Groundbreakers

“Original Six” who sued Hollywood studios in 1980s talk gender discrimination

Discrimination in Hollywood is finally being examined through a critical lens by the media and major actors and directors, but it isn’t the first time gender has been thrust to the forefront of conversation about the industry. In 1979, six women members of the Directors Guild of America — a group known as the “Original Six”— spoke out about gender discrimination in the industry, founding the Women’s Steering Committee to investigate the hiring practices of studios. They spent three years gathering statistics and advocating for women, including a meeting with 32 Hollywood executives in June 1980, Pacific Standard reported in a recent profile about the women: Susan Bay Nimoy, Nell Cox, Joelle Dobrow, Dolores Ferraro, Victoria Hochberg, and Lynne Littman.

Because of their work, in 1983 the Directors Guild of America had enough information to sue Warner Brothers and Columbia Pictures — a case that was dismissed on a technicality, but ultimately saw a slow rise in the number of (mostly-white) women working in films. As the Pacific Standard’s Rachel Syme reported, women were directing 16 percent of television show assignments by 1995. After that, Hollywood gender inclusion seemingly flatlined.

The Original Six took to Reddit AMA this week to field questions about their experience and even when the forum’s infamous trolls came out to play, the women didn’t back down. When asked, “Why do you feel it’s ok to force someone to hire someone based on their genitalia and not credentials?” the group answered, “Ask the producers that question who are all hiring white males.” Tell em, ladies!

Dobrow spoke to what happened after 1995, when the hiring of women came to a halt [all sic]: “The attention to the issue dissolved because people thought it was solved. Unfortunately between 1995-2005 people realized the problem was not solved because the statistics flat lined. Around 2007 the DGA began its diversity task force which still hasn’t solved the problem. So here we are-21 years later… no change.”

When asked if they still believe sexism is insurmountable, Cox replied that recent awareness to the issue feels positive. “Women can use this awareness as a psychological weapon internally and externally. Keeping this awareness alive is a job for all of us. Keep pushing,” she said.

The full conversation is worth a read on Reddit, or read the full story at Pacific Standard.

Related:

David Oyelowo calls on Hollywood’s leading men to seek out female directors

Made By Women program to produce dramas helmed by women

Campaign asks movie lovers to watch 52 films directed by women this year

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