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Mainstreaming the Conversation About Discrimination Against Women Directors

Mainstreaming the Conversation About Discrimination Against Women Directors

The New York Times has written about Hollywood sexism before. Last year, we saw a three-part series from Manohla
Dargis on the institutional discrimination against women directors in the industry. But Maureen Dowd’s exposé on the issue late last week took it to a whole different level. 

Maybe it’s that the issue got out of the arts pages and into the magazine, a main section that
many people read on Sundays. Maybe it’s that Dowd, who spent six
months learning about the issue, couldn’t help but conclude the following, as told TheWrap: “Somewhere along the
line I realized — wow, this incredibly liberal town full of men who say they’re
feminists has been warped. It’s a sick society — like the Catholic Church and
Saudi Arabia. If you exclude the hearts and minds of women, you get warped.” 

Maybe it’s the silence from the studio heads
since the story broke. Have any of them commented? Has any male of
stature directly commented (other than the amazing Paul Feig)? Has the DGA? The
dismissive attitude of studio heads on an issue of employment discrimination against women — “call the chicks” — is yet another reminder of how little people really care about making change.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the look
on Charlie Rose’s face when he was talking with Dowd about the piece on the CBS Morning News last Friday. He was reading some of the
quotes from women directors with shock and confusion on this face. No woman
director would be as shocked as Rose was about the gravity of the industry’s gender discrimination. 

Men of privilege need to understand
that women just want opportunities. They
want the opportunities to get in the door. They want opportunities to share
their vision. They don’t want to be discriminated against because they’re
pregnant. They don’t want to be discriminated against because they might become
pregnant. They don’t want to be discriminated because they have to pick up the
kids from school. This type of blatant discrimination is not tolerated in other American workplaces, but it is commonplace in Hollywood.

What Dowd’s story did this weekend was to mainstream the conversation about discrimination. After all, the content in the piece — as appalling and as upsetting as it is — cannot be news for anyone working in
this industry. Now the question comes down to, is there the will for change? Is there the will to take a chance on a female director the way they take
chances on male directors all the time?

There has been an entire generation of
women that have been locked out of doors. They are fucking angry. This is not
about chipping away at the glacier and waiting for when your grandchildren can finally have the opportunity they deserve, as one female executive said in the piece. This is about melting it
completely. This is about trusting women’s voices, trusting them even though
they are different from what you are used to. Yes, women’s voices are different,
but not “icky.” There’s nothing “icky” about women’s voices. Women have different
experiences. This is about allowing those experiences to come through as part
of the narrative of our culture.

Congrats to all the women who had the courage and the conviction to speak with Dowd about their experiences. Here are six of the most memorable testimonies from the piece: 

–Anjelica Huston: “It’s kind of like the church. … They don’t want us to be priests. They want us to be obedient nuns.’’

–A “top entertainment boss” who insisted on anonymity: “Not that many women have succeeded in the movie business. … A lot of ’em haven’t tried hard enough. We’re tough about it. It’s a hundred-year-old business, founded by a bunch of old Jewish European men who did not hire anybody of color, no women agents or executives. We’re still slow at anything but white guys.’’
–An anonymous woman “leading a studio”: ‘‘The moment you mention it’s a female director to foreign companies, you can see the eyes roll. … Buyers want action films, and they don’t see women as action directors.”

–Shonda Rhimes: “There’s such an interest in things being equal and such a weary acceptance that it’s not.’’

–Jessica Elbaum: ‘‘I feel that there is something going on underneath all of this which is the idea that women aren’t quite as interesting as men. That men have heroic lives, do heroic things, are these kind of warriors in the world, and that women have a certain set of rooms that they have to operate in.’’

–Lena Dunham: “Women shouldn’t be having to hustle twice as fast to get what men
achieve just by showing up.”

[via NY Times]

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