More than a month has passed since some 300 women in California politics signed a letter putting a huge spotlight on sexual misconduct in the state capitol.
Glendale Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, a former movie producer, was among the signatories. She's also chairwoman of a subcommittee that will be evaluating the Legislature's anti-harassment policies. Here's what she had to say about their strategy to change the culture at the Capitol, and the insights she gleaned from her experience in Hollywood.
On what's changed since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke
I’ve been getting a real education about what the culture [at the state capitol] has been like over the years. I’ve only been in office since November, so it’s new to me, and I’ve been very glad that some women have been willing to come forward and tell their stories, to call me in my office and talk privately about their concerns... As we start the subcommittee process, it’s going to be even more of an education for the whole public.
On understanding the spectrum of sexual harassment allegations
It’s important that the Legislature develops a code of conduct for senior staff and for legislators because just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s ethical or correct, especially for people who have positions of authority. Having a code of conduct that all legislators sign on to would give much more of a bright line for folks and make those kinds of determinations easier if somebody violates that code.
What's missing from the state capitol's past response to allegations
We need to rewrite something that will work for years and be truly protective for victims, while at the same time giving due process to people who are accused. That’s not going to be easy, but it’s very important that we do that. Certainly, the part of protection for victims — that’s something we haven’t had in the past nearly as much as we should. People have been retaliated against. People are afraid to come forward. We need to acknowledge that as a body and we need to make sure that we fix it.
On how her experience as a Hollywood producer shapes her perspective
I certainly understand what it’s like to be the person that is powerless and feels vulnerable and has somebody take advantage of their position and you have to go work everyday with that person. I’ve been in that place and I’m sensitive to that. I understand the culture that leads to these kinds of behaviors — a culture of imbalance, of people feeling like they’re not held accountable, that they can do things that’ll be kept secret — and that’s not going to be easy to overcome. Politics even more than Hollywood can hold people accountable, because voters get to vote, and if voters knew what people did, they might vote differently. Every single politician is afraid of that.
To hear more from Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, click the blue player above.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.