From the surface, it looks like the kind of “inside baseball,” only relevant to those immediately involved kinds of stories. But when I saw this Los Angeles Times story last May, about gender discrimination in Hollywood, I realized it’s a much bigger story.
The gist of the story is that the American Civil Liberties Union has decided to goose the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, along with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to start investigating Hollywood’s woeful track record regarding hiring women and people of color for directing jobs.
You may think this is about a bunch of rich White kids whining. It’s anything but. What folks don’t get is that the directors are the ones who are telling our stories in the two most influential media around: films and television. And over 80 percent of the folks directing our TV shows are White men. Almost 98 percent of the people directing the top 100 money-making films from the last two years were White men.
I’ve got nothing against White men, nor am I saying that they can’t tell a woman’s story without some sensitivity and understanding. What I’m objecting to is that they have the majority voice on the telling of my experience – which seems a little out of proportion to me. Okay, a lot out of proportion. And that’s not even considering the problems faced by women of color in The Industry.
I and a lot of other women complain quite a bit (and quite appropriately) about the sexist images of women in the media – about how we’re portrayed as little more than sex objects or kick-ass types who ape male characteristics, but still have big boobs. And women are justifiably frustrated by how entrenched these attitudes are. But if the people largely responsible for telling the stories are all guys, how’s that going to change?
As the LA Times story pointed out, it’s going to be hard to bring that kind of change about via the courts. Hiring in Hollywood involves too many different entities.
But what we have forgotten is that Hollywood responds to only one voice – the box office (or the virtual one involving advertising dollars). We’re the ones buying the tickets, so ultimately, we’re the ones with the power. We’re the ones watching the shows, buying the products. Individually, maybe we’re not so loud. But collectively, we are invincible.
So I say it’s time to start raising hell. You can start by sharing this post or writing another like it. You can start by avoiding films directed by men. You can start by commenting every time someone complains about how women and minorities are portrayed in films and on TV and reminding folks that Hollywood is a closed, exclusive community that will only hire White guys. When we make noise, we get noticed. Trust me, the nice folks making your movies and TV shows do not want to look insensitive or sexist – never mind that they are. If we, the ordinary people out there, start complaining loudly enough and the dollars follow, we can and will change things.