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Celebrity Soapbox on #MeToo Issues Creates Positive Change, Plurality Says

But poll indicates the industry has some way to go in improving the perception of Hollywood itself

Unsplash / Morning Consult illustration by Czarina Divinagracia
  • 53% say sexual harassment is a major problem in Hollywood, compared to 46% who say it’s a major problem in society overall.

  • 37% think that the wage gap between men and women is a major problem in Hollywood.

  • 38% of adults say that celebrities’ speaking out about sexual harassment and assault has mostly created positive change in society, but 43% of adults think that the problem of sexual harassment in general has not changed in the past year.

Nearly one year after the surge of the #MeToo movement and creation of submovements such as Time’s Up, the 2019 awards season is set to provide entertainment figures with a platform at major industry events such as the Academy Awards to speak out on issues such as gender inequality and sexual misconduct.

And polling shows that while adults think that celebrities using their platforms to speak out against such topics is creating positive change generally, a roughly equal number feel that nothing has changed in Hollywood in the past year.

A Dec. 20-23 Morning Consult/The Hollywood Reporter survey of 2,201 U.S. adults finds that a 38 percent plurality says celebrities speaking out about sexual harassment and assault has mostly created positive change in society — twice the 19 percent who say celebrity statements have not really made an impact and more than the 22 percent who say celebrity statements create mostly negative change.

The subject revealed a large partisan divide, with 60 percent of Democrats saying that celebrities speaking out about sexual harassment and assault has mostly created positive change in society compared to 21 percent of Republicans. Forty-one percent of GOP adults said the behavior has created negative change in society, while 7 percent of Democrats said the same.

Celebrities used awards shows such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars during last year’s awards season to call attention to issues of gender inequality and sexual misconduct in the industry, promoting the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up, an organization founded by Hollywood celebrities that advocates for gender parity and seeks to support women experiencing workplace sexual misconduct. At last year’s Golden Globes, nominees and presenters wore pins displaying the organization’s name, while winners such as Frances McDormand and Laura Dern used their acceptance speeches to call attention to important social issues. On the red carpet, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke walked alongside actress Michelle Williams.

While the entertainment industry is still doing its part to highlight the problems of sexual harassment and pay disparity, 53 percent say sexual harassment is a major problem in Hollywood — a higher share than politics (47 percent), finance (36 percent) and the tech industry (30 percent). The share who noted sexual harassment as a major problem in entertainment was 7 percentage points higher than those who said it was a major problem for society overall.

Even with continued media coverage of #MeToo and Time’s Up’s efforts to combat harassment in the workplace, only 15 percent of those surveyed say that sexual harassment has become less of a problem in Hollywood in the past year. A 39 percent plurality said the issue in the entertainment industry has not changed — roughly equal to the share of survey respondents who said celebrities speaking out about sexual misconduct created positive change in society overall, suggesting Hollywood may have some way to go in improving perceptions of the industry.

In late 2017, it was revealed that actor Mark Wahlberg earned $1.5 million for reshoots of the film “All the Money in the World” compared to the less-than $1,000 his co-star, Michelle Williams earned, highlighting the pay gap between men and women in Hollywood.

Forty percent of respondents felt that the gender wage gap was a major problem in society in general, and 37 percent felt it was a major problem in Hollywood specifically. Forty-eight percent of respondents indicated that they felt the wage gap in Hollywood had not changed in the past year, compared to 49 percent of respondents who said the issue had not changed in society overall in the past year.

As the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements continue to highlight issues of gender inequality and sexual misconduct, those surveyed indicate that the #MeToo movement is the one they are most familiar with, as 65 percent of respondents said that they had heard “a lot” or “some” about the movement founded in 2006. However, only 22 percent of adults said they had heard a lot or some about Time’s Up, the organization that emerged from women in the entertainment industry last year and expanded beyond Hollywood — including the creation of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which helps defray costs for those pursuing legal action after experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace nationwide.

In a letter released on the one-year anniversary of Time’s Up, the organization acknowledged that while 2018 was “a record year for women,” progress is still needed, and Time’s Up X2, a new initiative, will work to “double the number of women in leadership and across other spaces where women are underrepresented.”

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