Concerns over the safety of women in entertainment have prompted many to stand up and fight back
For the past few months, the national spotlight has been focused on women in entertainment and the powerful men who spent decades assaulting and harassing them. The entertainment industry did little to protect women: silencing those who came forward while simultaneously boosting the careers of the men accused.
Many survivors coming forward share a similar story of having to choose between their safety and their career. One woman detailed how she refused to take a promotion at ABC News because of an assault she experienced early in her career at the hands of news anchor Mark Halperin. This trauma ultimately contributed to her decision to leave journalism altogether. NBC Universal announced they were firing veteran news anchor Matt Lauer from the “Today” show, citing “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace”. Lauer had been a fixture on “Today” for more than two decades and was widely considered the star of the network's news division, although he has been criticized in the past for his inappropriate remarks towards women. Many of you may remember Ann Curry’s disastrous exit from the “Today” show in 2012, for which Lauer and the network’s “boy’s club” mentality were widely blamed.
Violent and powerful men have taken so much away from women in entertainment over the years, but that has all begun to change. Hollywood’s efforts to prevent future incidents of sexual harassment are beginning to take shape - and you can thank women for that. While 2017 may have represented the year women stood up together and challenged the system, 2018 is shaping up to be the year they finally take it back.
Women Reclaim their Spotlight
In a motion to prioritize the visibility of women in response to the sexual harassment scandals throughout the industry, The Hollywood Reporter announced that the 24th annual SAG awards, set for January 21st, will be entirely presented by women. Traditionally, a man and a woman were paired to present each category’s winner. However, this year the lineup has been designed to highlight the incredible year of women in entertainment. SAG Awards executive producer Kathy Connell told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview:
“Beginning with the Women’s March in January, it’s been the year of women. This is a unifying salute to women who have been very brave and speaking up.”
TIME Magazine recently published their Person of the Year for 2017, honoring the “Silence Breakers” for their courage, strength, and determination in coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment and assault. You may recognize some of the recipients - Hollywood actor Ashely Judd was the first woman to go on record with allegations against famous producer Harvey Weinstein back in October, forcing the world to listen to her story. Country-pop singer Taylor Swift made headlines in 2017 when she was sued by Radio DJ David Mueller whom she had previously accused of non-consensual groping. Swift countersued for $1 and won. Other notable award recipients include Tamara Burke, the original founder of the #MeToo movement that fueled an international online support network for survivors. Many other recipients preferred to remain anonymous, participating as an act of solidarity to represent all those who could not speak out.
Women Fight Back with Success
Hollywood actor Gal Gadot announced that she would not move forward with Wonder Women 2 unless Warner Brothers canceled its co-financing deal with Brett Ratner, the famous director and filmmaker who has been accused of sexual misconduct by six women. Ratner has been a powerful player in Hollywood - directing, producing, or financing dozens of box-office hits, including “Rush Hour”, “Horrible Bosses” and “The Revenant”. For many women accusing Ratner, his power and success in Hollywood influenced their decision to stay silent for so many years. When news broke of the allegations this past month, Gadot recognized her bargaining power with Warner Brothers. Wonder Woman, which grossed over $821 million worldwide and shattered box office records, was a film built on female empowerment. Gadot used her contributing worth to the franchise to force Warner Brothers to take a public stand on the allegations made against Ratner or find a new leading lady, highlighting the concern over the safety of women in entertainment.
Women Supporting Women
Oscar-winning producer Cathy Schulman, president of Women in Film, is working with women across Hollywood to launch a sexual harassment helpline as well as provide legal-aid service for anyone experiencing harassment in the entertainment industry. These services are expected to be available December 1st. Schulman emphasizes that while this is an important first step, it will take much longer to reverse harassment culture in Hollywood and to change ‘boardroom behavior’ in industries across the country.
Women have been courageously working to create positive change in the entertainment industry, but change is slow and unlikely to happen overnight. Agencies and production companies need to step up too, and that starts with learning how to be a leader in employee protection. It’s their obligation to implement policies and create reporting channels that empower workers to cite workplace violence and harassment. For now, Schulman and numerous other women in entertainment are tired of waiting for the industry to change on its own and have taken the lead themselves.
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