Feminists’ Ire at Academy on Display


“The Anatomically Correct Oscar. He’s white & male, just like the guys who win!” booms the billboard at the corner of Highland and Melrose avenues.

In all modesty, that’s not quite correct. The pale, pudgy 10-foot-tall man shown standing on a pedestal is depicted strategically covering himself with his hands by feminists who are using the billboard to protest perceived bias against women in movie directing, producing and editing.

The Hollywood billboard was commissioned by Guerrilla Girls, a 17-year-old group that in the past has used drawings of a truly anatomically correct Oscar in its crusade for more film industry jobs for women.


Guerrilla Girls may be rebellious. But they’re also realistic: They modestly decline to claim credit for the recent election of women to head three of the town’s top show business unions.

“You can’t show a penis on a billboard. You can’t have genitalia in American advertising. It’s common knowledge,” explained the Westside artist who calls herself Kathe Kollwitz, who helped acquire the 50-foot billboard.

And it’s common sense that you don’t want to do any unseemly bragging when there appears to be a crack in that glass ceiling you have been complaining about for so long.

So the group’s frontal assault against what it claims is rampant discrimination in Hollywood is prim and prudent--for now.

“Best Director has never been awarded to a woman,” states the billboard. “94% of the Writing awards have gone to men. Only 3% of the Acting awards have gone to people of color.”

The $4,500 sign was rented for the month by Guerrilla Girls and a companion protest group that calls itself Alice Locas in recognition of early moviemaker Alice Guy Blache.

The Hollywood billboard is being cheered by women. But even in its G-rated version it is prompting angry e-mails from irate males, said Kollwitz, who stays anonymous by using the name of early 20th century German printmaker Kathe Kollwitz for her protest work.

“They basically want to say that the Oscars is a meritocracy. To them there are no women who deserve to be directors. To us, the low figure--only two women ever nominated, only 7% of directors being female--shows either conscious or unconscious discrimination,” she said.

The protesters draw their statistics from an annual survey conducted by San Diego State University communications professor Martha Lauzen. Her most recent figures suggest that directing jobs aren’t the only thing in short supply for women.

“In the top 100 domestic grossing films of 2000, women were cinematographers in 2%, writers in 13%, editors on 13%, executive producers on 17% and producers in 22%,” Lauzen said. “Combined, women comprised 17%” of studios’ work force.

“That says that women remain dramatically underrepresented behind the scenes in the film industry. The percentage has remained stable for the last three years.”

Lauzen said there is “a rather substantial and enduring misconception in the film community and among the general public that things have gotten dramatically better.”

One reason is that women now fill high-profile positions at some studios and industry unions.

In fact, the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America-West are now all led by women.

In separate elections last weekend, “Valley Girl” director Martha Coolidge was picked as the first woman president of DGA, and “Little House on the Prairie” actress Melissa Gilbert was named head of SAG. Last fall, Victoria Riskin, whose films include “The Member of the Wedding,” was elected first woman president of WGA-West.

None of the three was available for comment Friday. Lauzen cautioned against expecting the women to shake up filmmaking culture overnight.

“I think we have to be realistic about the ability of one individual to change an entrenched system of hiring practices,” she said.

Guerrilla Girls leaders agree.

“I hope it’s not window dressing,” Kollwitz said of the guilds’ voting. She declined to credit her group’s long-running campaign for influencing the women’s election, even though it may have “contributed to an atmosphere” of change.

To keep up the pressure, protesters are hoping to infiltrate the March 24 Academy Awards show and paste stickers bearing the drawing of the earlier, fully “anatomically correct Oscar” in Kodak Theatre restrooms, she said.

Officials of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences--who say they support the feminists’ “satire and parody”--said they are prepared to do some restroom peeling.

“I’ll be hanging around the ladies’ rooms now to see what I can find,” joked academy spokesman John Pavlik.