FilmDistrict(LOS ANGELES) — Ashley Judd has decided to speak up about her personal experience with sexual harassment.
In this week’s Variety Power of Women issue, Judd, 47, recalls that she was chased by a famous executive from a rival studio, whose name she wouldn’t reveal, whom she believed wanted to cast her in a film.
“I was sexually harassed by one of our industry’s most famous, admired-slash-reviled bosses,” she recalls. “I was making Kiss the Girls at the time, and here I was, a declared feminist. I had completed a minor in what was then called women’s studies, which we now call gender studies. And yet I did not recognize at the time what was happening to me. It took years before I could evaluate that incident and realize that there was something incredibly wrong and illegal about it.”
“In my example, there was no casting involved. This was just twirling the lasso. I think it’s very important to note that I considered myself empowered,” Judd continues. “He was very stealth and expert about it. He groomed me, which is a technical term – Oh, come meet at the hotel for something to eat. Fine, I show up. Oh, he’s actually in his room. I’m like, Are you kidding me? I just worked all night. I’m just going to order cereal.
“It went on in these stages. It was so disgusting. He physically lured me by saying, ‘Oh, help me pick out what I’m going to wear,’” she notes. “There was a lot that happened between the point of entry and the bargaining. There was this whole process of bargaining—’Come do this, come do this, come do this.’ And I would say, ‘No, no, no.’
“I have a feeling if this is online and people have the opportunity to post comments, a lot of the people will say, ‘Why didn’t you leave the room?’ which is victim-blaming,” she insists, before explaining, “When I kept saying no to everything, there was a huge asymmetry of power and control in that room.”
Judd insists her story is pretty common. “I was with a bunch of other actors…The exact same thing had happened to them by the exact same mogul. Only when we were sitting around talking about it did we realize our experiences were identical….The ultimate thing when I was weaseling out of everything else was, ‘Will you watch me take a shower?’ And all the other women, sitting around this table with me, said, ‘Oh my god—that’s what he said to me too.’
“In that moment, I told him something like, ‘When I win an Academy Award in one of your movies.’ He said, ‘No, when you get nominated.’ I said, ‘No, no, when I win an Academy Award,'” she adds. “That was a small moment of power when I was able to contradict him and hold to my reality. And then I got out of there. And by the way, I’ve never been offered a movie by that studio. Ever.”
“I beat myself up for a while,” she admits. “This is another part of the process. We internalize the shame. It really belongs to the person who is the aggressor. And so later, when I was able to see what happened, I thought: Oh god, that’s wrong. That’s sexual harassment. That’s illegal.”
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