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'Sh*t People Say To Women Directors' Highlights Hollywood Sexism
It's certainly no secret that there's rampant sexism in the Hollywood industry. We've all seen the staggeringly low figures of women being hired in directorial roles in film and TV, Maggie Gyllenhaal being told she's had her last f*ckable day at 37, and the whole Cannes Film Festival #shoegate fiasco where women were turned away for wearing flats (gasp!) to the red carpet. But there's a blog that highlights the appalling and horrific comments women in the industry have to endure on a daily basis—and it really paints a solid picture of everything wrong with the status quo. It might make you want to flip a table and punch a wall, too.Shit People Say To Women Directors (SPSTWD) launched on April 22, and has since had a fervent following. The anonymous group behind the Tumblr call their blog a "collective diary for women" where they have people anonymously share their "personal accounts of absurd, offensive, threatening, or downright fucked-up 'shit' people have said to you while working in the film business." While it's a blog about women, even men will tell stories of the ridiculously horrible ways they've seen women treated on set.
There are stories about how women are told their breasts are distracting, how people will continuously ask female directors to their faces who the director is even though they know the answer, and then there are the sex jokes. A female director was asked by a male agent, "How did you get so far so fast, besides the fact that you give good head?" A male writer on a major TV series told a woman, "You are a terrible assistant, why don't you go back to working in porn where you belong?" Another woman was asked by a film festival director in front of her husband, "How do you feel about not being there for your daughter, you know as a mother, when you are working on a film?" She pointed out that he never asked her husband how he handled his work-life balance as a co-parent.
The people behind SPSTWD told Vanity Fair that they started the blog as a "place to vent," but it's since grown into something much more. "Many women are inspired, rather than deterred by the stories on the site. . . . If you want to become a director, but these stories are scaring you, become a director anyway. Ignore the bullshit and keep working. And start hiring women whenever possible."
They told IndieWire that they're keeping the personal accounts on the blog anonymous for good reason:
Women have been cowed into silence over these issues for fear of being further shut out, marginalized and denied networking opportunities after being labeled "whistle blowers" or "difficult." We’ve watched this happen to director Lexi Alexander and screenwriter Julie Bush when they published their respective exposes on sexism in the film business. Very few of their peers spoke up and supported them for the same reasons. Predictably, they were attacked by people who accused them of being "man-hating feminists" and "trouble makers," among other things. We knew that virtually no one - save for brave souls like Alexander and Bush - would participate openly. The fear of retaliation is severe. In fact one woman submitted to the Tumblr anonymously and then sent another one saying that even though her name wasn’t attached she feared someone would figure out who she was. Protecting the identities of the people who chose to participate was paramount, that so individuals could speak openly about these issues.
SPSTWD isn't the only one making a statement about gender inequality in Hollywood. Earlier this month, the A.C.L.U. of Southern California asked state and federal agencies to investigate Hollywood's major studios, networks and talent agencies for discrimination in hiring women as directors. A University of Southern California study found that of the top-grossing 100 films from 2013 and 2014, just 1.9 percent were directed by women. The Directors Guild of America discovered in another story that of the TV episodes broadcast in 2013 and 2014, only 14 percent were directed by women.
Not everyone thinks that SPSTWD will have a major effect on the depressing figures of female directors in Hollywood. Dr. Martha M Laurzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film told the Guardian: "My impression is that any industry with such heavily skewed gender ratios is unlikely to be cowed by this sort of public outing. That said, I do think the remarks on the blog add personal testimony to the substantial quantitative evidence indicting the mainstream film industry for its steadfast sexism."
However, SPSTWD has grown into something more. The creators of the blog told Vanity Fair that they've already received a year's worth of posts. Other women have sent them requests asking them if they could start sister blogs that highlight the inequalities they're facing in other industries, from technology to music.
Here's a sampling of some of the posts, which come in the form of quotes, short stories and gifs: