Austin fielding complaints over women-only ‘Wonder Woman’ screening


Highlights

The Alamo Drafthouse announced May 24 a screening of “Wonder Woman” for women only at one Austin location.

Some question whether the movie screenings are legal.

A law professor is filing a complaint with Austin’s Equal Employment and Fair Housing Office over showings.

For one night: “No Guys Allowed.” That’s been the message of a local Alamo Drafthouse Cinema with plans to host two “Wonder Woman” screenings next week for only women or those who identify as such.

The feminist internet celebrated. The bro internet was furious. The theater gained attention for its smart-aleck responses to Facebook anger. Mayor Steve Adler drew calls to run for president for his witty public response to a man complaining about the promotion.

But is the Drafthouse plan legal? Grumblings over the screenings are beginning to turn into complaints that the theater might be violating the city’s equality laws.

Albany Law School professor Stephen Clark, a gay lawyer in Albany, N.Y., specializing in sexual orientation and employment law, said the women-only showings at Austin’s downtown Ritz theater, and the theater’s posts about it, rubbed him the wrong way.

“I’m a specialist in anti-discrimination law, so I was fairly certain that this was not lawful,” he said. “If they were trying to do a gay-only ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ I would feel the same way.”

Austin city code bans a public accommodation — which specifically includes a movie theater — from limiting its service or goods on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identification or other factors. It also bars such places from advertising or posting any published statement that indicates services will be limited to certain people.

The Washington Post first reported that Clark was filing a complaint with Austin’s Equal Employment and Fair Housing Office. He told the American-Statesman on Friday that he is drafting a formal written version.

Such complaints must be submitted via an equal employment form and notarized. As of Friday afternoon, the city had accepted one written complaint and six others had been submitted and were going through the receipt process, city spokeswoman Alexa Muraida said.

“The very act of advertising violated the Code,” says the complaint filed May 26. “I believe the discriminatory screening should not be allowed.”

Drafthouse spokespeople didn’t respond to messages Friday, but the theater’s creative manager, Morgan Hendrix, told the Post, “That providing an experience where women truly reign supreme has incurred the wrath of trolls only serves to deepen our belief that we’re doing something right.”

The theater’s statement that it would staff only women employees the night of the screening could also be problematic, Clark suggested.

City code doesn’t spell out a specific punishments for violating the provisions, but says the city’s staff may try to resolve equality issues via “informal methods” or refer the case to the city attorney for prosecution.

It’s unusual for the city of Austin to deal with complaints of gender discrimination in public places, staffers said, but city attorneys are reviewing the situation. The process of investigating and responding to the complaints will likely take four to six months, with the Drafthouse’s response due next month.

This week, the Drafthouse announced it was adding women-only screenings of the films in theaters in New York and Denver. Jack Posobiec, a former grass-roots coordinator for President Donald Trump, filed a civil rights complaint Wednesday with New York City, he posted on a Medium blog.

Clark said he originally shrugged off the screening, figuring it was a one-time deal in a city far away from his corner of New York. But he was put off by the Drafthouse’s snarky Facebook posts: For instance, when one customer asked if the theater had ever hosted a men-only showing of a film, the theater responded, “we *did* show the Entourage movie a few years ago.” That tone, plus the indications that Drafthouse would add showings and cities to the women-only event, led Clark to move forward on the complaint to Austin authorities.

“Their attitude was really off-putting to me … the suggestion that anybody who pointed out to them that this was illegal was misogynistic or insecure,” he said. “Granted, a number of the men posting were nasty, but if you’re the one hosting the event and you’re already teetering on the edge of illegality, you might dial back the rhetoric.”

Hollywood’s Joss Whedon, “Avengers” director and creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” defended the Drafthouse on Twitter on Friday.

“I got to see Wonder Woman by myself weeks ago,” the director tweeted, “so shut up there’s already been a man-only screening.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

With in-depth report, Austin mulls pros, cons of 8 sites for MLS use
With in-depth report, Austin mulls pros, cons of 8 sites for MLS use

The Austin City Council postponed action regarding the potential future home of a Major League Soccer club this week, but there is plenty to discuss after eight publicly owned sites were unveiled as possibilities earlier this week. The city released a detailed report Thursday, providing more information about the sites identified as having the potential...
Austin City Council to study demolitions’ effect on affordable housing
Austin City Council to study demolitions’ effect on affordable housing

The Austin City Council approved a pair of resolutions Thursday evening aimed at addressing a recent audit that found housing demolitions in Austin are on the rise and are happening with little safety oversight. Council Member Kathie Tovo brought both resolutions to the council. Tovo has called for tamping down on demolitions, which have been occurring...
PolitiFact: What Alex Jones got wrong about Alabama vote
PolitiFact: What Alex Jones got wrong about Alabama vote

Austin-based commentator Alex Jones of Infowars.com suspects foul play in the recent Alabama U.S. Senate race. Democrat Doug Jones won in one of the safest of Republican states in the country, defeating Republican Roy Moore by 1.5 percentage points, or about 20,000 votes. The next day, Alex Jones said his calculations told him Moore should have come...
DeVos hit with two lawsuits in one day over backlog of student debt relief claims
DeVos hit with two lawsuits in one day over backlog of student debt relief claims

Pressure is mounting on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to take action on thousands of federal student loan forgiveness applications languishing at the U.S. Department of Education.  On Thursday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra suedDeVos and the department for failing to process more than 50,000 debt relief claims submitted by former...
Ivanka Trump, her brand dropped by some retailers, opens her own store in Trump Tower
Ivanka Trump, her brand dropped by some retailers, opens her own store in Trump Tower

Ivanka Trump's fashion company on Thursday opened a new store in the lobby of Trump Tower, where it plans to sell handbags, jewelry and candles as part of broader push to bypass retailers and sell directly to consumers.  The store in Midtown Manhattan — currently the company's only bricks-and-mortar location — comes after a number...
More Stories