Students from Ipswich sixth form One take on sexism in the media

AS media studies class at One sixth form with reporter Gemma Mitchell.

AS media studies class at One sixth form with reporter Gemma Mitchell. - Credit: Archant

Women aspiring to succeed in the film industry will have to work harder than men, fight against sexualisation and be judged on their looks before their talent.

Lauren Goodson, Henry Catling, Laura Watson, Lucy Fuller and Mollie Spencer are media students at Su

Lauren Goodson, Henry Catling, Laura Watson, Lucy Fuller and Mollie Spencer are media students at Suffolk One. - Credit: Su Anderson

These were the views expressed by students at Ipswich’s largest sixth form, One, during a discussion about the challenges faced by women in media. The chat was spurred by the creation of an anti-sexism website by Hollywood workers entitled, S*** People Say to Women Directors.

The Tumblr blog is designed as a platform for people who identify as women working in television and film to anonymously catalogue the barriers and discrimination they have faced during their working lives because of their gender.

The disparity that has been expressed by thousands of women worldwide on the site is seemingly reflected by young women living in Suffolk.

In a room full of high-achieving media studies students, only one being a man, the teenagers could name just one female film director.

Jodie Burns and Darren Meitiner-Harvey.

Jodie Burns and Darren Meitiner-Harvey. - Credit: Archant

Mollie Spencer, 17, said: “They are not really emphasised, I don’t really know any female directors so you automatically assume there aren’t any.”

The youngsters agreed that this was not because women are less driven, less talented or less able –however they were also not shocked to hear that only 23% of films made in 2014 were directed by a woman, with one commenting that she expected it to be less.

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Lili Farkas, 19, said she felt the standards were raised for women in the industry, requiring them to work harder to be in with a chance of getting the same job as a man.

“We can hope for change otherwise it would be depressing,” she added. “But also I think the reason men get by more easily is because they [employers] think you can’t be a mother and a successful person in your career.”

The women in the room also admitted that they believed their physical appearance would have a part to play in how successful they were in the industry.

Laura Watson, 17, said: “I think it would be a big factor, it depends what kind of role you want to play, but I think really attractive actresses become more successful and if they are not so attractive they are often mocked and are made to be a comedic character.”

When told an example of a scenario posted on the blog, in which a male writer told his female assistant: “You are a terrible assistant, why don’t you go back to working in porn where you belong?”, the students expressed concerns about women being overly sexualised in the media.

Mollie added: “When a woman is successful, people will speculate whether they have had sex with a male figure above them. Why should my achievement be down played just because I’m a girl? If a male did the exact same thing they would be celebrated, but mine is down played to be: ‘oh she is too competitive’.”

Jodie Burns, who is submitting her A-level music video to the East Anglian Student Film Festival (EASFF) this year, said she had not yet faced any difficulties in the field, but admitted she was not a “girly-girl”.

The 18-year-old, who has applied to study media at the University of Sussex this September, said: “I think women are definitely considered something more to be looked at, but I think that is slowly changing, and I don’t know whether that’s because I am getting into the industry but feminism is becoming such a huge thing now and I think it’s becoming normal to be enraged by inequality.”

EASFF founder and film and media teacher at One, Darren Meitinier-Harvey, said he was criticised on social media the first year he ran the festival for positively discriminating against women by opening a female-only category.

Now in its third year, Mr Meitinier-Harvey said he was taking a more subtle approach at encouraging women to take part in the festival by finding females with talent, and giving them the confidence to submit their work.

He said: “It’s finding those students, empowering them so they then go into industry and feel very empowered and more confident to challenge any kind of discriminatory behaviour that they may and most likely will face at some point. I think there’s hope there and everyone, society and educators, needs to do their bit to highlight it to young people so they go out and challenge it to say, why is that still happening?”

To take part in this year’s EASFF, visit – the deadline for submission is August 21.