Variety UN Women HeForShe Panel

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Variety

by Joanna Orland

Entertainment journal Variety partnered with UN Women’s HeForShe campaign to host a momentous event at Cannes Film Festival on May 16th, 2015.  Speaking on the subject of gender equality within the film industry, the HeForShe panel included actresses Salma Hayek, Parker Posey and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan alongside producers Elizabeth Karlsen and Christine Vachon.  Moderated by Variety’s Co-Editor-In-Chief Claudia Eller and UN Women’s Elizabeth Nyamayaro, the panel spoke frankly and openly about the issues that plague them and their female peers in the industry.

Nyamayaro started the discussion off with the bold statement, “females comprise of just 12% of protagonists in the top grossing films of 2014, and often women in lead roles play the part of either the girlfriend, wife, mother, and of course the princess. In addition, they are often portrayed over-sexualized and twice more times likely to be shown nude compared to men. This is according to the gender study of the first of its kind done by the Geena Davis Institution for Gender and Media, which UN Women supports.”

The discussion then spiraled as each panel member made their voice heard. “The only value that we bring to the movies is being seen as a sexual object. This is the female value of the film. The only kind of film women make more money than men in is the porn industry,” stated Hayek.

Each woman laid their points out on the table, not only demonstrating similar treatment towards them in the industry, but also similar perceptions on how Hollywood views women.  While some revelations and statements were distressing, the most poignant note of the panel was the lack of male presence.  The entire HeForShe campaign is based on a solidarity movement for gender equality, that is supposed to bring together one half of humanity in support of the other.  While some film industry men were asked to sit on the panel at the Variety UN Women event, none had accepted, proving again that we have a long battle ahead of us in the fight for gender equality.

Find out more about the UN Women HeForShe campaign with the social media hashtag #HeForShe.

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