Why the NY Times’ piece on Hollywood sexism is the must-read of the week

The New York Times’ piece on Hollywood sexism by Maureen Dowd is the must-read of the week. Women in film has been a hot topic since the Sony hack revealed that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were paid less than their male co-stars in American Hustle. The general consensus in subsequent news stories has been that things are improving — but, as Dowd and her 100+ interviews reveal, the opposite could be true.

In 2014, 95% of cinematographers, 89% of screenwriters, 82% of editors, 81% of executive producers and 77% of all producers were men, according to Professor Martha Lauzen of San Diego State University. Even worse, those numbers seem to be going down, not up — though, as Dowd writes, it’s hard to imagine going down from nearly zero.

In fact, Dowd exposes a rich history of women being much more active in Hollywood than they are now. Alice Guy Blache was the first woman to found and run her own film studio in 1910. And Dorothy Arzner, who worked from 1922 to 1943 with the likes of Katharine Hepburn, still has the largest body of work by a female director. Jennifer Lee, the co-director of “Frozen,” told the NYT that she misses the female characters in old movies. “What kills me is the female characters are fantastic, complicated, messy, and they aren’t oversexualized, and I love them,” Lee says. Sadly, now those characters are few and far between. So what happened to all the women in film? When the blockbuster first came around, Dowd writes, “Hollywood got hooked on the cohort of 15-year-old boys.” And despite female-focused stories like The Hunger Games and Trainwreck selling out theaters, that bias still very much dominates the conversation. Down asked some of Hollywood’s most powerful (male) players why their focus is so, well, sexist. Their responses were dismissive at best. “A lot of ‘em [women] haven’t tried hard enough,” one mansplained. Another told her to “Call some chicks.” And so she did. Dowd talked to 63 of Hollywood’s most prominent leading ladies about how they have experienced sexism and what steps the movie industry needs to take to solve it. (The article is accompanied by breathtaking photos of them as well.)

Here are a few of our favorite quotes, though it’s really worth reading the entire article:

Shonda Rhimes, producer of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder: “The world of movies is fascinating to me because everyone has amnesia all the time. Every time a female-driven project is made and succeeds, somehow it’s a fluke. Instead of just saying ‘The Hunger Games’ is popular among young women, they say it only made money because Jennifer Lawrence was luminous and amazing. I mean, you go get yours, girl. But seriously, that’s ridiculous.”

Liz Meriwether, creator of New Girl: She received notes from executives before the show aired saying, “I don’t understand how this character can be smart and sexy.”

Lena Dunham, creator and star of Girls: “I feel like we do too much telling women: ‘You aren’t aggressive enough. You haven’t made yourself known enough.’ And it’s like, women shouldn’t be having to hustle twice as fast to get what men achieve just by showing up.”

Dee Rees, director of Pariah: “Is it also a problem with critics, that there are not enough female or African-American critics to sound the bell that this is great work?”

Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the first Twilight film: “A man gets a standing ovation for crying [on set] because he’s so sensitive, but a woman is shamed.”

Meryl Streep, actress: “Boys are never encouraged to imagine what it is like to be female. The reason I know this is because when I made ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ it was the very first time men came to me after the film and said, ‘I know how you felt.’”

Check out the article for even more fantastic insights from our favorite stars.

Related reading:

Why the ‘Hollywood Reporter’ is doing away with powerful women lists

Kate Winslet just entered the Hollywood pay gap debate

(Image via Twitter)

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