Unfortunately, the notoriously called Hollywood “Boys Club” has stayed true to its title. Over the past few years, many of us have been buzzing with excitement, enthralled with the stories of female directors like Lena Dunham, Jenji Kohan, Sofia Coppola, Shonda Rhimes, and Ana DuVernay, but the gender gap for women directors is not even close to remedied.
As we incrementally see progress starting in other parts of Hollywood, such as the small but steady increase of multidimensional roles for female actresses, we are backwards in terms of female directors in the public sphere.
The Huffington Post wrote, addressing the institutionalized discrimination against female directors and the alarming lack of progress, that, “Fewer women are working as directors today than two decades ago, according to the ACLU.” It cites research showing women represented only 7 percent of directors on the 250 top-grossing movies last year. That is 2 percentage points lower than in 1998.” And as The Sacramento Bee continued to uncover, “Women directed only 4 percent of the 1,300 top grossing films released from 2002 to 2014 and less than 2 percent of the 100 top-grossing films in 2013-14. Nearly a third of the 220 television shows studied never had a single episode directed by a woman in the 2013-14 season. Yet roughly equal numbers of women and men in film school want to become directors.”
As these stats demonstrate, the problem for women’s representation in Hollywood is real and urgently need to be addressed. There are more than enough qualified women ready to work. For example, it has been seen that on the college level, both genders have equal enrollment in film schools, yet women are still faced with continual biases and stereotypes that stop them from moving forward to being viewed as viable choices in high-level positions or decision-making roles.
Engaging as participants in a culture that is subservient to media and drenched in television and film as our source of current trends, we need to make sure our screens are representative of our society. Additionally, we need to value work on the basis of content, not gender, and strip marketing misconceptions that female-directed films are in anyway less appealing by supporting gender-blind employment. As a three-year study by Sundance and Women in Film found, 44 percent said female directors are perceived to make films for a subset and/or less significant portion of the marketplace. This needs to change.
Moving forward, we need two things to shift in order to address this paradigm. First, we need to acknowledge the discrimination, spread awareness within our own lives, and support gender-neutral hiring practices within the industry. Secondly, we need to re-emphasize the importance of telling authentic stories, and not boxing the industry by genre. Women can make action films about men, and men can make sappy love stories about women. Men can make action films about women, and women can make sappy love stories about men. There is no rulebook that enforces characterization of content or gender-based divisions in directing. Women should be given opportunities to direct work across borders. Additionally, we should make sure to support women in the industry, whether it is through our home remotes, snuggled up on Netflix, at a local independent-film screening, or with a bucket of popcorn front row at a movie theater.
Above all, we need to encourage diverse female directors because only having stories told by 50 percent of the population restricts 100 percent of population to a world of exciting, new reflective media.
Check out the complete ACLU report here
Cover image courtesy of NBC.