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Less than a week ago, Laura Dern became the latest Hollywood A-lister to step forward with claims that she had experienced sexual misconduct in the industry. In a cover story for Vanity Fair, the Big Little Lies and Little Women star joined peers who have recently spoken out — including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Uma Thurman — as she recounted being invited to hotel rooms by top creatives as a 13-year-old actress and experiencing “everything barring assault.” (Dern didn’t name alleged perpetrators or detail specific encounters.)
“The tragedy of my life is that when things were in the gray, I didn’t know they were wrong. I didn’t know I was entitled to say something,” she said.
The public is likely to appreciate Dern saying something now, as 38 percent of Americans think that stars speaking out against assault and harassment has created positive change in society according to a new Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll.
The nationally representative poll — which examined how the #MeToo movement has (and hasn’t) changed the status and treatment of women in specific industries, as well as society-wide — found that women believe these testimonials have shifted the needle on societal progress more than men (42 versus 34 percent, respectively). Republicans were more likely (41 percent) to believe that stars speaking out had negatively changed society.
Maybe in part due to stars’ outspokenness in the last two years, Americans’ concern over assault and harassment in Hollywood trumped that of any other industry polled, including finance, tech and politics and government, as well as “society in general.” In 2018 the majority of Americans believe that Hollywood has a “major problem” with sexual harassment (54 percent of respondents) and assault (50 percent), though less of a problem with the gender pay gap (37 percent) and unequal treatment of genders (41 percent). Interestingly, about one-third of respondents believed sexual harassment (30 percent) and assault (31 percent) became a larger problem in entertainment in 2018 than in 2017, when the #MeToo movement began with published investigations into former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Few respondents believed the #MeToo movement had changed their workplace or society at large, however. While one-third (30 percent) of respondents said increased attention to sexual misconduct had fostered a more comfortable work environment, another third (34 percent) believed that the movement had not opened up more opportunities for women. When asked if the problem of sexual assault or harassment had changed in entertainment, finance, politics and government, tech and society-wide since #MeToo, the largest percentage of respondents repeatedly said these problems had not changed. Nor did Americans polled believe the issue of a gendered pay gap had disappeared society-wide — nearly half (49 percent) said nothing had changed — while unequal treatment of men and women was also considered more or less the same than it was pre-#MeToo (46 percent).
“Our polling suggests #MeToo’s impact has failed to materialize for many women in the workplace,” said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vp. “Nearly one in four women (24 percent) say #MeToo hasn’t made much of a difference in their working environment, while 20 percent say it has made things less comfortable. In contrast, just 28 percent say it has made things more comfortable at work.”
The poll suggests that initiatives that aim to resolve issues surfaced by the #MeToo movement have plenty of work to do in raising awareness of their work. Even as most respondents were aware of the #MeToo movement (38 percent said they heard “a lot” about the movement, while 27 percent said they had heard “some”), a majority heard “nothing at all” about Time’s Up (58 percent) and It’s on Us (65 percent).
“This survey confirms what we hear every day at Equal Rights Advocates: the solutions to sexual harassment and assault have not yet caught up to the millions of stories shedding a light on this epidemic. That is the next challenge and opportunity for the #MeToo movement — finding the best solutions to this epidemic,” Noreen Farrell, executive director of the nonprofit Equal Rights Advocates, said in a statement on the findings of the poll.
Farrell added, “In 2019, we’re moving beyond shedding light on sexual harassment and assault. We now have an opportunity to change our systems and structures so those in power can no longer get away with serial abuse, and survivors can no longer be forced into silence. Employers need to catch up, because their employees already understand that this isn’t just a Hollywood issue. It’s an everyday people issue.”
The Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll was conducted from Dec. 20 to 23 from a national sample of 2,201 adults with a margin of error of 2 percent.
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