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“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we in the entertainment industry are at the forefront of shining a light on the issue of sexual assault,” entertainment lawyer and Time’s Up co-founder Nina Shaw told The Hollywood Reporter at the 13th annual Global Women’s Rights Awards, explaining her position as one of the evening’s honorees. “We are amplifying an issue that women all across this country are subject to. And I think that we as women in the entertainment industry can be leaders.”
For the first time since the Harvey Weinstein bombshell and the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, the Feminist Majority Foundation hosted an evening at the Wallis Annenberg Center honoring six women who are fighting to “end sexual harassment and win equality for women.”
The honorees were Time magazine Person of the Year Adama Iwu, vice president of UNITE HERE Maria Elena Durazo, Time’s Up activist and actress Laura Dern, civil rights attorney Monica Ramirez, UN Advisor of the HeForShe Campaign Elizabeth Nyamayaro, and Time’s Up co-founder Nina Shaw.
“We want to stand together as fellow female workers to recognize that we are workers across all industries dealing with these same issues,” Dern told THR. “There’s a connective tissue now. When one industry recognizes this problem, it allows all the other industries to come to the forefront.”
She was joined once again on the carpet by Monica Ramirez, a fellow honoree, who attended the Golden Globe Awards with Dern earlier this year in hopes to promote civil rights in the U.S. agricultural industry. “This is a moment that has been created by the brave individuals in this industry and others, and it will be women like us who will continue to drive this movement forward,” Ramirez said.
The timeliness of Dern’s honor comes on the heels of the release of her new film The Tale, which details the survival of a child who had been sexually assaulted. “We made the film two and a half years ago, so the timing is rather remarkable,” Dern said. “There is extraordinary dialogue around the film, the conversations have been amazing.”
After a red carpet and outdoor reception, guests were invited inside the Annenberg Center for a performance and panel discussion. Ms. Magazine editor Katherine Spillar introduced Feminist Majority Foundation founder Peg Yorkin, who said to the incredibly receptive audience that she had just turned “91 fucking years old.” “It amazes the shit out of me,” she said. “I’ve been marching since the 1980s. If I can do it, you can do it.”
Each honoree was introduced by female leaders, including Academy of Motion Pictures president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis. Isaacs highlighted the “50/50 by 2020” campaign, a movement bringing diversity and inclusion into the entertainment business. According to the campaign, white men make up 96 percent of film directors, and 94 percent of women in the entertainment industry have been sexually harassed, statistics that the campaign is in pursuit of changing.
Isaacs added that diversity and inclusion need to be addressed both in front of and behind the camera. “We will not grow if we are not gaining new perspectives,” she said.
In her speech to the audience after receiving her award, Dern reflected on the role of actresses in the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement. “My mother took me to my first Feminist Majority Foundation event. And one day she told me, ‘Laura, to be an actor is to be an activist,’ with my grandmother then telling me that ‘if it doesn’t feel right, speak up.’”
The honorees then took part in a panel, joined by modern feminist movement leader Eleanor Smeal. The panel, moderated by Spillar, focused on the importance of transparency in the workplace, heightened awareness of reproductive rights and equal opportunity in the workplace, and the importance of going to the polls for the midterm elections.
“Our mothers, our children, our families — we are being cheated,” Smeal said during the panel, calling for the audience to advocate on behalf of the expansion of Title VII (the Civil Rights Act) and Title IX (the Sex Discrimination Act). Singer-songwriter MILCK topped off the evening with the song “Quiet,” which went viral after her performance at the 2017 Women’s March.
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