Oppression of Women Working in the Film Industry

Maureen Dowd’s New York Times investigation talks to female actresses, executives and filmmakers to answer what will it take to dismantle the pervasive sexism in Hollywood.

Think you know your anger ceiling when it comes to oppression of women working in the film industry? Think again.

In a recent investigation piece in the New York Times Maureen Dowd reports on the oppression of women in the film and entertainment industry. Dowd spoke with over 100 female actresses, executives and filmmakers about how they have been systematically and routinely shut out from business opportunities that are readily available to their male counterparts.

However, this is not the first time women in the industry have spoken out against oppression in Hollywood.

In 1979 a group know as the “The Original Six” started the Directors Guild of America’s Women’s Steering Committee. They encouraged the Guild to launch a class action lawsuit in 1983 against the studios, which moved the number of women directors up by almost 16% in 10 years. During that time however, none of the six women got any work. Afterwards, most women directors and women in the industry would not speak out about the lack of opportunity because they were afraid of being blacklisted.

So what will it take to dismantle a sexist system where women feel like they can’t stand up for what they want or help other women, without jeopardizing their own success?

A more recent study by the University of Southern California found that only 1.9% of directors of the top-grossing 100 films of 2014 were women. Another report found that women represent just 16% of television directors. Dowd writes, “It’s hard to believe the number could drop to zero, but the statistics suggest female directors are slipping backward.

Prof. Martha Lauzen of San Diego State University reports that in 2014, 95 percent of cinematographers, 89 percent of screenwriters, 82 percent of editors, 81 percent of executive producers and 77 percent of producers were men.”

The Women of Hollywood Speak Out is our pick for this weekends dispatch. Before you dive in on your way to or from work, check out a few of our favorite quotations from her reporting below.

It’s kind of like the church. They don’t want us to be priests. They want us to be obedient nuns. Anjelica Huston, actress, director and producer

That’s another layer to the conversation — being a parent in Hollywood. While my kids are young, I am absolutely less aggressive in my career, because I aggressively want to be a mom. I’m more selective with my projects — and in the long run, that will be good for my career. Maggie Carey, writer, director

A big part of getting a ‘shot’ is about studio execs seeing themselves in you. As a woman and a black filmmaker, I’m often not that person. Dee Rees, writer, director and producer

You’d have to go to forklifters to find a lower percentage of females — 99 percent of people on my crew have never worked with a female director. A woman who’d been working as an extra for 30 years was on my set and told me: ‘I just want to tell you, right on, sister. Do you know how nice it is just to see a woman in charge?’ I kind of got teary. Denise Di Novi, producer and director

The idea that women don’t like each other or undermine or sabotage each other is a big myth. It is not true at all. Smart women connect with each other instantly and help one another. Patricia Riggen, director and producer

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