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ACLU asks for investigation of Hollywood gender discrimination

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Over the past few months, women on both sides of the camera have spoken out against gender bias in Hollywood. Now, the ACLU is taking action by asking federal and state agencies to formally investigate discriminatory hiring practices.

The ACLU of Southern California and the national ACLU Women’s Rights Project sent letters to federal and state agencies on Tuesday, asking them to investigate the systemic failure to hire women directors. The letters cite statistical evidence that shows a disparity between the number of men and women hired for those jobs.

“Blatant and extreme gender inequality in this large and important industry is shameful and unacceptable,” Melissa Goodman, director of the ACLU SoCal’s LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project, said in a statement. “The time has come for new solutions to this serious civil rights problem.”

This action by the ACLU comes after months of women drawing more and more attention to pervasive double standard in Hollywood. Meryl Streep just funded a screenwriters lab for women over 40; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette teamed up for an Inside Amy Schumer sketch about unrealisitc beauty expectations actresses face as they age; Rita Wilson, Mamie Gummer and dozens of other women starred in a spoof PSA about gender equality for The Make It Fair Project; and anonymous women in film recently launched a Tumblr dedicated to discriminatory horror stories.

Some of the statistics cited by the ACLU suggest that the number of female directors working in film and television has actually gone down in recent years: In 2014, only 7 percent of the top 250 grossing films were directed by women — which is 2 percentage points lower than it was in 1998.

In addition to gathering statistical evidence, the ACLU interviewed 50 women directors about their own experiences with discriminatory hiring practices. The ACLU included a number of anonymous anecdotes in the letters sent to federal and state agencies, including several from “Oscar-nominated” women. The ACLU is also asking for women directors who have faced gender discrimination to contact them and share their stories. More information can be found here.