The Treatment Of Female Directors Is 'A Civil Rights Violation': The ACLU Launches A Full Investigation

"Hollywood doesn’t get this free pass when it comes to civil rights and gender discrimination.”

Is Hollywood about to be an old boys' club no more? If the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) finds that what women in the industry have been saying for years is true, then the answer could very well be a solid "maybe."

The ACLU announced on Tuesday (May 12) that it would be asking state and federal agencies to investigate "the hiring practices of Hollywood’s major studios, networks and talent agencies," the New York Times reports. A round of letters has been sent to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, with evidence of what the ACLU describes as “overt sex stereotyping and implicit bias." If bias is found -- even in Hollywood's biggest studios -- legal charges might be filed.

“Women directors aren’t working on an even playing field and aren’t getting a fair opportunity to succeed,” Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBT, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU of Southern California, told the Times. “Gender discrimination is illegal. And really Hollywood doesn’t get this free pass when it comes to civil rights and gender discrimination.”

The letters they sent included plenty of examples of bias. A University of Southern California study found only 1.9 percent of the top-grossing 100 films from 2013 and 2014 were directed by women, and a Directors Guild of America study found that only 14 percent of 220 TV shows -- 3,500 episodes in total -- had women at the helm.

They also collected personal stories from female directors, who were told that the shows they were going for were not "women friendly," or that producers had told agents not to send women, or that a particular show had already reached its female director quota for the year.

“Sometimes showrunners will say, ‘This isn’t a good show for a woman director, or our actors are hard on women,’” an anonymous director wrote. “Or they’re approaching it as if ‘We’re protecting you by not giving you this job.’ That way they turn it on its side, to make everything O.K.”

According to the Times, a potential byproduct of putting more women behind the camera would be more women in front of the camera as well. The percentage of female characters with speaking roles fell to a five-year low of 28.4 percent in 2012, but female directors tend to include women more often -- and in roles that aren't just "the girlfriend."

More as this story develops...

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