The Other NRA
by Jane Fonda
W omen in every sector of the entertainment industry are working to transform Hollywood in the wake of the Weinstein revelations. The determination is palpable: We will not stop until laws and policies are put in place that guarantee a safe work environment and equality in the industry.
Women are finally being heard only because most of the brave actresses coming forward to blow the whistle on Weinstein have been white and famous. But it was African-American women who pioneered the fight against sexual harassment, engaging in landmark legal battles as early as 1975. Anita Hill endured humiliation while bringing sexual harassment to light in 1991. In 2007, Tarana Burke, a black activist, started the first “Me Too” campaign against sexual assault. Too often, these women were not heard.
In order to root out the problem today, we must understand that working-class women, women of color, trans women, and disabled women constantly experience harassment, assault, and rape—and they’re more likely to be fired if they speak up. I am sickened when I hear male friends call what’s happening a “witch hunt.” Don’t they realize that this movement needs to be far larger, not smaller?
Today, we are seeking solutions that benefit all women. Achieving equal pay for equal work and ensuring that women hold equal decision-making power in all industries will go far in ridding this country of the scourge of sexual abuse. I can think of one critical way to do this: 14 million people work in the restaurant industry, and the vast majority of its tipped workers are women. It is among the country’s fastest-growing industries and the single largest source of sexual harassment in the workplace. These workers aren’t paid the full minimum wage and therefore must put up with abuse because they rely on tips. Many are single mothers supporting families. They must please the customer at all costs, and often are encouraged to wear tight, revealing clothes.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Seven states eliminated the two-tiered wage decades ago; with waitresses earning the full minimum wage, sexual abuse was cut in half! This is an important lesson: When power and salaries are equal, women are less vulnerable and men are forced to behave.