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Diary of a Teenage Girl
Bel Powley in "Diary of a Teenage Girl"via YouTube

Federal officials are investigating Hollywood sexism

A civil rights organisation has prompted a probe into the huge gender disparity within the film industry

The American Civil Liberties Union has confirmed that federal government officials are investigating whether gender discrimination exists in Hollywood (duh and duh). Statistics show 38 per cent of the highest grossing films employed no women in major roles, and only 7 per cent of the top films from last year were directed by women. That’s a pretty concerning disparity.

Responding to a request from the ACLU to look into the inner workings of employment in Hollywood, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs have launched a serious investigation.

“We’re very encouraged by how seriously the government has taken this,” Melissa Goodman, ACLU’s director of the LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project told Associated Press. “Our hope is that they’ll push industry leaders to address the ongoing violations of civil rights women directors in the industry have experienced and are experiencing.”

The civil rights organisation has collected testimonials from over 50 female directors who reported their experiences of gender inequality. Some spoke of “shortlists” of potential directors, the majority male. The Los Angeles Times reported last October that some female directors in the industry had received surveys about Hollywood’s gender discrimination from the EEOC. Since the initial application for investigation, the feds have been making headway. Meetings with directors and stakeholders within the industry, says Goodman, have already taking place. The goal is to determine whether gender inequality in the industry is why there’s a serious lack of female directors, and the hope is to call out producers who fail to hire women.

But there’s no timeline for the investigation, and no obligation to reveal results or take action by law. Given the eye-opening, evocative films from female directors we’ve seen in the last year, from Marielle Heller’s Diary of a Teenage Girl to Sophie Hyde’s 52 Tuesdays, it’s a shame that this display of female power and talent isn’t lauded more often.

“Film and television are among our most powerful and influential cultural products, and they’re overwhelmingly made by men, telling male stories, depicting women through a male lens, and reinforcing stereotypes,” explains Goodman. “I think it shapes the way women and girls see themselves and limits the opportunities that the world presents to them.”