In the wake of a series of high-profile exposes, scores of female celebrities have come forward with narratives about the plethora of abuses they faced in the entertainment industry. As the #MeToo movement expands in scope and breadth, women from behind-the-scenes of Hollywood are now telling their stories as well. Twins Brita McCollough and Brenda Ryan have undertaken a series of legal actions against their employers, detailing the harassment and discrimination (and subsequent cover-ups) faced by female drivers on the sets of movies and TV shows are detailed at length.
McCollough and Ryan are battling union Local 399 over a lengthy series of incidents, which culminated in their blacklisting from various jobs, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The two had worked as drivers and teamsters on both film and television sets.
Described as a climate of "chronic sexual harassment," the picture McCollough and Ryan's suits paint of the indignities they faced is rather bleak: comments made about their bodies were abundant. In one particularly harrowing incident on the set of the film True Lies, a boss compared the "thigh gaps" of the two women to determine which had had children.
"I left crying, because here I thought I was part of a team," said Ryan. "I couldn't tell anyone because I just got in the union and needed health insurance because my youngest was in and out of the hospital with a liver disease."
Another driver, Linda Draves, described the business as "degrading."
"They call me 'Double-D' because my breasts are large," said Draves.
Driver Lysa Darden says she has been sexually assaulted on the job. "I had my breast grabbed in front of three witnesses," she added to the chorus of complaints. "I never filed a grievance, because there's no redress."
Driver Kathy Brumby echoed her colleagues and discussed the lack of respect she faced on set.
"I had one guy say, 'I can't stand women drivers, they should be at home,'" said Brumby. "When I pulled up in an 18-wheeler one day, he said, 'I guess you're all right — you're not a fat bitch sitting in a van doing her nails all day.' "
Many women also fear they will face retaliating if they report the abuses they face.
"After the job is over, you find that you aren't getting [new] calls," said an unnamed source, "because you're seen as a troublemaker."
In fact, McCollough and Ryan say they were prosecuted for harassment by their union's internal court due to their outspoken activism on the subject of harassment. McCollough and Ryan allege the prosecution came after they were wiretapped and followed by their employers.
And although female drivers acknowledge the bravery of McCollough and Ryan, some now wonder if their outspoken advocacy work has actually made it more difficult for other women in the business: "Some men say the easiest way not to get accused of harassment is not to hire any women. There are few enough [of us] that no one bats an eye if you only hire guys," said another unnamed source.
McCollough and Ryan's battle, which has also called attention to the significant pay gay between male and female drivers, has prompted unions to consider their lack of ability to punish those ultimately guilty of wrongdoing.
"I can expel someone from the local," said Local 399 secretary-treasurer Steve Dayan. "And all that means is I've lost control of that person."
While the twins' fight for equality is not without hurdles, the growing awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment in all facets of the entertainment industry may provide hope for future generations of workers. The fate of their specific fight (and the process by which actual reform could take place), however, remains unclear.
[Photo: Getty Images]
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