12 Sep HOLLYWOOD GENDER DISCRIMINATION FINALLY RECEIVES ATTENTION FROM FEDS
The E.E.O.C. will interview female directors to determine whether legal action should be taken against the industry.
Hollywood’s gender bias is a subject that has been gaining conversational momentum in recent years thanks to Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Patricia Arquette, Jane Fonda, Natalie Portman and other powerful women who have used their voices to bring awareness to the industry’s staggering female problem. And, as proof that someone is actually listening to this important dialogue, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken steps to interview female filmmakers this month and determine whether it should take legal action against the industry for discriminating against women film and TV directors.
The Los Angeles Times broke the news on Tuesday, reporting that the E.E.O.C. sent letters to female directors requesting confidential meetings in October to discuss gender-related issues in the film and TV industries. Deadline reports that the probe—which could be the first step toward a class-action lawsuit against the industry—suggests Hollywood “could be a facing massive, government-led class action on any number of fronts affecting the underemployment of female directors—from sexism and ageism to racism and ‘wageism.’”
The Times, however, offers more pragmatic thoughts on the likely outcome:
If the EEOC ultimately determines that a pattern of discrimination exists, it could take legal action against the studios or seek to mediate a solution aimed at boosting the ranks of female directors. But the complex process by which films get greenlighted and directors selected could make a legal solution tricky, due to the large number of parties involved in hiring, including agents, managers, producers, studio executives and the DGA.
This past May, the American Civil Liberties Union demanded an investigation into Hollywood sexism by filing grievances with several federal and California-state agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, requesting investigations into “the systemic failure to hire women directors at all levels of the film and television industry.” Thankfully, it looks as though the E.E.O.C. took notice.
Geena Davis helped kickstart the campaign against Hollywood’s gender bias in 2006 by founding the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media to commission research on the subject, and present its findings with studio executives and producers. This past summer, Meryl Streep furthered the cause by sending each and every member of Congress a copy of Equal Means Equal by Jessica Neuwirth, along with a letter encouraging them to “stand up for equality—for your mother, your daughter, your sister, your wife or yourself—by actively supporting the Equal Rights Amendment.” According to Streep, however, she only received five responses.
The Oscar winner also used her own money to help fund a screenwriting lab for women writers over 40. This year, Patricia Arquette used her Oscar acceptance speech to bring attention to wageism, an issue her peer Gwyneth Paltrow brought up in an interview this week, saying, ”Your salary is a way to quantify what you’re worth. If men are being paid a lot more for doing the same thing, it feels shitty.“