Women Used To Run Hollywood. Why Are They Still Fighting For The Spotlight?

Author Naomi McDougall Jones joins CultureShift to breakdown Hollywood’s dismissive and exclusionary history for women.

Courtesy of Beacon Press
Courtesy of Beacon Press

Following a banner year for women filmmakers, shock came when the 2020 Academy Awards nominees were announced and not one woman was nominated in the ‘Best Director’ category. 

In the midst of this conversation, it may be easy to forget that it was women who once reigned in cinema decades ago. 

“The beginning of the film industry was primarily run by women,” says Naomi McDougall Jones, actress, producer and author of “The Wrong Kind of Women: Inside Our Revolution to Dismantle the Gods of Hollywood, out on February 4 from Beacon Press. 

“They were the majority of producers, writers and directors — and they were making the content,” Jones says. “This was in the early days when film wasn’t really considered an industry. It was just an eccentric hobby and nobody thought it would last.” 

But cinematic storytelling has lasted, and once film became an industry that caught the attention of heavyweight financiers, women were pushed out under the assumption that they lacked the ability to run a business and money would be spent frivolously. 

“The fact that the top four nominated films are by and about white men, they read like a bad punchline to a joke.” – Naomi McDougall Jones, author 

That shift has continued for decades and has since developed a system excluding diverse and inclusive voices and opportunities. In the era of the #TimesUp movement and outcry for equality across Hollywood and the film industry, the Academy Awards continues to be in hot water. 

In fact, only one woman director — Kathryn Bigelow for the 2008 film “The Hurt Locker” — has won an Oscar.

The all-male director nominations “knocked the wind out of even me,” McDougall says. “The fact that the top four nominated films are so blatantly, not only by and about white men, but they read like a bad punchline to a joke. It’s unbelievable.” 

Click on the player above to hear CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper in conversation with Naomi McDougall Jones about the exclusion of women in the film industry. 

Audio feature by Ryan Patrick Hooper

Post written by LaToya Cross