In response to a year in which powerful men were brought down by allegations of sexual misconduct, Hollywood has announced it will create the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. Deadline reports that Anita Hill will lead the commission, which will strive to make Hollywood a safe space for women and marginalized people.
Hill was chosen to head the Commission by industry executives including Disney CEO Bob Iger, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, Screen Actors Guild/AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, and Dawn Hudson, the CEO of the Academy Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. The executives cited the "indomitable courage" of Hill's 1991 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.
During its first meeting yesterday, Kennedy said the group — which includes high-profile talent agents Bryan Lourd, CAA co-chair and father of actress Billie Lourd; Chris Silbermann, ICM Partners founding partner; and Ari Emanuel, co-chair of William Morris Endeavor — represents the "shifting mentality" in Hollywood surrounding sexual harassment and assault.
"The Commission will not seek just one solution," Kennedy said in a statement released yesterday, "but a comprehensive strategy to address the complex and inter-related causes of the problems of parity and power."
In her own statement, Hill, a lawyer who is now a professor at Brandeis University and has chaired the Human Rights Committee of the International Bar Association, said that under her watch the Commission will "focus on issues such as power disparity, equity and fairness, safety, sexual harassment guidelines, and reporting and enforcement."
Hill said that she's "proud to be leading this newly formed Commission on a long overdue journey to adopt best practices and to create institutional change that fosters a culture of respect and human dignity throughout the industry."
Biden, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Thomas hearing, said he wishes he had done more to "tone down the attacks" against Hill.
"As much as I tried to intervene, I did not have the power to gavel them out of order," he added. "I tried to be like a judge and only allow a question that would be relevant to ask."
"He also doesn’t understand that it wasn’t just that I felt it was not fair," she told the paper. "It was that women were looking to the Senate Judiciary Committee and his leadership to really open the way to have these kinds of hearings. They should have been using best practices to show leadership on this issue on behalf of women’s equality. And they did just the opposite."
Now, Hill is in a position where she has the power to show leadership on behalf of women and others in Hollywood. It's a role she is more than happy to take on.
"It is time to end the culture of silence," Hill said in her statement about the Commission. "I've been at this work for 26 years. This moment presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to make real change."
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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