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As I write this, it has been just over two months since the first allegations about Harvey Weinstein surfaced. And it appears that there are new allegations of sexual improprieties with each day that passes. Every time I think it cannot get worse, it does.
As shocking as so many of these allegations are, I am nearly as shocked that these issues are being spoken of as if they are new, not just to our industry but to our society as a whole. Sexual harassment has been endemic throughout history, not just in our industry but all industries, not just in this country but on a global level.
Last year, when Frontline’s “Rape on the Night Shift” exposed how immigrant women working as janitors were being systematically abused in their workplaces, where was that outrage? When workers were being sexually harassed and violated in the military or in businesses or on college campuses, where was that outrage? We do ourselves a disservice to focus on one area of work in our society.
That being said, this is a piece for The Hollywood Reporter, so I will speak to what I as the president of SAG-AFTRA and our union are doing to help with the culture shift that is necessary if we are to see the meaningful changes we are all hoping for.
It begins with collaboration. Those of us in the entertainment industry must work together to exploit our unique position with the stories we choose to tell and how we choose to tell them, recognizing the enormous impact we have on our society. As a union leader I have been in private as well as public conversations within the industry and the labor movement. Working with the International Federation of Actors, we will expand our outreach to actors’ unions and professional organizations in other countries. And, partnering with the AFL-CIO, we will do the same for labor organizations here at home, exploring and evaluating best practices not only of our union but our industry as a whole.
We are expanding our 24-hour hotline to better support reporting of sexual misconduct and have held two educational seminars for members. We are reviewing potential technology-driven enhancements that will allow our members to report digitally while maintaining anonymity. More educational panels, roundtables and workshops specifically for our members and supplemental materials like printed toolkits and contact cards will all help ensure that people are informed about harassment and what their rights are.
If we are to truly change the systemic problem of abuse of power, we must look at the whole picture, we must work together to find solutions and we must be honest.
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