Within the last few weeks, Hollywood has been reeling in the aftermath of multiple allegations of sexual assault and harassment leveraged against one of its biggest industry names. Producer Harvey Weinstein was initially named in several accounts of alleged sexual misconduct via both The New York Times and the New Yorker, and later identified by more parties for similarly inappropriate behavior.
However, Weinstein's outing has only proven to be the tip of the iceberg belying a much more toxic and pervasive culture of abuse, fear and silencing. The Times' reporting of the allegations against Weinstein was only published back on October 5, and since then several more women have come forward with complaints of inappropriate harassment from top Hollywood executives, including Weinstein Co. executive Bob Weinstein as well as Amazon's chief of programming Roy Price (who resigned from the company yesterday after the company announced it was suspending his employment).
As claims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, inappropriate comments and lewd behavior continue to mount against top male executives in the industry, several women are calling for much-needed change in the culture in Hollywood moving forward. At Elle's Women in Hollywood event on Monday night, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy used her keynote speech to address the subject head-on. Praising the bravery of the women who have already spoken out about the horrible treatment they've received, Kennedy then seized the opportunity during her keynote address to propose the implementation of "a commission charged with the task of developing new, industry-wide protections against sexual harassment and abuse."
In addition to consisting of "specialists in labor and management practices, lawyers and legal scholars, sociologists, psychologists, feminist activists and theorists, as well as people who work in film and television", Kennedy also proposed that the commission be fully funded by the industry itself.
The primary aim, according to Kennedy, would be to protect people from sexual harassment in their place of employment - but two significant changes are essential. First would be the addition of "zero tolerance policies for abusive behavior," with the second being "a secure, reliable, unimpeachable system in which victims of abuse can report what’s happened to them with a confident expectation that action will be taken, without placing their employment, reputations and careers at risk."
Kennedy later confirmed that she'd contacted the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, of which she is a member, to begin the first steps towards executing this new commission. Granted, there is a greater issue of complicity and accountability that also needs to be addressed - especially when it comes to a culture that has aided and even enabled sexual harassment and assault - but those inward examinations can occur in tandem with working to enact better and positive change. As Kennedy concluded in her speech, "The time to begin that work is now."
Kennedy's keynote remarks have been posted in full via THR.