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13 Myths Hollywood Uses to Discriminate Against Women Directors

The networks of women working for change in the film world are growing all the time. And they're making powerful connections across borders. From now, from time to time I'll cross-post writing from other activists. Today's article from Maria Giese of Women Directors Navigating the Hollywood Boys Club seems a fine place to start: many of the myths she identifies are alive and well all over the world.

drawing: Daniel Dejean

By Maria Giese, of Women Directors Navigating the Hollywood Boys Club

1. The number of women directors is so small because women are not really interested in directing and few women are exceptional enough to do a man’s job.

Right, so 3,500 women DGA members pay their union dues just for the hell of it! Believe us—we ARE interested!


2. The ratio of women directors is improving—it’s just going to take time.

The ratio hasn’t changed significantly since the advent of cinema 100 years ago. How much more time shall we plan on waiting?


3. There are fewer women directors because more men attend film school.

Women make up 50% of the classes in almost every film school in the U.S.


4. Men are better directors because they have more experience.

If experience were everything, no young men would ever enter the profession. Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” was his debut feature. This argument diminishes the notion that some people are simply gifted in certain areas.


5. It’s okay for women to direct small, independent femme-themed films, but men can handle all genres. And women certainly can’t be trusted with big budget features or episodic television, even if they are female driven stories.

Women can too! It’s risible and hypocritical that almost all female driven stories are directed by men.


6. It’s okay to say ”We don’t hire women on this show” (we hear it all the time), but it’s not okay to say “We don’t hire African Americans/Asians/Latinos, etc… on this show.”

Just think about that for a minute…


7. Women studio executives are helping hire more women film and television directors.

There are more women studio executives today than ever, but fewer women directors. Sony’s Amy Pascal could only conjure up the name of ONE women director when asked recently, and even remembering Kathryn Bigelow seemed to require some strained mental effort.


8. The Director’s Guild of America really wants to help increase employment opportunities for its women members.

That’s why the ratio of male to female directors has remained in stasis for over two decades. The DGA is the organization charged with oversight of studio compliance of studio agreements to hire more women in accordance with U.S. civil rights laws.


9. In America, we protect freedom of speech—women can speak out about discrimination in the film & TV industry without FEAR of reprisals.

The #1 reason women do not speak out about discrimination in Hollywood is that they are afraid of getting BLACKLISTED.


10. America has a higher ratio of women directors than other nations around the world.

Almost all other countries in the world honor women directors more than the United States of America.


11. Women directors are not successful because they don’t know how to get organized.

That sometimes seems true. But women did manage to get the right to vote in America after several hundred years of fighting for suffrage.


12. Hollywood has lots of wonderful diversity programs that help women break in to directing.

Not true. And over 20 years of failed Guild diversity programs have resulted in NO CHANGE in the ratios of women directors.


13. Women directors succeed or fail based on merit and their films will get good reviews and big budgets for marketing & distribution if their films are good.

Not true. Recent studies prove that since 80% of film critics are males, reviews of women’s films are disproportionately harsh. Women’s features suffer from disproportionately low P&A budgets, and on average, open on many fewer screens.
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Women Directors: Navigating The Hollywood Boys Club is a moderated web forum for international film and television directors to share their real experiences with discrimination and explore laws protecting employment equality, as well as strategies to strive for global parity.

The site was conceived by Maria Giese and Heidi Honeycutt. You can also find it on Facebook and Twitter.

Maria Giese is an American feature film director, a member of the Directors Guild of America, and an activist for parity for women directors in Hollywood. She writes and lectures about the under-representation of women filmmakers in the United States.

Heidi Honeycutt (aka Martinuzzi) is a film journalist, author, and feminist. She is the programmer of the Viscera Film Festivals. (See also here, for interview with Viscera's Shannon Lark.)

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