Women in Film Says Their Harassment Help Line Calls Have Doubled in Recent Months

At the 2022 Women in Film (WIF) Honors Celebrating Women “Forging Forward” in Entertainment, the audience inside The Beverly Hilton was reminded by speakers like Viola Davis, Olivia Wilde, and Sheryl Lee Ralph of how Hollywood has both evolved and remained the same since movements like #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite.

The event was held by Women in Film, Los Angeles, to raise money for the Help Line they established in 2017 to provide resources and support to anyone that has experienced harassment, abuse, or discrimination in the industry. Onstage, WIF CEO Kirsten Schaffer said, “People often ask ‘Are people still calling? Have we ended harassment?’ Well, sadly, the answer’s no. Our call line has actually doubled in the last few months. Callers are experiencing harassment and discrimination on sets and offices, and they need support right now.” She also provided data on the help WIF has provided so far via the Help Line, saying, “Since we began, we have fielded almost 500 calls. We’ve connected 150 people to pro bono attorneys, and we’ve served 100 women in our support groups.”

Fittingly, the night saw the creative team for the film “She Said” — producer Dede Gardner, actor Carey Mulligan, and journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey — win one of the four Crystal Awards for Advocacy, presented to them by filmmaker Miranda July, who also moderated a panel with the women. When asked if abuse and harassment were still rampant in Hollywood since Kantor and Twohey’s New York Times reporting led to Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction, a process “She Said” depicts, Kantor replied, “Everything’s changed and nothing’s changed.”

Seeing where Weinstein has ended up, and how 22 states have changed laws to address the abuse and harassment problems exposed by the #MeToo movement, Kantor added “The idea that nothing’s changed, and that #MeToo is just a blip? I don’t think it’s empirically correct. But of course, the problem isn’t solved. This is a global problem that affects women of all backgrounds, all economic strata, all over the world internationally.”

That particular note hit on the night’s spirit of inclusivity. Presenting the Crystal Award to her “Abbott Elementary” showrunner and costar Quinta Brunson, Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph got a laugh from the audience telling the story of how 35 years ago producer Bonny Dore asked her to join Women in Film “because we are a sea of white women and we must be willing to open our hearts and our minds to others.”

Viola Davis, honoree Gina Prince-Bythewood, Thuso Mbedu, and Lashana Lynch at the WIF Honors.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for WIF (Women in Film)

In her speech presenting her “Woman King” director Gina Prince-Bythewood with the Crystal Award, current Best Actress contender Viola Davis talked about how even in spaces meant to connect women, like the WIF Honors, Black women are often excluded or overlooked, before singing her collaborator’s praises. She called Prince-Bythewood someone who “advocates for all women, for Black women, for dark-skinned Black women who have been told that we are not women, that we are not feminine, that we are not vulnerable, that we do not matter. I’m presenting you this award with the passion in knowing, the thankfulness in knowing that you made us be seen.”

It was a surreal moment for Prince-Bythewood to receive such an introduction. During a panel with Davis, and fellow “The Women King” stars Thuso Mbedu and Lashana Lynch, the director said, “Starting from when I was in film school, coming up in the TV and in the films that I did, this was an event that was always over there. Something that I’d look for and [was] waiting for that invite. And this is my first invitation, to be honest with this group of women, these are all women that I just have so much respect for. And it’s a beautiful thing to be here, but also it means everything that these three amazing women are here to celebrate this with me.”

Other highlights from the 2022 WIF Honors include “Only Murders in the Building” star Da’Vine Joy Randolph warming up the audience with a monologue about hosting an event for the first time, and Jane Fonda herself presenting the Jane Fonda Humanitarian Award to Michaela Coel (who couldn’t make the event, but had her “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” co-star Lake Bell there to read her acceptance speech). Meanwhile, outspoken “Riverdale” star Lili Reinhart ended her acceptance speech for the WIF Max Mara Face of the Future Award with, “It was Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, professor of early American History at Harvard who said, ‘Well behaved women rarely make history,’ and what an honor it is to be in the company of so many loud women.”

In the last presentation and panel of the night, with director Reed Morano giving the final Crystal Award to writer/director duo Katie Silberman and Olivia Wilde, the “Don’t Worry Darling” director said, “I think the reason that Women In Film and organizations like this exist is to be able to give us community. And I think we need that community because sometimes it’s really difficult—so difficult—to be heard, it’s really difficult to keep going.”

With the event raising over $75,000 for the Help Line, the 2022 WIF Honors were another step in ensuring more women in the entertainment industry have their voices heard.

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