In a new interview with Variety for their "Power of Women" issue, actress and women’s rights activist Ashley Judd shared a story about being sexually harassed by "one of our industry’s most famous, admired-slash-rivaled bosses" while shooting “Kiss The Girls” in the late ‘90s.
Judd describes being groomed by this so-called “mogul," who she says lured her into his hotel room, asked her to help him pick out clothes, and then finally asked her to watch him shower.
"In that moment, I told him something like, 'When I win an Academy Award in one of your movies,’” she recalls. "He said, 'No, when you get nominated.' I said, 'No, no, when I win an Academy Award.’ 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."
Later, Judd said she realized that many other actresses had shared the same experience with the same executive, including being asked to watch him shower.
“Only when we were sitting around talking about it did we realize our experiences were identical,” she recalls. "There was a mutual strengthening and fortification of our resolve. One of the things that comes to mind for me: there was a really big feature that was done on this person in a national magazine, and there were all these allegations that they controlled the interview and had people listening in. And I thought, 'If someone had come and talked to me, I don’t care. I will absolutely share that experience.' Part of the strategy that keeps girls and women constrained in their professional experiences is retaliation and ridicule."
Judd beat herself up and internalized the shame for years, explaining that it took a long time before she was able to come to terms with the wrongness of happened to her. She situates her story within the larger narrative of Hollywood sexism, suggesting that people are finally starting to become aware of the systematic biases and abuses directed at women in the industry.
“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,” she explains. "I think that’s what’s happening in Hollywood with regard to female crew members, above-the-line and below-the-line talent, and pay disparity. We’re individually and collectively coming to a realization and acceptance that this is an entrenched part of the reality, and I think that talking about it is essential to the process of becoming aware, accepting that this is reality and then ultimately taking action.”
Judd has been outspoken about her experiences with rape and sexual violence in the past, detailing her experiences as a survivor of sexual assault and incest in a recent personal essay on Mic.com and in her 2011 memoir “All That is Bitter and Sweet."