Sexism Alive & Well in TV Land

September 13, 2011

So apparently, a game developer got in trouble for being misogynist assholes. They apologised and fired the scapegoat, so we’re all good.

But surprisingly, the software programming world is not the only entertainment production industry where sexism is condoned and cherished. According to a study by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, only 15 percent of the writers of broadcast network, prime-time programs were women in the 2010-2011 season, a number that has dropped by more than half since the 2006-2007 television season. The wage gap isn’t any better.  The Writers Guild of America reports a rise in the difference in earnings between men and women television writers from $4,735 to $17,343 between 2000 and 2009.

A great article by Maureen Ryan at AOL TV tries to get to the reasons why (though the reasons are, sadly, the same old same old). One thing that she brings up is the influence of the advertisers:

“We’re not making art out here, we’re making programming that allows networks to sell ad dollars,” says Jill Soloway (‘Six Feet Under,’ ‘United States of Tara,’ ‘How to Make It in America’). “The only ad dollars that appeal solely to women only are diapers and cleaning products. The expensive ad dollars, like cars and air travel, must appeal to both genders.

So the sexism in the corporate world is reinforcing the sexism in advertising*, which in turn reinforces sexism at the production level, which reinforces sexism at the product level (i.e. the shows themselves), which reinforces sexism in society at large, and so it goes.

One thing mentioned as an adjunct to this advertising issue, is that the TV audience (at least the one that counts to advertisers) is males 18-49. My mother pointed out the other day that television, along with movies and other forms of entertainment, are made for men because women are too busy to watch. I guess its all the diapers and cleaning they’re doing.

*Srsly? Women are only interested in buying diapers and cleaning stuff? While men wouldn’t be caught dead shopping for dish soap?