Directing Well is the Best Revenge

Cartoon by Robert Mankof The New Yorker
Cartoon by Robert Mankof The New Yorker

The ever on-point Manhola Dargis, once again brought her clear-vision focus to the plight of female filmmakers on Dec. 24, 2014 with the second in a series of articles on women filmmakers, In Hollywood, It’s a Men’s, Men’s, Men’s World.

I won’t reiterate the usual arguments about this never-changing (and never will) phenomenon of men in charge. I’d only like to add my experience to the mob delirium of why why why? Why so few women? Why don’t the studios change their behavior toward women? Why don’t women get paid, treated, or respected the same as men?

Here are my own shocking findings:

Since 1984, when I started researching, writing, raising monies, and eventually filming on the topic of pioneering women who transformed the movies, (See men were by far my biggest supporters, both financially and emotionally. With some exceptions like the indomitable Peg Yorkin and Gloria Steinem, women proved petty, jealous, and back-biting when confronted with assisting in the realization of Reel Women.

It was a puzzle to me. And of course I often asked myself why? Why wouldn’t industry women want to support a film about their own herstory? The answer I eventually enlightened on has less to do with the mini boy’s club of Hollywood, and more with the BIG boy’s club globally…that is to say, the insidious, invisible, tentacles (I almost wrote testicles!) of patriarchy.

Don’t confuse patriarchy with gender. Many women executives I’ve met in Hollywood are much more patriarchally inclined than their male studio suits. So deep is culture drilled into us that these women are often the last to know. We are all molded by the same big daddy machine. when culture pins underdog against underdog (i.e. women against women) for one or two or ten slots, those underdogs end up clawing at each other, instead of at the real monster at hand.

The many generous men who showed no hesitation, (and most often quite the opposite, genuine enthusiasm, along with an open check book) for Reel Women had no one pitted against them. They never felt threatened that someone else would, or could, snag their privilege. Their conditioning assured them that such a thing would never be possible.

This is my own 5¢ assessment of the pitiful numbers of women in charge…not just in Hollywood, but everywhere, in every industry you look. After thirty years spent looking at this single question from every possible angle, I’m here to tell you the sad news…the pitiful numbers of women directors working for the big studios will never ever get better. Not until we have a global sea-change from Patriarchy to Matriarchy. Depending how you view it, this could actually be good news. You know what the Buddhists say, the true acceptance of what is right in front of us eliminates all pain. So lets stop whining at Women In Film meetings, and start putting our energies where they belong. Let’s stop crying about what Daddy won’t give us, and focus instead on where we can make real transformation, our work. Let’s make the best films we’re capable of making. Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to make the best films we can make as women. Directing well can be our best revenge.

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