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  • 03 March 2016
'Is Hollywood racist?' comedian and MC Chris Rock asked at Sunday night's Oscars. Though the question was rhetorical, he provided the answer everyone already knew to be correct: 'You're damn right Hollywood's racist.'

It was a win-win culmination of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign in which no actual person had to take the blame. Instead, a faceless institution named 'Hollywood' was rapped over the knuckles for its racist approach while the flesh-and-blood, white faces that represented it could get on with the business of congratulating themselves.

But while all this mollification was going on, there was another, gargantuan prejudice saturating the very air these celebrities were breathing: sexism so rampant it pervades Hollywood's movie-making industry from root to tip.

Rock might well have asked this question: 'Is Hollywood sexist?' And the answer would have been a resounding, 'You're damn right Hollywood's sexist.'

Rock referred in passing to sexism, but there was immense irony in listening to this from a man famous for his misogynistic jokes. (One of Rock's past 'jokes' goes like this: 'Pussy is like Visa, accepted everywhere. Next time you ain't got no cash, say "Do you take pussy?"')

As much as people of colour remain largely absent from our screens and behind the camera, so do women — especially when they're considered 'old'. It's such a glaring omission in a world comprising 50 per cent women that the lack of a #HollywoodSoMale campaign to rectify the matter beggars belief.

Individually, women in Hollywood have spoken out about sexism. Cate Blanchett made headlines (and caused some pennies to drop — thunderously, one hopes) when she asked a red carpet cameraman panning up and down her body if he did the same to men. Patricia Arquette accepted her statuette at last year's Oscars by calling for wage equity.

And film producer Ross Putman is raising awareness by posting female character descriptions from Hollywood scripts — routinely posed in physical and sexual terms — on Twitter.

But still, Hollywood churns out its sexist fare: according to a study by the New York Film Academy, just 10.7 per cent of the top 500 movies made between 2007 and 2012 featured a cast that was half female. Almost 90 per cent of movies, in other words, contained a cast that was male-heavy, distorting the actual gender balance of the world's population.

Of the females who did star in these movies, almost 30 per cent wore sexually revealing clothes (compared to seven per cent of