In a 2015 Daily Mail interview, Leslie-Anne Down, speaking on the topic of the casting couch said that during the 1970s she was forced to act in movies she didn’t like because she had refused better roles due to “lecherous men, studio executives, producers, directors. There was a lot of running away and hiding under tables. They made everything uncomfortable.”
Fifty-three years following the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forty-seven years following Ms. Down’s experience in Hollywood and twenty-six years following Anita’s Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas, a group of Hollywood actresses and reporters are speaking out against the sexual abuses committed against them by Harvey Weinstein, founder of Miramax and co-chairman of The Weinstein Company.
An October 5, 2017 article in The New York Times recounts many stories of women who subjected to Mr. Weinstein’s sexual advances. The New York Times reports “dozens of Mr. Weinstein’s former and current employees, from assistants to top executives, said they knew of inappropriate conduct while they worked for him.”
The New York Times article quotes Ashley Judd as saying that following an invitation by Mr. Weinstein for the actress to join him at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for a breakfast meeting, Mr. Weinstein appeared in a bathrobe and asked her for a massage. He did the same to Emily Nestor, a “temporary employee” who stated that Mr. Weinstein implied he “would boost her career” if she agreed to his requests. The stories described in the article detail similar patterns of behavior by Mr. Weinstein against women: he appeared “nearly or fully naked”, required them to be “present while he bathed” or repeatedly asked “for a massage or initiating one himself.”
Since the October 5, 2017 article, numerous actresses and reporters have come forward with stories of sexual aggression by Mr. Weinstein against them, including stories reported in The New Yorker that Mr. Weinstein committed rape against several women.
Gwyneth Paltrow said that after she had earned the title role in Emma, Mr. Weinstein invited her to a hotel room before shooting began and placed “his hands on her and suggesting they head to the bedroom for massages.”
Angelina Jolie suggested after her “bad experience” with Mr. Weinstein, she “chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did.” The New Yorker reported that Rosanna Arquette stated Mr. Weinstein “made things very difficult for me for years”.
Following the October 5, 2017 article by The New York Times, Harvey Weinstein was fired by the board of the Weinstein Company to resign and his attorney, Lisa Bloom has resigned as his legal advisor.
The actress Rose McGowan, who settled a case against Weisntein, is calling for the entire, all-male board of The Weinstein Company to resign.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was enacted to protect women from harassment in the workforce. The act states, “it is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment or unwelcome sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”
In 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found “sex discrimination comprised nearly 30 percent of the charges filed with EEOC under all the statutes the agency enforces.”
In 2015, the EEOC established the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace to investigate the prevalence of the issue. Of the total number of charges filed with the EEOC in 2015, “45% alleged harassment on the basis of sex” and according to the report issued by the commission, “the least common response of either men or women to harassment is to take some form of formal action.”
Until society at large recognizes the problem, until men mature into the reality that women have autonomy to pursue their lives without sexual coercion and influence, the least the government can do is to act with strict authority to protect individuals against sexual harassment, some fifty-three years following the passing of legislation meant to do so.