Asian characters were missing across 49 films.

In 2015, only 4 of the 107 directors were Black or African American (3.7%) and 6 were Asian or Asian American (5.6%). Across 886 directors from 2007 to 2015 (excluding 2011), only 5.5% were Black and 2.8% were Asian.

LGBT.  Only 32 speaking or named characters were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender across the sample of 100 top films of 2015.  This is an increase of 13 portrayals from our 2014 report. Just one transgender character appeared sample-wide, as well as 19 gay men, 7 lesbians, and 5 bisexuals (3 males, 2 females).

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Not one lead or co lead was LGBT identified across the entire sample of 100 top films of 2015. 82 of the 100 top movies of 2015 did not depict one LGBT speaking or named character.

More racial/ethnic diversity was found across LGBT characters than sample wide. Just over 40% of LGBT characters were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group.  One teenaged character was depicted as gay across the entire sample and only two lesbian parents were portrayed.

Characters with Disabilities. Only 2.4% of all speaking or named characters were shown with a disability. A full 45 of the movies failed to depict one speaking character with a disability. Most of the portrayals appeared in action adventure films (33.3%). Only 2% of all characters with disabilities were shown in animated movies.

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61% of the characters were featured with a physical disability, 37.1% with a mental or cognitive disability, and 18.1% with a communicative disability. These designations were based on U.S. Census language and domains.

Only 19% of characters with a disability were female and 81% were male. This is a new low for gender inequality in film. Not one LGBT character with a disability was portrayed across the 100 top films of 2015.

The report also highlights many other results on gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT, and disability in film as well as simple and straightforward solutions to Hollywood’s inclusion crisis.

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Bloodshed in Mexico: Corruption spirals onward


Mexico is descending into a new abyss of violence, and it’s government officials who bear the brunt of the blame as the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto plumbs a new depth of unpopularity.

The latest polling numbers given the Mexican leader a favorability rating of 26 percent, the lowest number for any Mexican president in more than two decades.

One of the leading reasons for the presidential plunge is the nation’s growing level of violence, with the latest victims including both journalists and priests.

Real blood on the newsroom floor

The press has fared poorly under Peña, with an ever-growing number of journalists slain, and politicians from Peña’s party have been linked to some of the slaying.

From teleSUR English:

At least 26 journalists have been killed since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office, including two more last week.

Aurelio Campos, editor at the daily “El Grafico,” based in the central state of Puebla, and Agustin Pavia, host at the southern Oaxacan community radio station “Tu Un Nuu Savi,” were killed just two days apart in unrelated incidents.

“Mexico is in the process of turning into a cemetery for journalists,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Latin America desk. “The local and national authorities must urgently overhaul the alert and protection mechanisms for journalists and must give the police and judicial authorities the resources they need to quickly and systematically identify those behind these murders.”

Campos previously reported to local authorities that he had been the victim of intimidation. However, police determined that he was killed by “an angry colleague,” who they have not yet identified. He was fatally shot while driving his car on Sept. 14.

Two days later Pavia was also shot dead while driving. Authorities are still investigating the motive for the crime, and no one has been arrested.

A politician linked to press killings under fire

A second story from teleSUR English looks at one of those government officials linked to press murders:

Mexico’s Attorney General confirmed Thursday the launch of a probe against outgoing Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte for embezzlement and related crimes.

Duarte is infamous in Mexico because 17 journalists have been killed or disappeared since he took office, although none of these crimes form part of the investigation against him. Duarte belongs to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party – known by its acronym, PRI – and is a close ally to President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Prosecutors said Duarte must present valid documentation to confirm that his expenditures of nearly US$721,000 were for governmental and not personal use.

The outgoing governor will end his mandate in December, leaving Veracruz with a public debt of US$583 million, according to Mexico’s finance ministry.

Mexican authorities launched a probe in July into the potentially improper use of taxpayer money. So far, at least 69 relatives, friends and associates of Duarte have been investigated. That investigation has not concluded.

Duarte has been linked to the killing of journalist Ruben Espinosa and activist Nadia Vera, both of whom accused him of threatening them and told friends that if they were killed, the governor would be responsible.

In addition to journalists, women have also been subjected to state violence on Duarte’s watch. According to official figures, a total of 500 women have been killed since his swearing-in in 2010.

Priests slain, another abducted

Priests have also been favorite targets of violence, and the Roman Catholic Church is asking for help in finding one of the latest victims:

From TheNewsMX:

Roman Catholic Church officials pleaded on Thursday for the life of a priest who was kidnapped from his parish residence one day after two other priests were abducted and killed in another part of Mexico.

The Archdiocese of Morelia said priest José Alfredo Lopez Guillén was abducted Monday from his parish residence in the rural town of Janamuato, in the western state of Michoacan. The archdiocese said he was kidnapped after he was robbed.

“We plead that the life and physical integrity of the priest be respected,” the archdiocese said.

In a video statement, Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda, head of the Morelia archdiocese, said, “After sharing the enormous pain of the death of two young priests in the diocese of Papantla, Veracruz, we are now suffering our own anguish with the disappearance of one of our priests.”

Two priests were kidnapped Sunday in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, and their bullet-ridden bodies were found on a roadside the next day.

Police sex crimes probed

From the New York Times comes yet another story about official violence:

International human rights officials are demanding an investigation into the brutal sexual assaults of 11 Mexican women during protests a decade ago — an inquiry that would take aim at President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was the governor in charge at the time of the attacks.

The demand is part of a multiyear examination by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into abuses during a 2006 crackdown ordered by Mr. Peña Nieto on San Salvador Atenco, a town in Mexico State where demonstrators had taken over the central square. During the operations, which left two dead, more than 40 women were violently detained by the police, packed onto buses and sent to jail several hours away.

The case was brought by 11 women to the international commission, which found that the police tortured them sexually. The women — a mix of merchants, students and activists — were raped, beaten, penetrated with metal objects, robbed and humiliated, made to sing aloud to entertain the police. One was forced to perform oral sex on multiple officers. After the women were imprisoned, days passed before they were given proper medical examinations, the commission found.

>snip<

The commission delivered its findings last week to the Inter-American Court, an independent judiciary with legal authority over Mexico. If the court agrees with the commission, it can order Mexico to broaden its current inquiry into the case, a requirement that could force the state to investigate its own president.

The U.N. backs Ayotzinapa parents

Jan Jarab, representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, meets with Aytozinapa parents. Via Alternative Economics'

Jan Jarab, representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, meets with Aytozinapa parents. Via Alternative Economics.

The most notorious incident of violence in recent years in Mexico happened two years ago this coming Monday when 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, vanished after their abduction from the town of Iguala after a violent assault by police and drug cartel gunmen [previously].

Parents of the missing students have maintained protests and vigils ever since, often met with more violence from police as they demand real answers from a seemingly indifferent government.

And now the United Nations is taking their side.

From the news agency EFE:

The representative in Mexico of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed solidarity here Wednesday with the parents of 43 teacher trainees who went missing two years ago in the southern state of Guerrero.

After a meeting with the mothers and fathers of students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher Training College in Ayotzinapa who disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014, in the nearby city of Iguala, Jan Jarab said he supported their efforts to seek the truth and ensure these crimes are not repeated.

“We need to overcome this climate of impunity,” Jarab said in reference to the more than 27,000 people who have gone missing in Mexico over the past decade, many of whom, according to international rights groups, were victims of enforced disappearances, crimes in which state officials – or people acting with state consent – grabbed people off the street or from their homes and then refused to say where they were.

During the closed-door meeting at the school, Jarab hailed the fact that Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office was opening new lines of investigation.

He also said a special monitoring mechanism dictated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, would be installed soon to ensure the Mexican government is held accountable for its probe.

If Donald Trump wants to keep Mexican killers and rapists out of the U.S., maybe he should start with government officials.

Map of the day: Gay marriage concentration in U.S.


From a new report from the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis, the relative concentration of same sex marriages in the U.S. in 2014 [and it should come as no surprise that San Francisco has the highest number of any city in the land]:

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Chart of the day: Gender, ethnic pay divides


From the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, average hourly pay figures for American workers:

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More from the Center:

At the bottom of the distribution, low-wage workers from different demographic backgrounds have relatively similar wages. Low-wage Latinas and African American women earn the least ($8.14 and $8.15 per hour, respectively), while low-wage white men earn the most ($10.00). This clustering of wages at the bottom is likely a result of current federal and state minimum wage policies, which legally mandate employees to be paid at least $7.25 per hour (or more, in many states).

For workers in the middle range of each demographic group, the gender gap is bigger. Median-wage Latinas and African American women are the lowest-wage recipients, earning $12.65 and $14.25 per hour, respectively. In contrast, white men earn the highest median wages, making $21.79. At the top, where the gap is largest, the lowest wages are $28.83 (Latinas) and $32.50 (African American women), while the highest wage is $50.54 (white men), a difference of more than $20.00. The spreading out at the top reflects discrimination across both gender and race.

Chart of the day: Partisan, gender sexism divides


From the Pew Research Center, major divides split the sexes, parties, and generations on the issue of sexism. Interestingly, the highest levels of belief that sexism continues to hamper the achievements of women is in the oldest generation, most notably Democrats of both sexes of age 65:

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UC Berkeley purge: The chancellor has resigned


University of California Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks has handed in his academic robes, the victim of campus sexual harassment and other scandals as well as a petition campaign by faculty members.

And that’s after the spent $200,000 trying to polish his image [below].

From the Washington Post:

UC-Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks announced his resignation Tuesday, a week after Linda Katehi stepped down as UC-Davis chancellor. Both leaders had been embroiled in multiple controversies.

Dirks faced questions about whether Berkeley was too lax in response to sexual harassment allegations against faculty and how the school would surmount steep budget troubles. The Los Angeles Times disclosed last month that he was under investigation for possible misuse of public funds for travel and the personal use of a campus fitness trainer without payment. The Daily Californian student newspaper also reported that the university had spent $9,000 for an emergency exit near Dirks’s office as a security measure in case of protests. All of this undermined the three-year tenure of a historian and anthropologist who sought to rejuvenate undergraduate education at Berkeley and boost public support for higher education’s great public flagships.

“Definitely a significant number of faculty had lost confidence in him,” Robert Powell, a political scientist and chair of Berkeley’s faculty senate, said Wednesday. “The reasons vary depending on different people you talk to.”

Dirks, who took office in June 2013, said he plans to step down when a successor is ready to take his place. When he exits, his tenure as chancellor is likely to have been the shortest at UC-Berkeley in a half century. Edward Strong served in the job for four years, from 1961 to 1965, and Glenn T. Seaborg for three, from 1958 to 1961.

UPDATE: More details from the Los Angeles Times:

In recent weeks, however, pressure for Dirks to resign has escalated. A petition expressing loss of confidence in his leadership was recently signed by more than 45 distinguished professors, including former Academic Senate leaders, members of the National Academy of Sciences, department chairs and heads of research units.

“There was a whole series of really bad steps which shows he’s cut himself off and is unresponsive to the campus community,” said Michael Burawoy, co-chairman of the Berkeley Faculty Assn., who signed the petition.

However, Judith Butler, a professor of comparative literature, expressed concern that maneuvers like the petition occurred among a small group without open discussion by the full faculty. “The real question is who was this small group working in the summer and do they really represent the faculty?” she asked. “I’m not convinced.”

She declined, however, to give an assessment of Dirks’ effectiveness.

Former Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau called the news of Dirks’ resignation “a sad day for Berkeley.”

Butler, a faculty member we respect, raises an interesting point.

Who were the faculty members who wanted Dirks gone?

Dirks came from the humanities, unlike his predecessor Birgeneau, a physicist.

The University of California has been reshaping itself in the corporate model, which is why we have dubbed it Global Corporate University. The priority has been on seeking ways to create revenue by funding research for corporations to buy, both in the hard sciences [witness the Amyris debacle] and in the business school.

Was Dirks, who traditionally emphasized the importance of the humanities, a field that doesn’t produce all that lucrative intellectual property or churn out tomorrow’s business executives, a man out of place at Cal?

It’s worth pondering.

The university’s costly image spinning

We can’t read the full story in the subscriber-only San Francisco Chronicle story, but they do let you read the first paragraph, to which we’ve added another paragraph from the story we found in a news aggregator:

As UC Berkeley prepared to eliminate hundreds of jobs and take millions of dollars in loans to help balance its flagging budget, the campus also paid more than $200,000 to “improve the chancellor’s strategic profile nationally and internationally,” The Chronicle has learned.

The decision to pay outside consultants of the last year to burnish Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ global image is seen by some faculty as the latest in a series of missteps — including his kid glove treatment of star employees who sexually harassed students and colleagues and his uneven handling of the campus; $150 million budget deficit — that led to Dirks’ decision to step down. The companies agreed to “increase exposure and awareness of Dirks’ vision for higher education, elevate the chancellor as a “key thought leader” and “form key partnerships” so that potential donors would understand his philosophy.

The news about the image polishing confirmed suspicions we raised in a blog 16 March post, reprinted in full below [emphasis added]:

The curious case of the missing monobrow. . .

Coming to Berkeley from Columbia University, where Nicholas B. Dirks had served as executive vice president and dean of the faculty of  Arts and Sciences, the new chancellor of the flagship campus of the University of California underwent an amazing transition.

Here’s the image the folks at Cal’s PR department sent out when 8 November 2012 when announcing his appointment:

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And here’s an image of Dirks captured from the apology video just posted:

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So what happened to the monobrow, a furry feature evident in countless photos [for instance] taken before his transplantation to the Golden State from the urban wilds of the Big Apple?

And then there are the eyeglasses. In all but two of the images we found doing a Google image search, Dirks wore his specs at a genial, approachable half staff, yet in the apology video he gazes out from behind glass, the lenses interposing themselves between seer and seen.

And what’s the deal with the flowers, the white blooms often associated with funerals and death?

Maybe its our old anthropological training kicking in, or simply the observation skills honed during five decades of journalism, but our sense is that in coming to image-conscious California Dirks fell into the hands of media handlers.

Headline of the day II: Ah, the Grand Old Party


From the Independent:

Marco Rubio says pregnant women with Zika should not be allowed abortions despite risks

Florida senator says all human life is worthy of protection, as governor insists state is safe