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Over the past several months, women have sat on countless panels about the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, but men have seldom been formally invited to consider these issues. And when they do weigh in, the results often aren’t pretty. “I couldn’t be more all for the #MeToo movement,” Kenneth Lonergan told Variety at the New York premiere for his Howards End remake on Wednesday. He added: “I couldn’t feel more strongly that [Casey Affleck’s] been treated abominably,” the Manchester by the Sea director said of his Oscar-winning star, who previously settled two sexual harassment lawsuits and was not asked to present at this year’s Oscars.
“It’s one of the scarier things that any man can talk about today,” said Jane the Virgin star Justin Baldoni, one of the few men who have leaned into the discussion, who joined Funny or Die CEO Mike Farah and Silicon Valley Bank’s Los Angeles market manager Rob Freelen on a co-ed #MeToo panel on March 16 at the Paramour Estate in Silver Lake. The panel, which also included power lawyer Nina Shaw and Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff, was part of The Residency, the first daylong event curated by women’s development organization Doyenne.
“We created Doyenne to be a place for women to connect, find resources and develop meaningful relationships with one another, and we also aim to be inclusive of men,” Doyenne co-founder and CEO Natacha Hildebrand tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Through our first major gathering, we knew it was vital we provide a platform for dialogue around the Time’s Up and MeToo movements, and it was our hope that by including men in the conversation we could find more ways to advocate for these movements together and create lasting change.”
The conversation took place hours after the instantly infamous interview with Terry Gilliam, wherein the Monty Python alum and Brazil director characterized the #MeToo movement as “mob rule.” Moderator Sunny Hostin, a co-host on The View, wasted no time in asking her panelists to weigh in on the comments.
“Although ideally nuances and specifics need to be taken into account, there’s so much systemically that needs to change quickly that it’s worth some of that [angry] mentality,” Farah said. “[The risks] are outweighed by the benefits of discussing and thinking about this.”
Gilliam also came under fire for the way in which he expressed sympathy for Matt Damon, who previously drew criticism for what was seen as clumsy responses to #MeToo (the actor later apologized for his comments): “He came out and said all men are not rapists, and he got beaten to death,” Gilliam told AFP.
“It’s [Damon’s] privilege that he couldn’t see what happened from the perspective of survivors. It hasn’t hurt his career, but he got called on the carpet for it, and him being called on the carpet is offensive to Terry,” Shaw explained, adding, “Terry is also 77 years old, and he may very well be part of the Lost Generation of people whose privilege is so ingrained that they truly cannot see that they are part of a system that has harassed and excluded people for generations. I’m less worried about Terry and his opinion, quite frankly, and the influence he has on the business, than the influence and opinions of people who are currently in power.”
Shaw and Baldoni also discussed how the different socialization of males and females from a young age has led to gender-based disparities in adult society.
“This boys club that we’re living in in Hollywood starts when you’re four,” said Baldoni, recalling the “No Girls Allowed” sign he had on his bedroom door as a child. “We’ve been taught growing up that our allegiance is to other men, no matter what.”
Baldoni traced the development of mantras from boyhood to manhood: “‘No girls allowed,’ ‘Girls have cooties,’ and then what? ‘Bros before hos,'” he noted. “It was not until I was 32 years old that I even realized that even the word [‘ho’] itself [was problematic]. This is the culture that millions of boys are being raised in today, and what we’re seeing now is what it turns into when the power dynamic comes into play.”
“Women are also socialized to react a certain way, especially in situations with men,” Shaw added, recalling the night Lupita Nyong’o told her about her Harvey Weinstein encounter. “I could hear the pain in her voice and also the concern about the ambiguity of their interaction. Had she put herself in that position? If you’re acculturated to step back, to be deferential, to not trust your instincts with respect to how someone is treating you or speaking to you, that’s how so many people found themselves in that room with Harvey.”
Race and class also factor into how people are raised. “As a woman of color, I’m socialized to react to men in a different way,” Shaw said. “For the most part, I never expected a man to take care of me. So going into the work world, my relationships with men were very different.”
The panelists also discussed another major issue that rises out of the gender power disparity: the pay gap. Freelen cited Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff making good on his pledge to close the gap at his company by raising employees’ pay. “It’s nothing short of lip service to not simply make that change,” said Freelen, adding that his own organization is currently going through a similar re-leveling process.
The exec also said that bosses are responsible for demanding inclusive hiring lists. When a high-level senior position opened up at Silicon Valley Bank last year, Freelen sent back the recruiter’s initial batch of résumés from 16 men. “I understand that the percentage of [available] men is higher, but go back and do better,” he said, adding that he left the job unfilled for nine months until he had received “enough qualified female candidates to make a decision.”
Farah advised women negotiating salaries to ask men what they would expect to be paid. “Ask the most obnoxious Hollywood guys,” he said. “Get some frame of reference for their worth, and have that mentality.” (Shaw added that her firm doesn’t ask female candidates how much they’re looking for because they tend to underrate themselves.)
Transparency is one key to ensuring fair pay. Hostin shared that she thought her initial View offer was great — until Sherri Shepherd proactively called her to go over her entire salary history and perks. And the disparity between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle William’s All the Money in the World reshoot fees was only brought to light “because someone inside that organization leaked the information, because they knew there was an inequity there that everyone needed to know about,” said Shaw, who added that it was only in this current climate that the news could have made such waves.
This larger conversation about systemic sexual harassment and other gender-based injustices didn’t really exist until now, said Ziff, who founded the labor advocacy group Model Alliance in 2012. “I’ve dedicated my life to working on this, and it’s only been since the Harvey Weinstein news broke in October that the industry’s been willing to listen,” she said.
Ziff’s organization has proposed a program to promote and enforce “sexual respect” in the fashion industry, with a third-party non-profit arbitrator that can help ensure accountability and fairness when issues arise. “It can’t just be about introducing a code of conduct,” she said, adding that Model Alliance has shared its proposal with Anita Hill (who is chair of the Hollywood executive commission to combat gender inequality) and the EEOC in hopes of influencing other industries. “You need clear and unambiguous guidance as to what’s appropriate behavior and what’s not, you need proper complaint mechanisms, and you need independent investigations.”
The panelists all agreed that continued conversation among women and men is needed for change. Regarding the impulse among some men to defend their peers, Ziff said, “It’s painful to hear people I know and respect be so ignorant to assume that their positive experience with someone would somehow negate someone else’s experience.” Farah agreed and implored women to “give men who stick their foot in their mouth an opportunity for redemption.”
Baldoni urged the panel audience to empower the young people under their influence with attributes usually given to the opposite gender: to encourage girls to be strong and tough and to encourage boys to be sweet, sensitive and kind.
And he had an additional takeaway message for his fellow men: “We have to listen. It sounds so simple, but it’s not,” said Baldoni. “We have to listen to the point that we hear.”
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