May 01, 2018

Industry insiders want to use the Civil Rights Act to stop sexual harassment and tackle discrimination
against women. Director Maria Giese explains how it would work.

 

In the wake of the allegations about Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and other Hollywood figures and the news that Ashley Judd is now suing Weinstein for damaging her career, US filmmakers and lawyers are joining together to fight for legal reform to reflect their conviction that sexual harassment is caused by employment discrimination.

Director Maria Giese is part of a group of women in the entertainment industry who believe that Hollywood cannot absolve itself by firing alleged harassers, public condemnation, or the Time’s Up and Me Too campaigns. The only way to root out abuse of power and harassment, they argue, is to enforce the Civil Rights Act to prevent discriminatory hiring practices against women. They are planning litigation against six major film studios—and they’re willing to take it to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Giese believes the revelations, which have been coming thick and fast since the New York Times broke the Weinstein story in October last year, have been a fantastic diversion for Hollywood, conveniently moving the discussion of harassment away from tackling the root cause.

"I want people to see sexual harassment and abuse as a symptom of a central disease that is economic disparity,” she tells Broadly.

One initiative that has put equal hiring in the spotlight is the inclusion rider, a contractual clause that Frances McDormand highlighted in the powerful finale to her Oscar acceptance speech. The inclusion rider's three authors, attorney Kalpana Kotagal, Dr. Stacy Smith, and producer Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni were also speakers on various panels at the Women's Media Summit.

The clause, that actors and writers can add to their contracts requesting that the studio hires a representative number of women, ethnic minority, LGBTQ and disabled people, was first proposed as far back as 2014, but McDormand's parting words led to search engine overloads and a subsequent adoption by Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, and Pearl Street Films, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's production company. Talent agency WME also plan to offer it as an option to all their clients.

"I think we're heading towards a place of widespread adoption," Kotagal tells Broadly. "Our hope, Stacy's, Fanshen's and mine, is that the adoption of the principles that are embodied in the inclusion rider will be widespread, so that the inclusion rider as a strategy for Hollywood is obsolete in a number of years."

The complete article can be accessed here.