In Jane M. Gaines newest book, Pink-Slipped: What Happened to Women in the Silent Film Industries?, she rediscovers the previously overlooked women of the silent era that were instrumental in the earliest days of film. Today, the film industry is known for being dominated by men, however Gaines challenges previous historians’ conclusion that women were wholly excluded from the film industry, identifying countless women that played an influential role in the development of film, such as Alice Guy Blaché, Lois Weber, Madeline Brandeis, and Dorothy Arzner. Contrary to popular belief, during the silent era there were women who worked as producers, directors, editors, copywriters and more.
“This is not simply a book about the historiography of early film history or women’s place in it. Gaines’s larger argument is more ambitious, as she attempts to trouble, complicate, and inject some skepticism into the historical project in which she and others are engaged.”–Patrice Petro, author of Idols of Modernity: Movie Stars of the 1920s
There were more women in positions of power during the silent film era than there were at any other time in motion picture history, including today.
- In 2017, women comprised 18% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films.
- In 2017, 1% of top grossing films employed 10 or more women in key behind-the-scenes roles, while 70% of films employed 10 or more men.
- In 2017, slightly less than one-third or 30% of films employed 0 or 1 woman in the roles considered (directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers).
Today, women are reclaiming their right to work in the film industry. After the Fall of 2017 brought a number of allegations of sexual misconduct against high profile men in Hollywood, the ‘Time’s Up’ coalition was formed by women working within the film, theater, and television industries. On January 1, 2018, the “Time’s Up’ organization made headlines when the group published a manifesto that made a widespread call to action for gender equality and an end to sexual harassment in the workplace. On their website, the group states that,
“TIME’S UP is a unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live.”
As contemporary women in Hollywood continue their fight to hold positions of power in the film industry, let us also recognize the women that came before them.