Sexism Alert: The Catfight Begins

by Melissa Silverstein on September 24, 2009

in Sexism,Women Directors

jane_campion_photo_by_getty_images__1274034881951-kathryn_bigelowPeter Bart, the editor of Variety, has never been known as being ahead of the curve on gender issues, so it’s not too surprising that his was the first column to begin pitting Jane Campion and Kathryn Bigelow in a girl-on-girl competition for year end awards for their films Bright Star and The Hurt Locker.

Instead of talking about the films, Bart decides to talk about the women, their looks and how they come off as the main person selling their film to the world and more importantly to Bart and Academy type folks.

Here’s how Bart describes the women:

Jane Campion, 55, made a quintessentially romantic picture in “Bright Star,” but in person she is cerebral, somewhat severe, leans toward post-hippie attire and seems perplexed by the rigors of the award circuit.  Kathryn Bigelow, 57, is tall, model thin, a one-time art student whose gracious manner belies her proclivity for tense, even violent films – “The Hurt Locker” is her contender.

Would anyone EVER think to write this about a male director?

These are experienced women of stature, one American, one Australian and their work should be what is discussed not their looks.

Let’s nip this one in the bud right now.

Unlikely Rivals on the Oscar Circuit (Variety)

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Kara M. September 24, 2009 at 10:32 AM

He probably thought he was doing a good thing by writing this article. I’m always shocked by how men feel completely comfortable judging/describing women by their looks. They are so sexist, they don’t even know they’re being sexist. As for being pitted against one another, these women are artists, completely unique in their work.

Maybe Bart could follow up with an article describing the other contenders: Lee Daniel’s bloodshot eyes, Clint Eastwood’s weathered face, Tarantino’s malevolent sneer, Peter Jackson’s uncombed hair…

I can’t wait to see who they offer the Barbie movie to: Kathryn Bigelow could make her “Special Forces Barbie”, Lone Scherfig “Coming of Age Barbie” and Jane Campion “Poet Barbie”.

Elizabeth September 24, 2009 at 11:06 AM

I think I loved most that he started off with “I found myself this weekend in the company of the two most prominent women directors in the race” — not plain old directors, but “women” directors. I suppose he’s pitting them against each other because it’s difficult (for him) to fathom a single woman in the Oscar race on the director’s level, let alone two, and obviously they’ll have to fight it between themselves to get the coveted “once in a blue moon, we’ll nominate a woman” best director nomination.

d September 24, 2009 at 11:35 AM

“Maybe Bart could follow up with an article describing the other contenders: Lee Daniel’s bloodshot eyes, Clint Eastwood’s weathered face, Tarantino’s malevolent sneer, Peter Jackson’s uncombed hair…”

Hilarious Kara! :D

That’s what bugged me. Seeing female directed movies is rare for oscar, so I didn’t mind the the comparison. But I could have completely done without the visual descriptions. They reminded me of many of those magazine article intros – and I hate those mag article intros. When I d read them, I’m thinking who cares what she’s wearing to your brunch interview, and what she’s eating for lunch! Do other people?! I had just assumed they did because they keep writing them like that, though thankfully not all do it anymore.

It just seems like a bad fluff piece. Maybe if it was longer, really delved into their differences (other than looks), maybe that other part wouldn’t have been so off-putting… ok it still would…

Allison September 24, 2009 at 11:40 AM

Why does he have to pit the two women against each other like that? I have never seen a writer do that to two male directors.

Thomai in L.A. (it rhymes) September 24, 2009 at 12:14 PM

Peter Bart is simply not that intelligent.

Thank you Peter, for exposing your sexism and the sexism of the institution you edit and even further, for exposing the sexism we experience in the film industry.
People in other industries don’t believe it, but, there you are flaunting it! so, THANK YOU!

You and Mr. Imus (remember that jack ass?) are truly doing the public a service. Keep it up, and don’t hide your true feelings. Go ahead and spew what you really think of female film makers. C’mon now, we know you have it in you. Call us sexy bitches, call us MILFS, call us old hags, call us nagging whores! Do it! We could use PUBLIC, unabashed exposure of sexism NOW!

A female film maker on the rise,

Chris Evans September 24, 2009 at 3:16 PM

They aren’t even remotely similar directors at all, and why pit them against only each other? There’s only room for ONE female director in the Oscar race?

C.K. September 24, 2009 at 8:46 PM

Why no mention of measurements, I’m wondering? Did Monsieur Bart not manage to uncover that crucial info while researching ;-)

Doh! And I’m pretty sure Kara’s right and that he thinks he deserves a pat on the back for this nonsense.

Fran Tinley September 25, 2009 at 2:19 AM

Absolutely appalling! Embarrassing to read and hopefully Bart is embarrassed along with the editors of Variety, let’s not let them get a way with this either. As said, so sexist they wouldn’t even know it. Do we lodge our complaint to the publication?


Edward De Bozo September 25, 2009 at 5:25 AM

What about considering the possibility that Peter did this as a service to women. He’s made himself look foolish certainly, but he’s given you all the opportunity to have this discussion from a cinema perspective as opposed to the ‘changing a wheel by the roadside’ or ‘carrying heavy luggage at an airport’ or ‘attempting to join the comando unit of the military while also bringing up a baby’ perspective. Hmnnnn. Think about it ladies.

Lou September 25, 2009 at 6:56 AM

Gotta say it: Jane Campion is a New Zealander, not an Australian – though does reside there and began making films there (but came to international significance through The Piano, which was in all respects except financing, Kiwi). Quite significant in terms of NZ cinema as having a notably strong tendency towards producing internationally acclaimed women directors (Niki Caro, Christine Jeffs) in relatively high proportion to our male directors, something that I believe Campion’s ground-shaking impact with The Piano helped to influence. Plus I love the thought of having been the first country in which women wrestled the vote from solely male control, AND producing the first women to win a Best Director Oscar (as I hope she will next year!). As well as the significance of such a small country producing 2 Best Directors in a decade. No pressure then…

eyeswiredopen September 25, 2009 at 9:19 AM

Elizabeth writes: “I think I loved most that he started off with “I found myself this weekend in the company of the two most prominent women directors in the race” — not plain old directors, but ‘women’ directors.”

Look, Bart’s a known tosser but Elizabeth, before you fire off at the old goat for daring to bracket directors on the basis of gender alone, take a look at the right of this page: what’s thaty we see – could it be Women Directed Coming Soon, and Women Directors Currently Playing?

Keep scrolling and what else do we find? Those two listings headliend Awards Watch: Women Directors couldn’t possibly read “Jane Campion – Bright Star”, and “Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker”, could they?

Naaa – that would be plain sexist, wouldnt it?


Elizabeth September 25, 2009 at 10:24 AM

eyeswiredopen, I’m failing to see the sexism about promoting the work of women in Hollywood on a blog about women and Hollywood. The fact that a blog like this even exists is because of things like how Bart and others bracket women apart from “regular” (read: male) directors.

Kara M. September 25, 2009 at 11:04 AM

He is an “old goat”, so I’ll cut him some slack. The problem with this article is that he was commenting on two women who are possibly in competition for the highest award in film. It would not be considered appropriate to comment on a female CEO’s appearance while she is giving a address to the board of directors or Hillary Clinton’s appearance (not that it hasn’t happened)when she is addressing heads of state. The focus is suppose to be on substance.

That said, a bunch of Kathryn Bigelow’s male fans write on her message board that she’s beautiful, offer to marry her etc… I don’t think she’s insulted. It depends on the context and the situation.

Judy S. September 25, 2009 at 2:37 PM

Sigh. See my eyes roll. As someone who works and literally lives in Hollywood,I can testify that the sexism here is so blatant that it’s almost laughable. But imo Hollywood is behind the curve from the populace at large in many social areas.

There is an old guard here that is hanging on for dear life. I also believe that the trades, which have been bleeding financially for years, are on their way out, in the changing entertainment, media and communications landscape. THR is reportedly going digital only. All these factors perhaps leave them digging their heels in deeper when they should be spreading their wings.

As they lose their power and dominance, we’ll be just fine.

eyeswiredopen September 25, 2009 at 8:03 PM

Elizabeth, I’m not defending Bart’s old-fart comments about the two directors’ appearences, I’m talking about your blatant double standards (which, I might add, appear sadly typical of old-school wimmynist feminists).

You SPECIFICALLY criticised Bart’s bracketing together two leading directors on the basis of their gender when this site does exactly the same to these two directors. Hello?

“Reverse sexism”: when it’s considered OK to do what men are condemned for because hey, we’re wimmyn(‘cos we’re oppressed or whatever).

Another name for it: hypocrisy.

eyeswiredopen September 25, 2009 at 8:10 PM

Lou, most migrants take on the nationality of the country to which they migrated. I’ve never heard Jane C. vehemently protest that she’s not Australian. She recognises the Kiwi part of her identioy as vital, but that’s not qThe Piano was officially entered into Cannes as an Australian production (its producer Jan Chapman is an Australian based in that country). I’ll grant you Jane the description of Kiwi though if you agree to take the description for Russell Crowe.

eyeswiredopen September 25, 2009 at 8:12 PM

something funny with this website – my last comment filed itself before I’d completed it, so sorry for the errors

Thomai in L.A. (it rhymes) September 26, 2009 at 11:04 PM

Eyeswideopen, your misogyny is showing.

Judy Being “an old goat” is no excuse. Is he older than Jimmy Carter?
Does being old excuse racism? Or just sexism?
If he were comparing AA directors on their dance or basketball ability, would that pass? Cause he’s an “old goat”?
puhlease, spare me the agism.

Now onto a lil social linguistics lesson for

The dominant population may experience prejudice and even discrimination, but that is not the same as sexism and racism.
Those specific descriptions are reserved the the minority population, not the dominant population. So call prejudice and discrimination, but, not sexism towards you and your like. Got it?

Variety is not specifically a magazine designed to support a minorities efforts to shift the paradigm and create equality.
Before you go further in showing your misogyny I said equality, not sameness.
Comparing W&H to Variety is absurd at best.

let me remind you, we see your misogyny here.

eyeswiredopen September 28, 2009 at 1:25 AM

Thomai in L.A.

“Eyeswideopen, your misogyny is showing”

Wondered how long it would take before the name-calling typical of enclosed, ideologies/world views began.

Any view or argument that challenges or disagrees with a particular ideological viewpoint will quickly be labelled as incorrect or ideologically impure so it can safely be discounted, rendered safe.

This is true not just of feminism but any enclosed system of thought/ value. The person who objected to an aspect of Marxist ideology for instance was commonly dismissed as “reactionary, “petit-bourgeois” or “right-leaning”. This meant their arguments did not have to be taken into account. Intellectually bankrupt behaviour, of course – but incredibly common.

Now which bit of what I have just written is mysogynist? Why, all of it (in your eyes, apparently)! Because I am disagreeing with a feminist position I THEREFORE MUST BY DEFINITION BE A REACTIONARY MYSOGYNIST!

Now to your peroration: “Variety is not specifically a magazine designed to support a minorities efforts to shift the paradigm and create equality…Comparing W&H to Variety is absurd at best.”

Let’s go back to my initial point: (i) One of your readers slams Variety on the grounds that it specifically brackets together Campion and Bigelow. Outrageous! It seems this is BAD because Variety is representative of the patriarchy (never mind that regrettably it’s all too rare to have two women directors being considired for best Oscar, which might explain why they’re being discussed as women filmmakers).

But this website can do EXACTLY THE SAME THING and that’s OK ‘cos the website is “designed to support a minorities efforts to shift the paradigm and create equality.”

So let me summarise:

Male bracketing together Campion and Bigelow = by definition bad, reactionary, mysogynist, patriarchal.

Female bracketing together Campion and Bigelow = good, progressive, pro-women’s equality, anti-patriarchal.

Glad we’ve got that sorted.

PS. you spelled my user-name wrong.

Kara M. September 28, 2009 at 9:42 AM

I saw Bright Star this weekend. It is a beautiful film, so subtle and deeply affecting. The Hurt Locker and Bright Star are by far the two best movies I’ve seen this year. Enough said.

Thomai in L.A. (it rhymes) September 28, 2009 at 1:41 PM

No, really, “eyeswiredeopen” you are reacting & commenting as a misogynist would. Your comments are sexist and you are obviously not aware of it so, as we say in the south, bless your heart.

This blog is not the same and can not do exactly the same thing as the male editor of a patriarchal magazine.

I get that your ego is bruised and it probably hits a nerve to be called out for your sexist comments. Still, you’ve lost the argument, move on and
bless your heart.

eyeswiredopen September 28, 2009 at 8:27 PM

I didn’t expect that you would argue in reply by tacklinmg my points in a logicla basis, I expected that you would simply dig yourself further into the mud and resort to the name-calling tactic once more. Thank you for proving my case.

eyeswiredopen September 28, 2009 at 8:27 PM

apologies for the typos above

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