As 2015 winds down, it's fair to say that this has been the year when Hollywood's gender equality finally became a front-page talking point—and amen for that. And with less than a month left before 2016 arrives, we now have the definitive piece of investigative journalism on the subject.
New York Times staff writer Maureen Dowd sat down and spoke with more than 100 of the film industry's top players to pen "The Women of Hollywood Speak Out," a sprawling and meticulously reported feature that's in the latest issue of The New York Times Magazine. The story is accompanied by dozens of striking portraits taken by photographer Art Streiber, capturing a plethora of female filmmakers, including Lena Dunham, Shonda Rimes, Rose McGowan, Lisa Cholodenko, Geena Davis, Dee Rees, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Debbie Allen, and Reed Morano.
The extremely thorough piece covers every possible base, examining how women made tremendous strides throughout the first four decades of the 1900s but then suffered from the industry's changes post-Jaws in 1975, challenges the widely held and incorrect beliefs that men dominate the box office through stats and behind-the-scenes anecdotes, analyzes why the women who do hold down positions of power aren't sharing the wealth, and lays out the multitude of excuses Hollywood's male big-wigs give for why they don't hire more ladies.
Here's a sampling where Dowd and a few of her interviewees shed light on how motherhood gives men an easy way out:
Several top executives talk about the problem of female directors dropping out to have families. And there is still such an atmosphere of fear that many female directors told me they hide their pregnancies until the last possible minute. One director confessed that she actually hides her child, refusing to put a photo of her son on Facebook, fearing "it could end my career."
"I've even had women executives say to me, not realizing I was a mom, ‘We always want to work with women filmmakers, but then they have kids,'" says Marielle Heller, who directed last summer's critically acclaimed The Diary of a Teenage Girl."It's a real stigma, which I think is not fair. It's crazy to me that that's the excuse because nobody ever asks men who have kids whether they’ll be able to do it."
Over lemonade at Le Pain Quotidien on Melrose Avenue, Gina Prince-Bythewood, in gilt Wonder Woman kicks, said that when she was shooting The Secret Life of Bees in North Carolina, her husband back in L.A. told her that her younger son, now 11, was walking around the house with a toy phone having a pretend conversation with her. "I had a lot of guilt; it wrecked me," said the 46-year-old, who also has a 14-year-old son. "But I'm a director, and I need to feed that part of me."
Lastly, one more excerpt, if only to single out the funniest quote you’ll hear all weekend, from Sleeping With Other People writer-director Leslye Headland. It comes during a section where Dowd discusses the sad truth of buzzy male directors exiting the Sundance Film Festival to director movies like Jurassic World, which never happens to women with equal post-Sundance hype:
"Quentin Tarantino can make Pulp Fiction for $8 million and you can slap him on any magazine. He's the poster boy. He was for me. I want to be that guy even though he looks like a foot. God bless him, and he can do whatever he wants to my feet. But with a female director, you're just not celebrated the same way."
Read the full article here.