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The Dangerous Link Between the Media, Gender Stereotypes and Domestic Abuse

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In Nottingham, domestic abuse accounts for about 40% of all violent crime. 1 in 4 women in their lifetime will experience abuse, with young women aged 16-24 at the highest level of risk. The local 24-hour Women’s Aid helpline (0808 800 0340) receives up to 10,000 calls a year! We probably all know someone who has been affected by it.

Abuse can happen to a person of any age, gender, race or sexual orientation, but the overwhelming majority of its victims (85% in Nottingham) are women, and the vast majority of perpetrators are men.

The causes of domestic violence are complex. However, we know that the men who abuse women in relationships do so because they believe they are entitled to have power and control over their partner. We also know that many of these men have sexist beliefs that women are inferior in general. These misogynistic beliefs support these men’s decisions to commit abuse. So, if we want to end domestic abuse of women by men, we need to create a society in which women are respected equally and sexist attitudes are not tolerated.

Sexism on screen

Perpetrators’ attitudes develop from many sources, but derogatory and sexist messages from culture and media play an important part. Currently, the mainstream film industry is one of them.

  • The film industry grossly underrepresents women. There are 3 times as many films about men’s lives than there are about women’s, and women hold only a third of all speaking roles in film.
  • When female characters are present, they are relentlessly written to match tired stereotypical clichés: helpless victims, sexy sidekicks, dewy-eyed innocents looking for Mr Right, or as anxious and caring mothers/wives/girlfriends.
  • What’s more, women are 4 times more likely to be sexualised on screen and at the same time are 10 times less likely to be portrayed as a leader, furthering beliefs that a woman’s main purpose is primarily superficial.

Through devaluing women in these ways, everyday sexism on the big screen feeds into some men’s sexist sense of superiority and entitlement to hold power over women. By perpetuating those beliefs, the industry supports the abuse of women in the real-world.

This is why Equation’s Reel Equality Film Club campaigns to raise awareness of this issue and generate demand for change.

Every month, Reel Equality show films that tell women’s stories and include fully realised female characters, who are not objectified or stereotyped. The film club has seen huge and growing success, with sell-out screenings filling bigger and bigger venues including Broadway, Savoy, New Art Exchange and The Nottingham Contemporary.

Reel Equality Film Club is part of a bigger movement, with campaigns such as #AskHerMore beginning to address the issue of film industry sexism. Championed by the likes of Reese Witherspoon, AskHerMore is best known for encouraging reporters to ask female stars on the red carpet questions other than “who are you wearing tonight?” in order to focus on the achievements and talents of women in film, instead of only their looks.

How you can help

‘How can I get involved and help to change this awful situation?’ we hear you all ask! Here’s the top 4 ways you can help

  1. If you want more women’s stories on the big screen, buy a ticket to see one. Cinema is, after all, a big business that cares about its bottom line.
  2. If you like a female-led film you see, then rave about it. Word of mouth is such a powerful way to promote film to your cinema-loving friends; so put it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat and help boost audience figures.
  3. Talk about the issue – online and in the real world. Opening other people’s eyes to this issue. Public outcry about everyday media sexism is already really helping put the pressure on film studios to diversify their offering. But this outcry will only achieve sustained change if the noise about it persists. You can be part of it.
  4. Support Reel Equality Film Club! In October 2017, Equation is holding their biggest event yet with a Reel Equality theme. This will be a glamourous, Red Carpet event at the Nottingham Belfry celebrating women’s stories on screen. As well as an incredible 3-course meal, drinks reception, fantastic musical entertainment, dancing and an auction, guests will be dazzled by the inspiring achievements of powerful female stars of the silver screen. This event gives anyone over the age of 18 the perfect way to have a fun and fantastic evening while supporting Equations work in ending domestic abuse and supporting gender equality.

Find out more about reel equality at www.equation.org.uk/reelequality and keep an eye out for our trailer campaign on gender inequality in film showing at Cineworld Nottingham until October 14th 2017.

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