Monday, April 27, 2015

Shit People Say to Women Directors

This is a Tumblr devoted to sexism in the film industry, but there's plenty of this in theater as well.

One of the most resonant quotes for me:
"I think actually most of the time, the sexism is not so overt. Mostly it is a general questioning of your authority on set, a constant undermining of your decisions… There is this assumption (by both men and women) that as a female director, you have no fucking idea what you’re doing. My favorite comment from a (male) crew member (in front of everyone ), on a project that I produced, directed, wrote and financed: “That’s just not how things are done. You don’t get it.”
In my own situation, I have produced, directed, written and financed shows, gotten good reviews and won an award in one case, and yet I'm still treated with utter contempt by many men and women in the theater world, from actors to stage managers to producers. The misogyny is utterly pervasive, no matter how unacknowledged.

I'll never forget one actor in my ill-fated JANE EYRE production who informed me well after the production was over that I was not a good writer or director. He had only ever seen one play written and directed by me, but on that basis he was confident of my lousiness.

I think part of the problem was that I actually had the nerve to try to direct this actor during the show. I asked him to stop taking such incredibly long pauses when delivering his lines. It was driving people crazy - several people complained about it to me. And he was extremely offended that I would dare tell him this was a problem. And even the fact that he didn't get into Juilliard failed to convince him that perhaps just maybe he wasn't infallible as an actor.

And he at least was well-behaved during the production itself, except for not following my direction. Two other actors in the cast actively sabotaged the show by abusing the stage crew, among other things. One of them was a female actor - but regretfully in my experience female actors are even more likely to be disrespectful of me as a director/producer than male actors. I've previously discussed my theory about this.

Meanwhile these same actors work happily and respectfully for one of the worst film directors around for no pay. The sexism of these actors is mind-boggling.

Of course it isn't only the entertainment industry. Women's work, everywhere, is systematically devalued on the basis of gender. There are many, many studies that demonstrate this undeniable fact.
The finding that international relations articles written by women receive fewer citations than those written by men is surprising and disturbing to many in political science. Unfortunately, however, this evidence is consistent with a broader body of studies that reveal a tendency for both women and men to value work by men more than work by women. Both men and women hold subconscious biases that affect their impressions and may influence their subsequent behavior. While it is almost impossible to rid ourselves of ingrained subconscious biases, we can become more self-aware and take steps to limit the influence of these biases on our behavior.
Two recent studies provide experimental evidence commensurate with this phenomenon. In one study, scientists were asked to rate resumes and suggest starting salaries for students applying for a lab job. The researchers found that job candidates with traditionally female names were rated less qualified and offered a lower average salary, despite the fact that all other information was identical. In another study, communications graduate students were asked to rate conference abstracts for scientific quality. The same abstracts with traditionally female author names were rated less well, especially in subject areas considered traditionally male, including politics. In both studies, male and female evaluators were equally likely to devalue the work of women.
Why would this be? Perhaps some people believe that women inherently produce less valuable scholarship than men, but I don’t think most of us subscribe to that belief. Most of us assert that similarly qualified men and women should be paid the same and that research should be equally valued regardless of the authors’ gender. And yet, experiments reveal that our behavior does not conform to those beliefs.
Back to the world of theater. In the "why do plays by women still only get 17% of all productions" debates that pop up frequently in social media invariably some man will suggest that the reason for this is because women don't write as well as men. And every now and then a woman in theater, like a theater director who goes by the name of Bitter Gertrude, will write something in support of the idea that women just don't write as well as men.

Internalized misogyny is possibly the worst form of misogyny.