A federal investigation is underway in Hollywood, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission interviews female directors to learn if there is a pattern of discrimination in the film industry. But some are questioning the impact of the investigation.
"I'm not sure what that can do because it's very ephemeral. It's a curtain of sexism, but it will be very hard to prove because it all happens behind closed doors," Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Maureen Dowd said Friday on "CBS This Morning."
But Dowd is encouraging women in Hollywood to speak out about the disparity, as she weaves together stories of more than 100 men and women who share their thoughts about sexism in Hollywood in her revealing New York Times Magazine cover story, "Waiting for the Green Light."
"There's a lot of raw emotions. And Hollywood, it's run on fear. The whole town is so afraid, if they have a $100 million movie, they're afraid to let a women director try it for fear," Dowd said. "The women studio chiefs are afraid because if it's a women, they'll get extra blame. And the men are afraid because they just want to find young guys in baseball caps who remind them of them."
As a testament to the influence of movie characters and portrayals, Dowd shared she was inspired by actresses herself in her youth.
"I grew up on old movies, and that's how I decided I wanted to be a journalist -- be sassy, fast-talking women played by Jean Arthur and Barbara Stanwyck in old movies. They form our ideas of who we are. And Hollywood a long time ago stopped sending out really positive role models for women," Dowd said. "They started making super hero movies where men are the heroes and women are the afterthoughts, as the women in Hollywood say."
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In one of Dowd's interviews, actress Anjelica Huston said the Hollywood industry is like the church.
''They don't want us to be priests. They want us to be obedient nuns," Huston told Dowd.
"The amazing things is, I've covered Saudi Arabia and I've covered the Catholic church, and in both cases, these societies got warped," Dowd said. "They got sick because they're not using the brains ... of women. And who knew that the same thing could happen in the most liberal town on Earth?"
Read a version of Dowd's full story on NYTimes.com.