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An Observation on Gendered Naming in Media
Bar Harbor
I had an interesting realization the other day, after watching some stuff with Kestrell. As you know, Bob, Kestrell is blind, so I do a descriptive track of the action. Over time, I was noticing a pattern of flaws in my descriptive tracks. Some characters, I could not identify by name, but only by their plot function. And the vast majority of those characters were women.

At first, I was embarrassed by what I thought was an expression of my own subconscious gender bias. And there may be some element of that indeed. However, after some more thought (and discussion with Kes), I realized that there was a significant element of fault in the media themselves.

Female characters are consistently NAMED far less often than male ones. A female character will get named during a proper introduction, just like a male character – but in subsequent conversation, her name won’t be used and his will. Since it takes me three or four repetitions to actually remember the name of the character, I am far more likely to know the name of a male character than a female one, even when they get the same amount of screen time.

Does anyone reading this know someone in a Women’s Studies department who might be looking for thesis material? My own “findings” are strictly anecdotal, and running actual numbers on this would be way too much work for me, but I bet there’s some interesting numbers to be run…

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Interesting observation.
I expect there are people tracking this kind of thing.

Maybe, maybe not. Someone has to have thought of it, and someone then has to think it's worth the effort. So far, all remotely-similar tracking I'm aware of is done by people with OCD who aren't being paid for it.

I wonder if Anita Sarkeesian would be a good person to drop this bug in the ear of; might not be her topic, but I bet she might know somebody whose topic it is.

Also, we now live in an age in which this should be eminently more studiable: all it would take is getting access to the closed-captions of films (wasn't Netflix just court ordered to have them?), such that they could be grepped for character names. It might not be as accurate as manual counts (nicknames make this harder) but it would make it possible to get rough numbers on a lot of films really quickly.

Good thought about Anita Sarkeesian. Will perhaps write her a note tonight.

CC accuracy problems go well beyond nicknames. CC is often not verbatim. It's quite common for it to be abridged versions of the spoken lines. And names are exactly the sort of thing that often gets abridged. Raising the question of whether *that* process has gender-bias, of course...

That said, the mere *existence* of Netflix makes it much easier to study this sort of thing, just by making it much easier to examine large amounts of source material.

"(wasn't Netflix just court ordered to have them?)"

I *think* you're thinking of a different thing. Netflix was recently *shamed* into adding descriptive audio tracks (much like what I do for Kes) by vocal fans, after announcing that one of their tentpole original series of last year was about a blind superhero. So they launched the feature with Daredevil :-)

Ah, that must be it; I admit I wasn't following closely.

Less than 30% of Speaking Roles in Blockbuster Films Last Year Went to Women
May 13th 2013

Study Reveals That Female Speaking Roles In Film Not As Prevalent As “Eye Candy” Roles
April 22nd 2011

Thanks for the info.

The Geena Davis Institute is the first place I'd look:

Cool! I didn't know that existed!

I came here to plug the Geena Davis Institute for this purpose, so I'm glad someone is already on it. :)

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