Film Composers: Sexism in Hollywood Is Why Women Are Not Being Hired
Hollywood is riddled with stars that openly speak out against inequality in other industries, but apparently, they too have been infested with this shameful affliction. Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer and other composers are calling out sexism in Hollywood.
In a panel discussion at the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Expo a group of female music composers spoke of the lack of representation of women within the film industry.
One of the composers, Stephanie Economou, said, “The line that I hear the most is, ‘How come there aren’t any female film composers?’ A big response to that is … there’s hundreds of women film composers.”
Economou and the other women on the panel all believe that sexism in Hollywood is why female composers are not given a chance, but they fall short of actually providing facts to prove it.
Oscar-winning film composer Hans Zimmer, who has composed for Gladiator, The Lion King, and Pirates of the Caribbean, agrees with these women. “Sheer bloody sexism,” Zimmer said was the cause of so few women in film composition, “They are not given a chance.”
At first glance, the stats would appear to bolster claims of sexism. A study from 2016 looked at the employment of women in the top 250 films and found that men made up 97% of music composers. The study doesn’t state why they only looked at the top 250 films. A look at the entire industry would have provided a more in-depth analysis—although likely would have also produced similar results. That being said, this study only proves one thing: More men are hired as composers than women.
The study, nor any of the aforementioned composers, doesn’t provide any information as to why more men are being hired. They simple cry sexism, as if education, experience, and sheer talent are not real factors to consider. There’s no evidence of any actual sexism. It is entirely possible that men are simply more numerous within film composition and more talented.
If there are in fact hundreds of female composers waiting for their shot, as Economou stated, then there are more likely thousands of men waiting as well. It is very probable that women make up a small percentage of available composers.
Hans Zimmer has even remarked on the make-up of the film composition industry. “The people that apply for jobs at my studio are mostly white, and mostly male,” Zimmer said.
As far as talent, Zimmer says it’s not an issue. “A lot of female composers I know are better than me,” Zimmer said.
If women composers are in fact better than Oscar-winning Hans Zimmer and can be hired for less money—because the gender wage gap is totally real—then why aren’t film producers clamoring for these better, cheaper composers?
In Zimmer’s world, film producers can choose to hire him for millions, or hire a more talented female for thousands, and they are deliberately hiring him, and other males, because of sexism. Profit motive apparently doesn’t exist.
Economou said that for male composers to support female composers, they need to “hire them as writers.” In her view, the onus of women’s success in this world is not on women, but on men. Women shouldn’t have to work hard to become better composers. Women shouldn’t have to work long hours on low-budget films to gain experience. Absolutely not. The producers of the top 250 films should just hire women, regardless of their competency.
Zimmer contemplated the reason why so few women are in the film composition industry. “Maybe the problem is, partly, that women have been so socialized and so beaten down by a system constantly denying them access that they don’t even try.”
This dull excuse is constantly flung around as the reason why minorities are not successful. Blaming society is legitimate on some issues, but in this case, it’s ludicrous. Why aren’t women responsible for their own failures? It’s always a man’s fault, or the patriarchy’s fault. Who exactly is beating women down and denying them access? Who is telling women they can’t be composers?
Hollywood is always looking for problems that don’t exist. They also don’t explain why a shortage of women in film composition is a bad thing. There is a shortage of white guys in the NBA, and basketball is doing fantastic.
I’ve been playing music since the age of 11, and can speak anecdotally to the issue of women in music. The short story is: There are very few women in music, and the few that are present are mostly awful musicians.
In almost every ensemble I was in, the female musicians held back the group. There were terrible male musicians as well, but they were very small in number. The women also seemed not to have any desire to become better musicians. It seemed to be more about the experience of playing music with friends, rather than becoming the best.
Surprisingly, there was also a lack of interest in music itself. Many men, myself included, had even made attempts to teach women how to become better musicians, but they appeared uninterested.
Men excel in many categories because they are competitive and relentless in the pursuit of improvement. Perhaps learning these traits would better suit women in the film composition industry, rather than simply being given a job because they are female.