Story at a glance
- In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the Hollywood Commission investigated inappropriate, gender-based conduct faced by entertainment industry workers.
- The commission has partnered with a number of industry giants, including Amazon, Atlantic Records, Disney, Netflix and NBC-Universal.
- The open survey also asked questions about bullying, bias and accountability.
Anita Hill knows how sexual harassment can upend a career.
The lawyer who testified that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her saw her reputation vilified and story questioned in the national media. So as head of the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, Hill’s assessment of the Hollywood Survey carries a particular weight.
“In each category, participants point to high rates of undesirable conduct that continues despite efforts to curtail it. The entertainment industry can and must do better,” said Hill.
One in 5 women and 1 in 10 men reported experiencing sexual assault in the survey of more than 9,000 people in the entertainment industry. The anonymous survey included those who self-identified as working, pursuing work or having worked in the industry in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Women between the ages of 24 and 39 reported the highest rate of unwanted sexual attention, as well as biracial and multiracial females and those who identified as bisexual.
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“I have been hit on constantly at every job I’ve ever worked on and even had powerful Hollywood men pull out their genitalia out in a professional meeting. They made it clear I can only have a job if I’m their girlfriend," said one anonymous survey respondent.
Gender harassment is the most common type of harassment in Hollywood, according to the survey, which found that nearly two-thirds of males and females reported demeaning or offensive jokes or terms based on gender.
“An unfortunate byproduct of #MeToo is that the supposedly less egregious conduct (i.e. anything not physical or sexual) is brushed off as it is not, relatively speaking, that serious," said one survey respondent.
The survey also asked questions about some of these "supposedly less egregious" encounters, from workplace bullying and bias to accountability. Women, individuals with a disability and non-union workers were twice as likely to report workplace bullying than their counterparts, with bystanders present 69 percent of the time. Women of color reported higher rates of every form of bias or unfair behavior than their white counterparts, and Black women were almost three times as likely to say they were told they were token hires.
“I have worked in the industry for twenty years. I have been sexually assaulted and subjected to unwanted touching more times than I can count. I have been demeaned because of my gender. I have witnessed far worse happening to other people. I still see the same level of abusive behavior directed at younger, more vulnerable people. I have reported through supposedly confidential processes and then been the victim of retaliation. I have no confidence that the situation is improving, despite the public statements by industry leaders professing to want to make change," said one anonymous survey respondent.
But entertainment workers are ready for change. Technology for victims to create a time stamped record, a helpline, resources to understand reporting options, bystander intervention training and consistent standardized and definitions for prohibited behavior were some of the most requested resources.
“In Hollywood, bullying is condoned as part of ‘paying your dues’ on the way up and has been openly displayed in films like ‘Swimming with Sharks’ and ’The Assistant,’” said Hill. ”Bullying may once have been an accepted norm, but in 2020 workers understand the harm an environment rife with humiliating insults and sarcasm, swearing and throwing objects in anger, causes. And belittling, vulgar and demeaning language and behavior is a gateway to sexual harassment and other abusive conduct.. It’s time for Hollywood to commit to treating all workers with basic humanity and dignity.”
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