The #MeToo and Time’s Up initiatives have drawn much needed attention to Hollywood’s dark history of secrets and silent acceptance of sexual harassment and assault. Just last week, leaders like Meryl Streep, Sarah Jessica Parker and Ashley Judd gathered in my office to discuss action items and goals for 2018.
But people forget that women are not just in front of the screen in the entertainment industry. Scores of women, including myself, work every day in an industry governed by powerful men. Just powerful men. And our voices have yet to be championed.
I work at Creative Artists Agency—the leading sports and entertainment agency referred to as “Weinstein’s Complicity Machine” in a scathing New York Times article published in December. The agency where at least eight talent agents were told that Mr. Weinstein had harassed or assaulted female clients, but did virtually nothing to stop future attacks.
It took almost a week before the agency actually spoke to employees about Weinstein—one of our top clients—and when they did, they didn’t even mention his name. During that time, the head of our television department was fired for violating young, inexperienced female subordinates. Then a key leader for minority representation in our motion picture department was fired for repeatedly forcing himself on a young actress in exchange for job opportunities that never came. Top clients Kevin Spacey and Brett Radner were released. Former client Courtney Love was silenced. And all along, reports were made to CAA’s human resources department and individual agents, but all along, they were ignored, condemned, or forgotten.
In the few months since the Weinstein affair, bizarre changes having been made internally to fix the agency’s reputation and “protect” women. Two female leaders at CAA have been promoted to the agency’s leadership board. The agency has stated its initiative to have 50/50 representation across the board by 2020. Male colleagues now frequently call their female subordinates to “check in,” to make sure we are mentally and emotionally stable and safe. The agency cancelled all company holiday parties—avoiding further instances of the “problem” without actually making an effort to eliminate it internally (they bought us off with American Express gift cards to make up for it). Employees are required to go to seminars about “manliness” and how to properly behave around women.
Oh, and Time’s Up? It was started by employees at CAA. Except you’ll never see that in the media because it will just be interpreted as the agency’s quick response to all the reports documenting its blind eye to Weinstein’s crimes.
People ask me what it’s like being a woman in the entertainment industry, a woman working at the very agency receiving the most heat for sexual harassment and assault. I am fortunate in that I have never felt violated or unsafe in the office. I work with two inspiring, powerful women who are respected and fiercely loyal. But again, I am fortunate. Entertainment is an industry that makes deals over dinner, in hotel bars, and after drinks at clubs. The stories these actresses have shared are disgustingly believable, and changing the way business is conducted will take longer than you’d hope. Do I feel safe? Yes. Does everyone? No. Sexual harassment and assault is part of Hollywood’s infrastructure today just like it was in the days of Marilyn Monroe or Judy Garland.
Sexual harassment and assault are not just entertainment problems, they are cultural problems that plague every workplace and industry. Time’s Up is not limited to our world—it’s an initiative to unite discriminated groups across the workforce, to give a voice to those so long ignored. Don’t see it as just a publicity stunt by celebrities. See it as a revolution.
Kaitlin McCabe '16 works at the leading entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency as a coordinator in Entertainment Marketing.