LEXINGTON, Ky. — Actress Ashley Judd, whose claims against a Hollywood mogul helped set off an avalanche of sexual harassment allegations, said Friday that the fight against sexual misconduct will be a “chaotic, messy” endeavour, but that women won’t let potential public fatigue about the scandals slow the efforts.
Judd told an audience at the University of Kentucky, her alma mater, that the fight is about “ending impunity.”
Judd said that film mogul Harvey Weinstein harassed her three different times. She discussed one episode in detail: an incident from two decades ago in which she said she was asked to meet Weinstein in his hotel room. Weinstein greeted her wearing a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or if she would watch him shower.
Weinstein was ousted from the movie company he founded following a barrage of sexual harassment allegations that began with a bombshell New York Times article in early October. Since then, numerous prominent men in entertainment, business and politics and the media have been hit with allegations of improper behaviour with women.
Judd said Friday she hasn’t spoken about the other alleged incidents because she wants the focus to be on larger issues.
“I want to talk about how it’s not about sex, it’s about power,” she said. “I want to talk about how the statistics say that one in three or one in four of us experience sexual misconduct. But every time I get together with three or four women, it’s all three or four of us.
“I want to talk about how there is naturally a chaotic, messy, unprecedented socio-cultural, sexual change — the reckoning as some folks are calling it — happening around us,” she added. “And it won’t be tidy, and it won’t be easy, and we don’t have a playbook. We can’t go to page 463 and tear it out and say this is how we navigate what’s going on.”
Judd talked for more than an hour, discussing a range of issues that included gender equality, human trafficking and sexual abuse.
She said allegations of sexual harassment are becoming so frequent that “it’s really hard to keep track.” While some powerful men have lost their jobs due to harassment allegations, Judd said: “What about all of the women whose careers never got off the ground?”
“What about the collective economic loss endured, especially by women in low-paying jobs, women on the margins of the margin, the undocumented, the field workers, the gals in the diners who get their bottom pinched all the time? What about them?”
After her encounters years ago with Weinstein, she said, she told her agent, but neither of them knew what to do.
“Who were we supposed to tell, some fantasy attorney general of moviedom?” she said.
Asked later by an audience member whether she worries that public fatigue will set in because of the wave of allegations, Judd replied: “Girls and women are not going to let that happen. We’re not going to let that happen.”
Judd, wearing a UK shirt, stood centre stage and recounted her years on the Lexington campus. Also, the university announced it is establishing a fellowship in Judd’s name. The fellowship will focus on studying violence against women.
Judd, a social justice activist, serves as global goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund, which deals with reproductive health and population issues.