Address Inequality and Sex Abuse in Hollywood
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We are actors. We are proud members of SAG-AFTRA. The support the Union has offered has been invaluable. The unity we share as SAG-AFTRA actors is an extraordinary honor. The Union has done wondrous work to ensure proper working conditions and wages for the average working actor.
But as female actors, We’ve come to understand some very unfortunate realities about the business to which we’ve dedicated ourselves, and some regrettable shortcomings of the Union that is supposed to represent us.
While women represent 41% of SAG-AFTRA membership, an estimated 70% of working and aspiring actors and more than half the global population, we were only the protagonists of 12% of the 100 top grossing films last year. Recent reports show that women are underrepresented at an 8 to 1 ratio for film and television leads. Only 11% of females depicted in top grossing films of 2014 were black and moviegoers were only slightly more likely to see a Latina or Asian female character--only 4% and 3%, respectively--than a female character from another planet. Roughly a third of female speaking characters were shown in sexually revealing attire or were (at least) partially naked while more than half the women portraying characters aged 13-20 (teenagers) were shown with some nudity. These reports are not only an indication of discriminatory hiring practices in Hollywood, but of a great disservice to our culture and the world’s audiences.
The industry is marked by innumerable instances of discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault, especially in a context of sexual content on screen. These abuses are unacceptable in any context. The fierce competition female actors face and a gross imbalance of power nurtures the industry’s proclivity to stigmatize players for having a voice. A key principle of the Union is that our unity prevents such devaluations. We hope that all actors will be able to walk in to any employment situation with confidence that their rights have been firmly established, supported and normalized by our Union without fear they may be individually targeted, slandered or precluded from future work in any way if they stand for what would otherwise be clear and basic human, moral and legal rights.
Despite the Union’s documented policies, the industry’s silent acceptance of these injustices has had critical, lasting effects on our members both personally and professionally. We must find a way to alter our current culture to go beyond the small print statements and effectively promote an atmosphere and enforcement of a zero tolerance policy.
We cannot continue to stand by. We stand behind our Union and need our Union to stand for us. We need SAG-AFTRA to stand and to step up.
It is time for women’s interests to be addressed and their voices to be heard. Inequalities, discrimination, harassment and even sexual assault are still part of our experience in the industry. We call for the support of our Union to form an actionable, open gender committee to address the issues facing female performers.
We feel the Union is in the best position to:
- unify its members with a unique ability to reach, convene, support and mobilize its participating members;
- institute policies within the entertainment industry that protect women and our rights;
- be a voice for those who have been silenced by a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination and provide those victims with substantive resources and support
- move beyond a statement of "zero tolerance" for sexual harassment, assault and discrimination to enforcement and a culture of zero tolerance.
- provide resources for family planning and maternity leave;
- and take a clear stance on the stark income disparity between genders.
The role of women in media has long been a controversial subject. It is time that the women of our Union be empowered regarding the use of their image, and to have roles that more richly and responsibly portray the lives and roles of women in our society. We believe that the unification of the Union’s female (and interested male and other gender) members around these issues will be a strong response. We would be served by the opportunity to convene around these issues with the support and protection of our Union to hold an open and transparent dialogue on the issues facing female performers.
There currently exists a “women’s committee” bullet pointed on the SAG-AFTRA website, but there is a lack of clarity to its activities, no contacts, no support available for interest in its activities and no initiatives or programs seem to exist around these issues.
For example, our Union provides for pensions, healthcare and even emergency relief, but offers no resources to women entering motherhood.
As creative professionals we bring to life any culture we can envision. We can surely find a way to produce media that affects positive culture shifts, rather than reflecting and perpetuating oppressive gender roles and exploitive gender norms.
Our members have shown extraordinary resilience and perseverance in the face of extreme inequities, but it is time these conditions be addressed. SAG-AFTRA is a strong voice for performers. If our Union supports a voice for gender equality, we should convene a committee to discuss gender issues and spark an initiative for equality.
Thank you for your support of your female members.
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