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ACLU Pushing Petition to Have Government Investigate Hollywood Gender Discrimination

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is circulating an email petition urging people to support its call for a government investigation of the “biased” hiring practices of major Hollywood film studios.

The email, first sent to Hollywood industry professionals Thursday, comes after the organization sent a letter to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) and two other government agencies earlier this month asking for an investigation into the industry’s “systemic failure” to hire female directors for film and television projects.

“By signing it, industry professionals will tell three government civil rights agencies (1) that gender bias against women directors in film and television is real and has gone on for far too long and (2) investigation and oversight from civil rights enforcement agencies to foster reform of the industry’s biased hiring practices would be a welcome step,” the email, first obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, reads.

“Our goal is to show the civil rights enforcement agencies that a significant number of people who are women directors or work with women directors want this long-running civil rights problem to be fixed.”

In a May 12 letter to the EOC, the ACLU detailed its grievances against Hollywood about the industry’s female employment practices. Among them: just 1.9% of directors of the top-grossing films of 2013-2014 were women. Of the 1,300 top-grossing films spanning a 12-year stretch between 2002-2014, the number improves to a dismal 4.1%.

The practices are not limited to behind-the-scenes personnel; a University of Southern California study included in the letter found that the percentage of female characters with onscreen speaking roles declined to a five-year low of 28.4% in 2012.

“Over the last year, the ACLU has heard directly from more than 50 women in the directing industry,” the petition reads. “Their stories mirror the dismal numbers reported, but more importantly give ​voice to the discrimination they endure.”

We believe that the failure to hire women directors and give them a fair opportunity to succeed in the field is a civil rights issue. This is why the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and the ACLU of Southern California have a campaign demanding that our government launch an investigation into the systemic failure to hire women directors at all levels of the film and TV industry ​in violation of state and federal civil rights laws.

A number of actresses and directors recently issued statements questioning Hollywood hiring practices.

Last week, actress Melissa McCarthy called sexism in Hollywood an “intense sickness,” while fellow actress Kristen Stewart called the lack of opportunities for women “so offensive it’s crazy.” Reese Witherspoon, Patricia Arquette and Jessica Chastain have all recently spoken out on the issue.

Also this month, Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark ThirtyThe Hurt Locker) issued a statement of support for the ACLU investigation, writing that “every director should be judged solely by their work, and not by their work based on their gender.”

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