Where Are the Women? Girlhood


This isn’t simply a movie about a teenage girl: it’s about what it means to be a teenage girl.


Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]
Is she nonwhite? [why this matters]


Is there a female character with insignificant screen time in a position of authority? [why this matters]
Is there a woman whose role could easily have been played by a man? [why this matters]


[no issues]


Does a man police or attempt to police a woman’s sexual agency? [why this matters]
Is he rebuked for it, either directly (by a character onscreen) or indirectly (by how it is depicted)? [why this matters]


Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)

The film features not merely a female protagonist but girls across the full cinematic ecosystem of characters: as supporters of the protagonist, as antagonists, as people she cares for and as people who care for her, as people who help her and as people she must help. The very few male supporting characters here exist in isolation from the other male characters: they function solely in relation to the female protagonist. This is the arrangement we typically see in movies with male protagonists, and hardly ever even in movies with female protagonists (which tend to have male supporting characters that are more developed than female supporting characters to male protagonists are).


IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? Yes (Céline Sciamma (does not impact scoring)

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes (Céline Sciamma) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: This isn’t simply a movie about a teenage girl: it’s about what it means to be a teenage girl. We’ve seen endless similar movies about the challenges teenage boys face during adolescence, and so few about teen girls that this one has a feeling of universality to it that it might not otherwise, if this were only one of many.

Click here for the ongoing ranking of 2015’s films for female representation.

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Girlhood! It is simply an examination of how well or how poorly it represents women. (A movie that represents women well can still be a terrible film; a movie that represents women poorly can still be a great film.) Read my review of Girlhood.

See the full rating criteria. (Criteria that do not apply to this film have been deleted in this rating for maximum readability.)

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