The Internet is awash in repeated (and retweeted) reports that the ACLU wants an inquiry into gender discrimination in Hollywood. Some readers know I was active in the Indiana affiliate of the ACLU (even served a couple of years as its president). I often support much of what the ACLU works on, but on this instance I have to part ways with them.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of evidence of gender discrimination in Hollywood. And something ought to be done about it. But this is not an issue the ACLU should be pushing.
The American Civil Liberties Union was founded with a core purpose of protecting civil liberties—the rights found in the Bill of Rights and other parts of the Constitution. The ACLU’s purpose is to keep government from overstepping its bounds—even when that overstepping is wildly popular.
Hollywood, for all of its power, is not a governmental actor. It cannot infringe on First Amendment or even Equal Protection rights. Only a government can do that. Like it or not, there’s not a single thing in the Constitution that requires private industry to treat women fairly.
Again, I’m not saying Hollywood should be able to discriminate. I’m only saying that this issue is not something within the ACLU’s purpose. There are plenty of things the government is up to (NSA spying, police abuses, etc.) that needs the ACLU’s limited resources. Spending its time and money on something that involves private industry engaging in bad behavior is unwise.