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The Never-ending Fight of Gender Inequality in Hollywood

Sexism against women in the workplace is too pervasive to change overnight.

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Sexism
A woman wearing an outfit with the names of men in Hollywood she claims sexually harassed her, is seen during a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters, in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. VOA

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements address the sexual harassment and abuse of women by powerful men in Hollywood and elsewhere today. But systemic sexism in the film industry goes back decades, influencing how stories have been told on the silver screen.

Consider the cartoon Pepe Le Pew, about a persistent skunk in relentless pursuit of Penelope Pussycat. When the TV series first appeared, more than half a century ago, it was considered cute and romantic.

Today’s audiences find the skunk’s unwanted advances creepy, and reflect female characters as passive sexual objects, said George Mason University professor Lisa Koch.

Domestic abuse and patronizing behavior of husbands toward their wives were often glorified as passionate relationships, Koch added, such as in the narrative of the 1939 epic drama Gone with the Wind. The character of Rhett Butler, played by Clark Gable, is derisive and controlling toward his on-screen wife, Scarlett O Hara, played by Vivien Leigh. She is scripted as petulant, erratic and manipulative.

Hollywood glamorized and validated the hypermasculine male character who had to rein in the manipulative and childlike female characters, Koch said.

On screen, behind the scenes

Sexism and abuse on screen also reflected the pervasive sexual abuse actresses often endured behind the scenes, said Giovanna Chesler, director of film and video studies at George Mason University.

“You read about how Bertolucci and Marlon Brando had an arrangement for their actress in Last Tango in Paris. They knew that this would be a rape scene they would be filming but she (actress Maria Schneider) did not.” Chesler was referring to Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci as well as U.S. actor Brando.

 

Hollywood, sexism
Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara stars in the 1939 classic, “Gone With the Wind.”. VOA

In her 2016 autobiography, Tippi Hedren: A Memoir, the actress who was Alfred Hitchcock’s main muse and star of his films The Birds and Marnie, writes that when she turned down the filmmaker’s sexual advances, he threatened to destroy her career.

 

Chesler says this pervasive culture of sexism and blackmail produced men like Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“He was the Oscar maker and he anointed all of these actresses into Oscar-producing roles.” Chesler said. “They thought that once they really broke through, they would get out of being sexualized on screen. How ironic that in order to do so, they had to deal with this predator.”

Dozens of women have accused the disgraced Hollywood studio boss of sexual misconduct that includes harassment and assault. Earlier this year, Weinstein was indicted on sex crimes charges but remains free on bail while he fights the accusations.

Beyond Hollywood

Since the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements began, many films have offered more nuanced and textured female characters and are telling more women’s stories.

But activists say more needs to be done to increase women’s equitable treatment in Hollywood. Lisa Koch says there is definitely power in the number of women who are uniting against sexism and sexual abuse from all walks of life.

“It started with 300 women in Hollywood,” she said. “It has expanded dramatically, so 700,000 farm laborers pledged their support and that is just one example across the spectrum. Within the first 60 days, the movement raised $21 million in financial backing.”

Activist and filmmaker Shannon Lee says female producers and behind-the-scenes artists are offering women jobs, equal pay and creative expression, such as film producer Ava DuVernay, who has an artist collective that distributes films and mandates that all the directors be female.

Lee cautions, however, that sexism against women in the workplace is too pervasive to change overnight.

“When there is an imbalance of power, there is an abuse of power. USA Today did a survey that came out in 2017 saying that 94 percent of women in the film industry have had some experience of sexual harassment or sexual assault,” Lee said.

Koch offers another statistic: “Ninety-five percent of Hollywood directors are men, 18 percent of those involved in film production as directors, producers, writers cinematographers, editors, are women.”

Both women say the goal in the industry is 50/50 by 2020.

“Where there is 50 percent male and 50 percent female, you don’t have the opportunity to this gross misconduct,” Lee said.

Hollywood, sexism
Harvey Weinstein exits the Manhattan Criminal Court room in New York. VOA

Sunu Chandy is the legal director of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington. She represents thousands of women who have come forward to seek legal support against sexual harassment and discrimination. She says both the #MeToo movement, where women openly addressed the abuse they suffered at the hands of men, and the #TimesUp movement, where sexual predators like Bill Cosby have been prosecuted and convicted for their crimes, are significant legal steps in establishing gender equity in Hollywood and elsewhere.

“Hiring women into roles that are traditionally male roles is absolutely something that we are pushing for,” Chandy said. “But if someone goes there and is sexually harassed and leaves, it’s continuing the problem. If the Time’s Up fund helps that case to come forward and be publicized and that company takes meaningful steps to create a better workplace, more women will be encouraged to apply there.”

Also Read: Top Hollywood Women Unveiled A Sexual Harassment Initiative

Chandy says that although progress is being made in offering women the legal help and support they deserve, much still has to be done to bring about real change in the workplace, be it a factory, a farm or a Hollywood movie set. (VOA)

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Millions of Women Still Face Poverty, Discrimination and Violence: UN

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls himself a proud feminist

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Women rights
About 200 women form a human chain calling for an end to gender violence, on the eve of International Women's Day in central Mexico City. VOA

Calling himself “a proud feminist and supporter of women,”  U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lashed out at men who abuse power and declared before Sunday’s observances of International Women’s Day that the fight for gender equality is “the biggest human rights challenge we face.”

Twenty-five years after 189 countries adopted a 150-page road map for achieving equality for women, a new report by UN Women says the reality is that millions of women still face poverty, discrimination and violence. It notes more than 70% of lawmakers and parliamentarians and managers are men and nearly 500,000 women and girls older than age 15 are illiterate.

Bias against women

The U.N. Development Program’s new Gender Social Norms Index also had some bad news for women. It found that close to 90% of both men and women hold some sort of bias against women.

Women rights
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press briefing at United Nations headquarters. VOA

According to the index, about half the world’s men and women believe men make better political leaders and more than 40% think men make better business executives and have greater rights to a job. Further, 28% feel it is justified for a husband to beat his wife.

Guterres told the U.N.’s International Women’s Day observance Friday that “gender inequality is the overwhelming injustice of our day.”

“Deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems, our corporations, our societies and our culture,” he said. “Women are still very frequently denied a voice; their opinions are ignored and their experience discounted.”

The secretary-general cited examples in recent months, including high-profile peace agreements being signed with no women at the table and emergency health care meetings on the new coronavirus held with few or no women participating.

Scaled-down event

International Women’s Day is taking place a day before the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women holds a drastically scaled down one-day event so delegations in New York can adopt a draft political declaration commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1995 U.N. conference in Beijing that adopted the wide-ranging plan to achieve gender equality.

The commission had been expecting up to 12,000 people from its 193 member nations to be at its annual meeting. But it decided to postpone the major event until a later date because of the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Bold platform, slow progress

The Beijing platform called for bold action in 12 areas for women and girls, including combating poverty and violence, ensuring all girls get an education, and having women at the top levels of business and government as well as at the table in peace negotiations.

It also said for the first time in a U.N. document that women’s human rights include the right to control and decide “on matters relating to their sexuality, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”

The draft declaration expected to be adopted Monday reaffirms the Beijing platform for action and expresses concern “that overall, progress has not been fast or deep enough.” It pledges to take “concrete action to ensure the full, effective and accelerated implementation” of the road map.

Olof Skoog, the European Union’s top diplomat at the U.N., said the EU wasn’t happy with the initial draft but “we played hardball, I think it’s fair to say,” to produce “the most detailed and action-oriented political declaration ever adopted” by the commission.

He said there are advances in some areas and the declaration avoids “backtracking on some of the issues where there was huge push back.”

Among those issues was the definition of the family, with traditionalists insisting on a mother, father and children and progressive countries wanting to include LGBT families as well, he said. Another was on how to mention sexual and reproductive health and rights for females.

In the end, Skoog said, direct references to both issues were dropped in the declaration. But since the declaration affirms the Beijing platform, what that document says about the family and women’s rights and health will stand.

Women rights
Members of a civil society take part in a pro-women demonstration ahead of Women’s Day in Peshawar, Pakistan. VOA

‘Positive sign’

Francoise Girard, president of the International Women’s Health Coalition, said it was critical that governments recommit fully to the Beijing platform and called it heartening that they did so. She said governments also recommitted to achieving U.N. goals for 2030 that include sexual and reproductive rights for females, “so we feel that that is an extremely positive sign.”

What could really change the trajectory to achieve gender equality, Girard said, is ensuring that young girls can control their bodies, and there is still a long way to go.

“Controlling your body — sexual and reproduction and free of violence — is critical to everything else,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s critical to education, to employment, to political participation, to sitting on boards of companies. All these things won’t happen unless you control your body.”

Also Read- Know About the Similarities and Differences Between the Healthcare System of India and USA

On Friday, Guterres urged young women to keep up activism, and “please hold the world to account.”

“Twenty-five years after the Beijing conference, progress on women’s rights has stalled and even reversed,” he said. “We must push back against the push back. … It is more important than ever for men to stand up for women’s rights and gender equality.” (VOA)

 

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Actress Tanushree Dutta Compares Nana Patekar to Asaram Bapu

Demanding a lie detector test, and a narco-analysis test of those named in the FIR, Tanushreea¿s lawyer Nitin Satpute asked for the case to be transferred to the Mumbai Police Crime Branch, and a financial compensation for the actress

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Nana patekar, metoo
'MeToo Movement' is far bigger than me: Tanushree Dutta. Wikimedia Commons

Actress Tanushree Dutta has compared Nana Patekar to self-proclaimed saint Asaram Bapu, who was found guilty of raping a minor girl in year 2018. She also slammed celebrities of Bollywood for continuing to work with choreographer Ganesh Acharya, who is also an accused in her case.

Tanushree was interacting with the media along with her lawyer Nitin Satpute in Mumbai.

She filed a protest petition against the B-summary report filed by the Mumbai Police in connection with her complaint against actor Nana Patekar.

The Oshiwara police, however, had filed a B-Summary report seeking closure of the case on grounds that no evidence to support her claims had come to light in their investigation.

In October 2018, Tanushree had filed a complaint following which the Oshiwara police registered an FIR against Nana Patekar, accusing him of sexually harassing her on the sets of the movie “Horn Ok Pleassss”.

The complaint also named director Rakesh Sarang, producer Samee Siddiqui and choreographer Ganesh Acharya of the film, as co-accused in the case.

nana patekar and tanushree dutta
Tanushree Dutta And Nana Patekar. DNA

Tanushree said: aceIf you have money, you will get justice and respect but if you dona¿t have money then you will not get that. He has money and he got that money from Naam Foundation. It collects crores of rupees from corporate sectors for the upliftment of poor farmers. He has created his image as a poor man who lives in a small house. It’s a big lie and he is doing all this for show.”

Tanushree added: “It is very easy to fool people. You just have to wear a white Gandhi topi and white kurta. Asaram Bapu also wore white kurta. He used to fold his hands in front of a temple and then he became a saint. Who is checking whether he (Nana Patekar) is actually giving that money to farmers?”

Tanushree continued with her allegations against Nana: “A few months ago, I heard that he is building 500 homes for flood victims. Who is checking? Tomorrow, I will say I am queen of Timbuktu, I have made big house on moon and I have built 500 homes for aliens, would you believe me? He has collected funds to build 500 homes for sure, but we don’t inspect people who are running NGOs.”

Also Read: Samsung Launches its Latest External Storage Device ‘Portable SSD T7’

Tanushree and her lawyers said that they have filed a protest petition with the Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Andheri, and that the first hearing was scheduled for January 17.

Demanding a lie detector test, and a narco-analysis test of those named in the FIR, Tanushreea¿s lawyer Nitin Satpute asked for the case to be transferred to the Mumbai Police Crime Branch, and a financial compensation for the actress. (IANS)

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Uber Agrees to Pay $4.4 Million to Victims of Sexual Harassment in its Workplace

Uber's Chief Legal Officer Tony West promised to ensure that all company employees can thrive at Uber by "putting fairness and accountability at the heart of who we are and what we do."

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Uber, bengaluru
Photo shows an exterior view of the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. (VOA)

The US ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. has agreed to pay $4.4 million to settle federal investigations into claims of sexual harassment within the company, a federal commission has said.

“Uber will set up a $4.4 million fund to compensate anyone who “experienced sexual harassment and/or related retaliation after January 1, 2014,” the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said on Wednesday.

The settlement was a result of a 2017 commission probe in which “the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that Uber permitted a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who complained about such harassment,” said the commission, Xinhua news agency reported.

The San Francisco-based ride-hailing tech company also agreed to establish a system for identifying employees who complain about sexual harassment and managers who fail to respond to concerns of sexual harassment in a timely manner, it added.

Uber India
A campaign by Uber will empower youth and women in India. Wikimedia Commons

A third-party representative will monitor Uber for three years to improve the company’s workplace culture.

“This resolution demonstrates the benefits of working cooperatively with the EEOC and serves as a model for businesses committed to truly leveling the playing field where opportunity is not circumscribed by one’s gender,” said EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon.

Also Read: AI Models Can Predict Breast Cancer Risk in Women

EEOC San Francisco District Director William Tamayo admitted that the tech industry has often ignored allegations of sexual harassment “when an accused harasser is seen as more valuable to the company than the accuser.”

Uber’s Chief Legal Officer Tony West promised to ensure that all company employees can thrive at Uber by “putting fairness and accountability at the heart of who we are and what we do.” (IANS)