The ACLU asks civil rights agencies to investigate sexism & women directors


Remember back in February of this year when everyone was pretty pissed off about the notable Oscar snubs for the film Selma? A lot of the conversation around the snubs was about the director, Ava DuVernay, because somehow she managed to not get a Best Director nomination even though The Imitation Game’s director, Morten Tyldum, got nominated for his utterly by-the-books film. I went to see Selma in the theater, and it was easily my favorite film of the season. I was sort of shocked to hear that there was any backlash against Ava as a person or director, and it disturbs me to realize that Ava would have been treated a lot differently if it wasn’t for the fact that she is a black woman in a directors’ guild full of old white men. The DGAs this year were a sausage party, as they are almost every year. So, what needs to change? How can we make that change happen? How do we get more women directors? The ACLU might have one answer.

The ACLU of Southern California and the national ACLU Women’s Rights Project said Tuesday they are asking federal and California civil rights agencies to investigate what they call “the systemic failure” to hire women directors in the film and television industry.

The organizations have compiled statistical evidence of what they term “dramatic disparities” in the hiring of women. These findings are bolstered by anecdotal accounts gathered from 50 women directors. Fewer women are working as directors today than two decades ago, according to the organizations. They estimate that in 2014 women represented only 7 percent of directors on the 250 top-grossing movies. That is 2 percentage points lower than in 1998.

Ariela Migdal of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project said, “Women directors simply aren’t getting a fair opportunity to succeed.”

Recent research by the University of Southern California’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative found a general perception in Hollywood that stories by or about women are more niche than mainstream, and therefore less profitable. A recent study by USC and the advocacy group Women in Film shows women have represented fewer than 5 percent of directors of top films during the past two decades.

“Blatant and extreme gender inequality in this large and important industry is shameful and unacceptable,” said Melissa Goodman, director of the ACLU SoCal’s LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project.

[From Page Six]

A nit-picky point, but I think examining data with such narrow parameters misses the point? The financial success of a movie is important, for sure, but women can make great, successful films and those films still won’t make it on the top-grossing 250 films of the past however many years. It should be about the number of women in the Directors Guild of America, and how many of those women work consistently with studios and production houses and what their experiences are within the system and outside of the system. I believe – and I don’t have the data to back me up – that as female directors declined in the studio system over the past two decades, many female directors found their homes in independent film and TV. That being said, the ACLU is also investigating female directors’ experiences in TV, and TV is as much a boys’ club as film. Anyway, this ACLU-directed investigation is an interesting way to call attention to all of this.

Also – check out this excellent Sh-t People Say To Women Directors tumblr.



Photos of badass female directors, courtesy of WENN.

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18 Responses to “The ACLU asks civil rights agencies to investigate sexism & women directors”

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  1. Pinky says:

    A. Men.

  2. INeedANap says:

    It baffles me that some people (mostly men, and extra depressingly, some women) think that sexism just doesn’t exist anymore. Rock on ACLU.

    • Nicole says:

      They just do not want to get it. They get furious because they think it’s an accusation of sexism or racism. How dare you say I’m racist?! I’ve never discriminated against someone for being black! How dare you say I’m sexist? I’ve never discriminated against someone for being a woman! And then they’ll cite examples of people they’ve “made” and the millions they’ve “given” and refuse to understand the very fcking simple concept of privilege.

      White privilege compounded by male privilege is an invisible juggernaut. The more visibility it gets, the more anxious and pissed off privileged white males get. Add classism to the mix (these directors are rich as sht) and you’re really going to have a hard time getting them to admit fault. They figure they’ve worked hard and so they deserve what they have. They refuse to believe that other people work just as freaking hard and never get the chances they’ve had.

      • Kiki says:

        You have taken the words right out of my mouth. I thank you for that. It amaze with these old b*stards, going into denial with these accusations.

  3. Sarah says:

    It’s going to be a rough adjustment while women achieve more and more equality in cinema. For a long while, the industry will be accused of selecting films directed by women to fill a “quota” (just like people whinge for female managers or CEOs). When we get closer, hopefully we’ll finally get some innovation in this stagnant environment and get some films about subjects other than men and their sidekick females (wives, gfs, daughters etc)

  4. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    As to the decline in movies directed by women over the last two decades, I have a theory. Whenever change starts to happen, there’s a group who feels threatened, and there’s a backlash. I think this happens to POC as well. It’s a signal to fight on, and fight harder, because change is coming.

    • Snazzy says:

      I kind of feel that way too. We hear more and more about these things because people are no longer accepting them – they are forcing change. So while the privileged put up fences, more and more see the reasons to tear them down.

      • lucy2 says:

        I agree too. It is a big struggle, but I do see some younger actresses recognizing the problem early on, and seeking out directing, producing, or writing positions to create roles for themselves or produce meaningful work. That’s hopeful to me, and I hope more and more do so. Everyone needs to keep pushing forward on this until the studios and the industry can’t deny it anymore.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Nailed it GNAT.

  5. InvaderTak says:

    Ok, so they investigate something that’s common knowledge, and then what?

    • M.A.F. says:

      Nothing is the outcome. Hollywood is a business but it’s not the same as corporate America which IS where the laws target (although, enforcement of the laws is a different matter).

    • PennyLane says:

      The big studios are owned by big corporations with huge HR departments. They will make some sort of minor agreement about a mentoring program and maybe set up a fellowship program at USC film school. I can’t really see them agreeing to anything more than that.

  6. mia girl says:

    Part of this conversation needs to be that equality does not just mean more women directors. It also means the ability for women directors to succeed OR fail in equal measure to their male counterparts.

    When a female directed movie aimed at women does not do well, the system tends to say “See!! Women don’t want to see those kinds of films”. I think current women directors are held to a higher standard and the stakes are high for them because the industry thinks they represents the entire female population.
    Male directors do not have those kinds of additional expectations on them.

    • feebee says:

      You’re right. The attitude is across the board in Hollywood as shown by the female superhero emails that recently came out. The adamant thought was if one superhero movie failed then “that’s it! I’ve had enough I can’t take all these failed female superhero movies!!!!” Not a thoughts given to the multiple male fails. It’s not a big leap to apply that to female directors and their films.

      • Kiki says:

        I have to agree, but does that mean that they should shut out othe female directors because one bad apple spoiled the bunch?

        I think the studios and everwhere else in Hollywood are just men who just want women as sex objects and be good little pets. And we are taking that s***.

  7. Mia4S says:

    I hope something comes of it, I really do. For now I think the best thing the rest of us can do is support projects with female directors and writers and reject films with poorly done or useless female characters…especially in blockbusters!! Money talks. There’s no excuse with these action/fantasy films. No main female characters in say, Band of Brothers? I’m fine with that, historically accurate and a masterpiece. Movies like the Avengers being unable to pass the Bechdel test? Ridiculous and shameful.

  8. mmm says:

    This is fantastic. Now who’s going to investigate the pedophiles in Hollywood?

  9. tallo says:

    This is a step in the right direction hopefully it has a positive outcome. Less lip service to equality and more actual equality. Thanks to celebitchy for posting