by Moxye Staff
A newly formed commission comprised and financed by some of the most prominent figures in Hollywood has chosen Anita Hill to chair its efforts to combat sexual harassment across the entertainment industry.
Hill is a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University and a National Women’s Law Center board member who previously chaired the Human Rights Committee of the International Bar Assn. She sparked a nascent national reckoning with sexual harassment when she testified during Clarence Thomas’s supreme court confirmation hearings in 1991, she has become an emblem for women’s rights.
Thomas had been Hill’s boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She claimed he sexually harassed her but her questioning by the all-male committee was skeptical and derisive.
Her testimony became a flashpoint for some of the first national conversations around the gender politics of the workplace. The next year saw a surge of sexual harassment complaints and women running for political office.
The selection of Hill speaks to how sharply the culture has shifted around the topic of sexual misconduct in the workplace.
In a recent interview with Teen Vogue, former senator and vice-president Joe Biden, who led the inquisition on Hill, said he wished he “had been able to do more” for her. He added: “I owe her an apology.”
In one of several addresses she made to entertainment leaders in the past week, Hill said, “I never believed 1991 was the end, and I am going to make sure in my life that I never saw that as the defining moment for me or for this issue.”
The role that Hollywood’s biggest power brokers should play in the ongoing reckoning has been the subject of much debate, since the first revelations about producer Harvey Weinstein. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the actor, Jennifer Lawrence said the industry’s highest echelon had an obligation to help protect the industry’s least powerful.
Exactly how the new commission will present best practices to curb sexual harassment remains to be seen.
“We will be focusing on issues ranging from power disparity, equity and fairness, safety, sexual harassment guidelines, education, training, reporting, enforcement, ongoing research, and data collection,” Hill said. “It is time to end the culture of silence. I’ve been at this work for 26 years. This moment presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to make real change.”
The Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace aims to create a “comprehensive strategy” to address the epidemic of sexual harassment and misconduct that has rocked Hollywood and the country in recent months, exposing alleged abuses by figures such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Russell Simmons. More steps will follow in the new year, according to the group.
A powerhouse committee including studio, talent agency and guild leaders from across the film, television, digital and music industries attended the meeting convened by Lucasfilm which includes Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm; Freada Kapor Klein, a venture capitalist and longtime advocate for sexual harassment victims; Nina Shaw, a Hollywood lawyer; and Maria Eitel, who co-chairs the Nike Foundation.
“The Commission will not seek just one solution but, a comprehensive strategy to address the complex and inter-related causes of the problems of parity and power,” Kennedy said in a statement. “The fact that so many industry leaders — across film, television, music, digital, unions, agencies, ATA, AMPAS, television academy and guilds — came together, in one room, to explore solutions speaks to a new era.”
“The commission will lead the entertainment industry toward alignment in achieving safer, fairer, more equitable and accountable workplaces – particularly for women and marginalized people.” a statement from its organizers said.
Several major unions, guilds, and agencies have signed on to work with the commission, which will meet to decide its mission and scope at the beginning of 2018. Individuals involved in Hollywood are Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos, Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, Atlantic Records Chair and COO Julie Greenwald, William Morris Endeavor Co-CEO Ari Emanuel, Creative Artists Agency Co-Chairman Bryan Lourd, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Dawn Hudson and SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris.