Sexism in the film industry has been ubiquitous since its inception. The #MeToo movement helped shed light on the experiences of actors and other women in the film industry who have been taken advantage of by men or not given the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Amber Dodson, the director of the New Mexico Film Office, has been working toward making the New Mexico film industry more inclusive for women.
"After more research and talking to intimacy coordinators and directors and producers who have worked with (them), it became crystal clear that this was something we need to have in New Mexico," Dodson said in an interview with Southwest Contemporary. "(It's) something that we should put our Workforce Development Funds behind, something that we should get New Mexicans trained up to participate in and to help foster this new role, and to help New Mexico be a leader in the next era."
Local actor and documentary filmmaker Leslie Fleming-Mitchell spoke to the Daily Lobo about her experiences as a woman in the film industry. According to Fleming-Mitchell, she has dealt with sexism since the beginning of her career.
"After college, I modeled in New York, and that was the worst. Every other man thought he had the right to proposition me," Fleming-Mitchell said. "Models have said that they got where they did by sleeping their way to the top, but I wasn't going to do that. What that approach exposed is that something abusive was at play — it was seen as normal."
According to Fleming-Mitchell, men within the entertainment industry consistently use their position of power to manipulate women.
"Society has favored men and their entitlement for so many centuries that no one knew we were all swimming in toxic waste," Fleming-Mitchell said. "And guess what? Sexism and exploitation hurt men as well as women. They stay stuck, clueless and enabled. As a consequence, they don't develop empathy and compassion or the ability for true intimacy."
Sexism doesn't just target female actors — women who hold positions of power within the film industry are still subject to misogynistic attitudes.
Janet Davidson, the director and a founding member of New Mexico Women in Film, is no stranger to sexism in the industry.
According to Davidson, who has worked in various film capacities for over 40 years, sexism in the New Mexico film industry is no different from any other field in which she's worked. Davidson recalled a time in her career when there were little to no female directors and said she had to fight to get to where she is now.
"My experience is so different from those who work today. I was in a small group breaking in, and the DGA (Director's Guild of America) had to sue to get us work," Davidson said. "We had to prove ourselves — this took years of hard work and sacrifice, a sacrifice I never saw a man make. For many of us, it meant we couldn't have a family. Work had to come first."
Davidson remembered a specific time when she experienced sexist remarks from a male director with whom she was working.
"When I was producing, (the director) realized I had hired a female to be his assistant director," Davidson said. "We were driving … and he jammed the brakes, pulled over to the side (of the road) and said, 'You hired a fucking woman to be my AD?' Yes, I did, and I'll do it again."
Fleming-Mitchell said navigating the film industry has been difficult because women aren't protected as much as they should be when compared to other fields of work.
"The film industry has lagged behind in sexist issues because it's had its own rules and hasn't been regulated in the same ways as other businesses," Fleming-Mitchell said. "There is protection for animals on sets, for children, and hopefully soon the industry will address and not tolerate any kind of sexism on or off set."
Despite the problems Fleming-Mitchell has encountered, she encouraged young and aspiring women interested in working in the industry to stay firm in their beliefs and be brave.
"Always find courage. Don't be afraid to feel what you feel, trust your instincts and stand up for the truth," Fleming-Mitchell said. "You can do this quietly but powerfully. Don’t be afraid of your innate power — it is there for your creativity, it is a life force."
"If you love something, it will come to you. If you love it, stay with it. Mozart said, 'Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.'"
There are local organizations and networks that women in film can join to be a part of a support system, like New Mexico Women in Film and New Mexico Girls Make Movies. According to Fleming-Mitchell, there are also film unions that have designated phone numbers to report various forms of sexism.
"The film unions (SAG-AFTRA, DGA, PGA and IATSE) all have numbers their members can call," Fleming-Mitchell said. "It would be nice if the state of New Mexico had a hotline."
Hannah John is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @yesitshannahj