‘Shit People Say to Women Directors’ Highlights Sexism in the Film and TV Industry

By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire

“Many of them have never told anyone about these experiences and feel an enormous relief being unburdened from them.”

“No one will ever want to work with you.” “You’re too bossy.” “Smile more.” “Your bitch is showing.” These are just a few of the things said to women directors, according to the new Tumblr, Shit People Say to Women Directors” (SPSTWD).

The blog, which is run by an anonymous group, was launched a few days ago without much fanfare. But word got out and news spread that there was a place online where female directors and other film and TV professionals can vent their frustration and anger at the way they are often treated in the industry. It’s open to all people identifying as women who work in film and television.

The individuals who created it saw it as “a collective diary for women to flush away all of the appalling bullshit we’ve been handed over the years while trying to make a living in film,” the creators told Indiewire in an email. The idea was that it would be a “safe house where we could all share a laugh about how challenging the business really is for us. Our hope was for women to let off a little steam while shining a light on a pervasive problem.”

The blog caught on much faster than they anticipated. Clearly, it touched a nerve. “We figured at first we would just source stories from all of the women we are connected to in the business. What we did not anticipate, however, was the overwhelming amount of submissions we got from the public. We received a year’s worth of content literally overnight,” said the SPSTWD group.

They’ve been so overwhelmed by submissions that they can’t keep up. “Hundreds of people from all disciplines in film have contributed; writers, producers, carpenters, cinematographers, production assistants. From film school students to directors with 30 years behind the camera, people with all levels of experience are dying to tell their stories. Many of them have never told anyone about these experiences and feel an enormous relief being unburdened from them,” said the creators of SPSTWD.

In an e-mail exchange with the creators of the blog, they answered the following questions:

Why start SPSTWD?

Maybe it’s the years of being told women can’t direct, maybe it’s the unchanging abysmal employment statistics, maybe it’s the glacial pace at which change occurs in the film business, maybe it was one absurd remark too many. It wasn’t one thing in particular. It was more of an accumulation of stories told in private that made us decide to launch an open blog.

What are you hoping to achieve?

Sexism is one of the most socially accepted forms of discrimination and a pervasive disease in the film and television business. The former president of the DGA has acknowledged that gender inequality is a systemic problem that has no easy solution. There isn’t just a major gap in opportunity and earnings – it’s an enormous chasm. In fact, there were more opportunities for women in the silent era than there are in 2015. Today, women make up just 14% of all working directors in television 9% of film. Despite several recent revealing studies about the enormous gender disparity in film production, things aren’t getting any better. Something needs to happen. Shit People Say To Women Directors is kind of a crisis intervention. We realize a blog isn’t going to resolve this complex issue; no single effort can. But it’s starting point, and a long overdue conversation that absolutely needs to happen.

Why is it anonymous?

Women have been cowed into silence over these issues for fear of being further shut out, marginalized and denied networking opportunities after being labeled “whistle blowers” or “difficult.” We’ve watched this happen to director Lexi Alexander and screenwriter Julie Bush when they published their respective exposes on sexism in the film business. Very few of their peers spoke up and supported them for the same reasons. Predictably, they were attacked by people who accused them of being “man-hating feminists” and “trouble makers,” among other things. We knew that virtually no one – save for brave souls like Alexander and Bush – would participate openly. The fear of retaliation is severe. In fact one woman submitted to the Tumblr anonymously and then sent another one saying that even though her name wasn’t attached she feared someone would figure out who she was. Protecting the identities of the people who chose to participate was paramount, that so individuals could speak openly about these issues.



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