Like a lot of women, Chelsea Handler is disheartened that sexism and harassment are still such widespread issues, but she thinks the cultural shift toward doing something about it has a specific source.
“We elected a sexual predator and we all knew about it, and we still did it, but we have to reconcile that with ourselves — 54 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump,” Handler said during the Bloomberg’s first Business of Equality event in New York. “So, this is the morning after, I think. It’s obvious, to me, that this is a referendum.”
Despite her outspoken criticism of Trump and his administration, Handler said the current conversation about assault, harassment and diversity and equality wouldn’t be happening if Hillary Clinton had been elected president.
Chelsea Clinton didn’t go that far while speaking with Jackie Simmons, Bloomberg’s executive editor for global business, and even resisted characterizing more talk of women’s issues and more activism in general as a “silver lining” of Trump’s election.
“I’m very focused on today,” Clinton said when asked if she thought sexism was a factor in the last election. She also said she has no plans to run for office “right now.”
Whether or not the MeToo/Time’s Up movement stems from Trump’s election, something is certainly different as the public is much more willing to hear women and believe their experiences with harassment and assault. Even just two years ago, when Ashley Judd first went to Variety with her allegations of a “studio mogul” harassing and propositioning her, the story didn’t really go anywhere.
“People talked about it, but then it stopped,” Judd said.
Last year, the actor was one of the first to go on the record when The New York Times ran the first of many exposes on Weinstein’s decades of aggressive and illegal behavior toward women, a story that came out less than a month before Trump won the presidency and is pointed to as turning point for #MeToo.
And Judd is still dealing with the aftermath of her encounters with Weinstein, of which she told her father, agent and a number of friends about at the time, but did not file a complaint over because there isn’t “an attorney general of Hollywood.” She said she had no idea that Weinstein effectively began running a smear campaign against her.
It wasn’t until late last year that Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh admitted Weinstein told them to steer clear of Judd for a part in the “Lord of the Rings” films. It was at that time that Judd learned her career had been genuinely affected. She sued Weinstein for defamation at the end of April.
But since the “referendum” has begun, Judd said she’s been able to talk openly with colleagues and push for change when sexism shows up. One instance occurred when it became public that Michelle Williams was paid less than $1,000 for about two weeks of reshoots on last year’s “All the Money in the World,” while her costar Mark Wahlberg, with less screen time and represented by the same agency, was paid $1.5 million.
“She was shattered and we were all so galled on her behalf,” Judd said, referencing a group chat of industry women. But the outcry led Williams’ agency WME to make a donation to Time’s Up, which aids those in need with legal services for cases of harassment and assault. Wahlberg later said he would donate his reshoot salary as well. And this pleased Judd.
“There’s value to restitution,” she said.
Bloomberg is launching Wednesday a “miniseries” podcast aptly titled “Pay Check,” taking a deeper look at why women are still paid less than many in every industry and the broader economic effects of the disparity are.
There’s also value to simply having conversations that are uncomfortable, for women as well as men, according to Nina Shaw, an attorney and a cofounder of Time’s Up.
“How about we live in a moment of uncomfortableness because that’s what happens when you’re trying for systemic change,” Shaw said.
But systemic change has a lot of moving parts, not least the ease with which genuine cultural issues can be dismissed by people in power.
Handler said she met with a studio executive only last week who asked her “when all of this is going to be over” and quipped “Time’s up on Time’s Up.”
“I told him it would be over when he stopped asking questions like that,” Handler said.
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