I've been asked a number of times to comment on the Harvey Weinstein scandal. While I am sickened and angered over the disturbing accusations of Weinstein's sexual predation and abuse of power, I'm happy - ecstatic even - that it has opened up a dialogue around the continued sexual harassment, objectification and degradation of women. To the women who have suffered any form of abuse of power, I stand beside you. To the women who have come forward against a system that is designed to keep you silent, I stand in awe of you and appreciate you and your fortitude. It is not easy to disclose such experiences, especially in the public eye. Your strength will inspire others. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for fighting this battle so hopefully my daughter won't have to.
I've been an actor for a long time. So long, that when I started, we were called 'actresses' - a feminized, watered down name for the same profession our male colleagues have dominated. Somewhere in the early 2000's it became politically incorrect to call us actresses, and with good reason. After all, there's no feminized moniker for a director or producer or a writer or doctor or a lawyer. So 'actresses' became 'actors'. But sexual harassment and sexism in the industry did not change with the title change. We were still clearly 'actresses' to anyone that saw gender before talent and intelligence.
I can tell you what it meant to be an 'actress' then and what it means to be an 'actor' (with breasts) now. BUT more importantly, I can tell you what it means to be a woman in our society. In any - and every - profession, women are continuously mistreated. This is not an uncommon occurrence. This is a sick culture. Men like Harvey Weinstein are around every corner. Men who undermine women and their strength, ability and intelligence exist everywhere. Statistics say that 1 in 3 women are sexually harassed in the workplace. Really think about that. Really allow that statistic to become a part of you. Also, while you process it, think about the gender inequality women - particularly women of color - face in salary and opportunity. Actually, fuck the statistics, just do better, world.
Even with these strong feelings - not just about Weinstein but about workplace sexism in general - this statement is complicated for me for personal reasons. Harvey has a wife, who I have had the privilege of working with for the last 5 years on Project Runway All Stars. Georgina Chapman is my friend. She is one of the most special humans I have ever met. Harvey and Georgina also have two very young children who my children have known their entire lives. It is because of my love for Georgina, India and Dashiell that I haven't publicly commented on this until now. Please don't confuse my silence for anything other than respect for a dear friend and her beautiful children.
And please know that I fight for women's rights every day. I am constantly part of this conversation even if I don't publicly comment on specific scandals. Sexual harassment and assault in the workplace are not just about Harvey Weinstein. We must change things in general. We must do better for women everywhere.
Here are some of my favorite organizations that our doing just that:
#HackHarassment: a coalition of organizations and individuals working towards an online community free from harassment.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. Carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.
It's On Us launched out of the White House during the Obama Administration, It's On Us is a national movement to end sexual assault. While more targeted towards university-age persons, its focus on culture change makes it relevant to all sexual violence issues.
Crisis Text Line: serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information. Text 741741 from anywhere in the US to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.
Hollaback! a global, people-powered movement to end harassment by igniting public conversations and developing innovative strategies that ensure equal access to public spaces.
National Partnership for Women & Families: the National Partnership develops and distributes materials to raise awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace, and how to confront it, and works to improve and enhance the federal government's efforts to eliminate harassment.
National Organization for Women (NOW): with chapters in all 50 states, NOW advocates and lobbies in the interest of women and girls all over the country, including in the issue area of violence against women (which encompasses sexual harassment). For example, they vocally called for Bill O'Reilly's firing.
Equal Justice Works: aims to create a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice. EJW provides leadership to ensure a sustainable pipeline of talented, trained lawyers are involved in public service.
NWLC: champions policies and laws that help women and girls achieve their potential at every stage of their lives - at school, at work, at home, and in retirement.
ACLU works in this area as well.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: the first place one should go to formally report a transgression.
Contributing Editor: Alyssa Milano
Alyssa Milano is an Actor, Activist & Philanthropist. She is an UNICEF Ambassador who is trying to make a better future for her, and the worlds, children. Her Twitter Account is @alyssa_milano