When journalist Maureen Dowd decided to do a deep dive into Hollywood sexism, she spoke to several powerful (male) leaders in the entertainment industry about why the gender gap remains so large in film.
"A lot of 'em haven’t tried hard enough," one man told her. "Call some chicks," suggested another cool bro. So she did. In fact, she called many of them. And the stories they told her are nothing short of deeply depressing.
It's 2015 and only 1.9 percent of directors for the 100 top-grossing films since 2013 have been women, female characters only accounted for 30.2 percent of characters in speaking or named roles in the top 700 highest-grossing films and women writers in Hollywood are apparently used to hearing some pretty insane commentary on a daily basis.
As Dowd wrote:
Female writers in Hollywood told me they are used to hearing things like "Can you insert a rape scene here?" or "Can they go to a strip club here?" or "Can you rewrite the fat friend for Eva Mendes? She has high marks for foreign distribution." They trade stories about how a schlubby male studio head mutters that he doesn’t want to look at ‘‘ugly actresses,’’ and how schlubby male directors, caught up in their fantasy world, choose one beautiful actress over another simply because she has a hair color that fits their customized sexual daydream. "I still see storytelling for men by men that is always reinforcing the male gaze," says Jill Soloway, the Emmy-winning creator of Amazon’s ‘‘Transparent."
It's this insidious, casual sexism that seems to inform the gender gap at every level of Hollywood. And like in other industries, often women are blamed for not negotiating well enough or being aggressive enough or fighting hard enough for the opportunities that are seemingly givenen to scrappy, talented young men on a consistent basis.
"I feel like we do too much telling women: 'You aren’t aggressive enough. You haven’t made yourself known enough,'" Lena Dunham told Dowd. "And it’s like, women shouldn’t be having to hustle twice as fast to get what men achieve just by showing up."
So, when will there be equal recognition for equal hustle? It's hard to say. But it will certainly require a climate where more women of all kinds are encouraged to be in front of and behind the camera. That would mean all kinds of new perspectives and stories. Imagine what beautiful, interesting, exciting art that kind of diversity might render.
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