|FILE - In this publicity file photo released by HBO, the creator and star, Lena Dunham, of the HBO TV series, "Girls," is shown. Television looks like the land of female opportunity with the success of shows like "Girls" and "New Girl" and the achievements of actor-writers including Tina Fey and Lena Dunham. but making TV remains largely man's work. (AP Photo/HBO, Ali Paige Goldstein, File)|
'Girls' shine on TV, but not behind the scenes
Janis Hirsch, a veteran TV writer, said producers and writers, male and female, can be tough on women in the pressure-cooker world of TV. But her accounts of men behaving badly sound like absurdly outdated sitcom scenes.
Some men poison the work atmosphere by using raunchy sexual terms for women as a power play, she said. Others blatantly discriminate: One series producer made it clear Hirsch would be relegated to writing strictly for actresses.
‘‘I'm sure some insurance agents hate women, too, but they have HR (Human Resources) to deal with,’’ Hirsch said. ‘‘We literally get told, ‘File a complaint and you'll never work again.'’’
Why is Hollywood’s shabby treatment of women — ironic in an industry seen as a reliable champion of liberal causes — so stubborn?
‘‘This is not perceived as a problem by many of the individuals who could do something about it,’’ said San Diego State University’s Lauzen. ‘‘There’s a good deal of denial, and until that changes the numbers are not going to move.’’
Kohan, whose ‘‘Weeds’’ wrapped on Showtime this month and who’s moving on to a new Netflix series, ‘‘Orange is the New Black,’’ said she doesn’t ‘‘think about the gender thing that often.’’
‘‘I'm just in pursuit of good work and good writers. In terms of whatever package they come in, I'm looking at scripts, I'm not looking at vaginas,’’ she said, bluntly.
But she and others acknowledge that women working in a demanding industry can face unique demands.
‘‘TV is a very consuming business and it’s really hard to balance a life with that,’’ said Kohan, a mother of three. ‘‘If you want to have a life, it’s a very tricky equation.’’
Actress Julia Ormond ("Mad Men") also has faced the working mother quandary.
‘‘It impacts us hugely when we’re a mom,’’ she said. ‘‘I can’t just up and go to (a filming) location easily without certain considerations, and I don’t think the industry has a great history of really looking at that.’’
Change may have to be mandated because ‘‘industries are not good at policing themselves,’’ Lauzen said. But insiders say it’s also up to women to reject being treated as second-class citizens in a medium that typically broadcasts to — and richly profits from — a heavily female audience.
‘‘I have really high hopes for this new generation of women because they’re not afraid. They don’t see why they should be scared or why they should put up with rape jokes in the writing room,’’ Hirsch said.
Others, also voicing optimism, issue a call to arms.
‘‘Women have to get stronger and voice their opinion louder and say, ‘Look, I can do this and I do just as good a job and it’s time,'’’ said ‘‘The Young and the Restless’’ star Kate Linder. ‘‘It’s definitely time for that.’’
AP Writer Michael Cidoni Lennox contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org.