Maureen Dowd Slams Hollywood Sexism: ‘It’s a Sick Society – Like the Catholic Church and Saudi Arabia’

The writer speaks to TheWrap after the NYT Magazine publishes her 7,000-word piece on sexism in the entertainment industry

Maureen Dowd
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New York Times writer Maureen Dowd lambasted Hollywood as a “sick society” that clings to a myth of liberal values while it persists in excluding women from many aspects of the entertainment business.

The New York Times Magazine on Friday published a 7,000-word piece by the famed columnist about the role of women in Hollywood. Dowd interviewed nearly 100 women for the piece, describing their experiences in an industry where women continue to have second-class status. She cited the shocking statistic that in 2013 and 2014 only 1.9 percent of the directors of the 100 top-grossing films were women, a situation that seems to only get worse over time.

Dowd said she found the situation depressing. “The other two things I covered like this were Catholic Church and Saudi Arabia,” she said in an interview with TheWrap. “Somewhere along the line I realized — wow, this incredibly liberal town full of men who say they’re feminists has been warped. It’s a sick society — like the Catholic Church and Saudi Arabia. If you exclude the hearts and minds of women, you get warped. That’s what happened to Hollywood.”

She continued: “It’s like the last town on earth where the men are powerful and the women are beautiful. Hollywood is choking on all these outdated myths. Not just the one that 15-year-old boys are driving the market, but all the other myths — that women can’t handle a $100 million budget, that they can’t direct. They’re obsessed with superhero myths, but they have this other series of myths they can’t let go.”

Dowd spent six months interviewing dozens of executives, producers, writers, directors and actors about the sense of marginalization many women feel in the industry.

The piece quotes leading women in Hollywood, such as actress and director Helen Hunt, who said it was hard to speak up: ”Women who say it’s not O.K. are [considered] wet blankets or sore losers.”

Shonda Rhimes, one of the most successful show-runners in television, told Dowd, “There’s such an interest in things being equal and such a weary acceptance that it’s not.”

Dowd said she was fascinated by the different threads of guilt and uncertainty among the women she interviewed.

“I really got kind of bewitched by talking to all these women and hearing their stories, watching them try and figure it out,” the writer told TheWrap. “But that 1.9 [percent] thing tells you where it stands and yet it’s so ephemeral.

“It reminds me of old Ingrid Bergman movie, the movie ‘Gaslight.’ They [women in Hollywood] are being gaslighted. When Lisa Cholodenko tried to get $4 million to finance ‘The Kids Are All Right,’ she couldn’t get it. She wondered,’Is it too gay? Are women too annoying? You’re not sure, you’re trying to figure out.’… There’s an unseen curtain that gets in the way of things.”

Read the magazine story here.