Could Hollywood face inquiry into sexist hiring practices?

ACLU says treatment of female directors violates their civil rights.

by Jennie Kermode

Charlize Theron's character in Mad Max: Fury Road has been attacked on the internet for "being too strong for a woman."
Charlize Theron's character in Mad Max: Fury Road has been attacked on the internet for "being too strong for a woman."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has called for a federal investigation into hiring practices in Hollywood because it believes major studios, networks and talent agencies may be discriminating against female directors. Although women make up 22% of membership of the Directors' Guild of America (DGA) - which also says that things need to change - they directed only 4% of last year's big budget films. This could result in federal pressure for the studios to hire more women, or even legal action.

In addition to the statistical evidence, ACLU has collected statements from 50 female directors who describe facing overt discrimination, sometimes framed in such a way that the stdio could imply it was being helpful by keeping them from getting involved in projects where others might discriminate against them.

"Blatant and extreme gender inequality in this large and important industry is shameful and unacceptable," said ACLU's Melissa Goodman. "The time has come for new solutions to this serious civil rights problem."

Hollywood was successfully challenged for discriminating against minorities in its employment practices in the Sixties, but measures aimed at combatting that problem are widely considered to have failed within a few years of their introduction.

ACLU's call comes just three months after research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that leading roles for women in major Hollywood films are actually getting rarer.

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