Film influences our society tremendously. Whether we are aware of it or not, we take our cues about how to view issues, groups, and places from screens big and small. This gives the creators of film content unfettered access to our minds and wallets, so wouldn't it behoove us all to give a shit about who is making the films we watch?
As it stands, and as it has always stood, men are in charge of the media content to which we are exposed. Over 90% of films and television shows are directed by men, and male writers and actors greatly outnumber comparable roles held by women. The archetypes of our gender and social roles are designed to benefit the designers: men.
Women are subjected to domestic, sexual, and emotional violence at exponentially higher levels than men. On a biological level, men are able to physically overpower women, and on a realistic level that is exactly what they do on a regular basis. We claim to live in a society that does not tolerate the occurrence of brute force as a means of maintaining power, particularly against women, but our individual actions, and the response of our justice system to crimes against women, do not support that ideology.
Gender equality in the film industry is necessary to change the general culture of violence against women. We are not powerless, but how are we to know this, to believe this, when the opposite is continually pumped into our collective social consciousness? Male dominance in media is a misogynistic propaganda machine.
One proposed solution to gender disparity is to proportionally adjust female casting so that women are portrayed equitably on film. While this is a nice start, and obviously needed, it will not promote the substantial changes we need if men are still the ones calling the shots and controlling the content.
In the last couple of years, women directors have been raising challenges to the film industry's boys' club. Maria Giese, founder and CEO of Women Directors In Hollywood, has been championing this cause, and has directed enough attention to the issue that the ACLU has become involved. She has also been largely behind the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's investigation into discriminatory hiring practices within the industry.
According the ACLU, though,
"...there has been much lip-service paid to furthering opportunities for women, but few definitive steps and no serious movement in the number of women directors hired."
Supporting that assertion is a new report from the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. According the Associated Press, the report
"...offers a stark portrait of Hollywood's feeble to nonexistent progress in eradicating what researchers call 'pervasive and systematic' problems in inclusiveness in front of and behind the camera."
This report addresses the wide-ranging exclusion of anyone who is not white and male from having any sort of power or influence in the film industry. Diversity is not Hollywood's strong suit. However, in a recent interview with The Other 50 Percent, Maria Giese made quite a profound observation: "women are not diverse; we are half the population."
If women had more control over media content, we could use it to influence our culture in a way that will inform and empower other women, as well as redefine our roles in society. We are capable of greatness, and are integral to the progression of civilized society. There is no valid reason for the shocking lack of access to the powers that define who we are.
It is time for Hollywood to cease its stonewalling of women directors, and to instead embrace us for who we are: human beings with equal rights to self determination.