By now we all know the biggest story of 2017: sexual harassment allegations against the major media mogul Harvey Weinstein started a huge wave of accusations against other men of power in Hollywood—and left the entertainment industry SHOOK. And the #MeToo movement gained momentum on Twitter, exposing that—SHOCKER— the issue of sexual misconduct is not just a problem in Hollywood, but in all fields.
The brave decisions of the victims to speak out against their attackers, and the #MeToo campaign that followed, contributed tremendously in shifting the public conversation on sexual assault.
So where do we go from here?
In order to tackle this issue head-on, here's what you can expect to see in 2018:
Launched on the first day of 2018, "Time's Up" is an action initiative formed by key figures in the entertainment industry: actresses, directors, executives, and so on. The initiative is dedicated pushing back against systemic sexual harassment—not just in Hollywood, but in all fields. And it all started with an open letter.
"Time's Up" aims to keep the conversation on workplace sexual harassment open, as well as to begin dissolving the roots of the problem. Here's how they'll get the ball rolling:
- Setting up a legal defense fund to protect women of lower privileges from the consequences that may arise from reporting sexual misconduct. (Meaning that victims could receive financial support to hit back if their jobs were terminated for "whistle-blowing".)
- Advocating for legislation that discourages the use of nondisclosure agreements that not only silences victims, but also enables companies to allow these to behaviors to continue within a "hush-hush" atmosphere.
- Shrinking gender disparity at studios and media agencies.
A similar initiative was also proposed in December by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and civil rights lawyer Anita Hill.
Bidding farewell to confidentiality agreements
In a November Op-Ed piece for The Washington Post, journalist Alyssa Rosenberg discussed potential legislation that would ban the non-disclosure agreements that come with settlements—which was already being discussed by several lawmakers in New Jersey and New York (among other states.)
But she also noted something of importance: transparency is another key part of the equation. With transparency, Rosenberg wrote, everyone involved in a production should have the right to know who their supervisors are—and what they've done in the past—in order to be prepared and to maintain a safe working environment.
Rewriting the standards
In December it was reported that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences debuted new standards of conduct in a letter to its members. The organization—which had also cut ties with Harvey Weinstein in October—explained how they plan to handle reports of sexual misconduct going forward in the letter:
Over the course of weeks, the task force consulted with professors of ethics, business, philosophy, and law from Georgetown, Harvard, Notre Dame, and Stanford, as well as experts in human resources and sexual harassment...Much remains to be done. The task force will finalize procedures for handling allegations of misconduct, assuring that we can address them fairly and expeditiously. This process will ultimately guide the Board of Governors in assessing if certain allegations warrant action regarding membership.
The Academy also created a statement describing their no-tolerance policy:
Members must also behave ethically by upholding the Academy's values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity...The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality...If any member is found by the Board of Governors to have violated these standards or to have compromised the integrity of the Academy by their actions, the Board of Governors may take any disciplinary action permitted by the Academy's Bylaws, including suspension or expulsion.
Similarly, the Writer's Guild of America West also announced their plans to develop a mission statement describing their stance on sexual harassment.
Phone a Friend
Women in Film, an organization dedicated to female professionals in the entertainment industry, launched a Sexual Harassment Help Line on Dec. 1st. This hotline, which operates Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 5PM, aims to assist victims by referring them to professionals who can help with their needs: mental health counselors, law enforcement professionals, and civil and criminal lawyers and litigators. It was also reported that William Morris Endeavor talent agency partnered with Women in Film to grant financial assistance in setting up and maintaining the help line.
Upon the launch of the service, Women in Film's president Cathy Schulman released a statement expressing her hopes that the hotline will help to "move the national conversation about workplace harassment in a positive and curative direction."
Do you think these initiatives created by Hollywood professionals are enough to help fix the issue of sexual misconduct in the workplace? Tweet me your thoughts @missjulia1207!