Amid a series of sexual assault allegations hitting Hollywood, stars are continuing to speak out against the behavior that has plagued the industry for too long. Now joining the conversation is Alec Baldwin, who reportedly said he's acted "very sexist" toward women in the past, but that it's time he — and society at large — finally begins to change. According to The Hollywood Reporter, his comments came via a speech at The Paley Center for Media on Thursday, where he was being honored for his distinguished career and supportive efforts for the organization’s educational initiatives. “I certainly have treated women in a very sexist way," Baldwin said, per THR. He continued,
"I’ve bullied women. I’ve overlooked women. I’ve underestimated women. Not as a rule, [but] from time to time, I’ve done what a lot of men do, which is … when you don’t treat women the same way you treat men. You don’t. I’m from a generation where you really don’t and I’d like that to change. I really would like that to change.”
He went on to distinguish that it's not just a Hollywood problem, but something that needs to be addressed universally, and that it's important to make workplaces comfortable, right, and fair, but also productive. "[It's] hurting our business," he said. (Bustle reached out to Baldwin's agent for further comment, but did not receive an immediate response.)
And finally, he referenced the slew of sexual assault allegations that have been circulating the industry in recent months, including accusations of abuse that spans decades. He doesn't mention any particular figures by name, but one of the most high-profile cases involves film producer Harvey Weinstein, who has now been accused by over 50 women of sexual misconduct dating back to at least 1980. (Weinstein apologized for his behavior in a statement to the New York Times, saying, "I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it." Meanwhile, this then-attorney Charles Harder denied the claims and said they planned to sue the Times for publishing "false and defamatory statements.")
During the event, Baldwin continued,
“I knew of certain things, that there were rumors of things happening to people, but I didn’t necessarily know the scope, when you hear the hundreds and hundreds of women who are complaining about this ... It’s been a very eye-opening experience for me personally. We’ve got to be vigilant in a new way to make sure that everybody is comfortable and that we get the job done together that we’re there to do.”
In theory, it's an appreciated sentiment. Women have long been tasked with doing the heavy lifting by coming forward, speaking out, and supporting one another. But in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, actors like Lena Dunham have put the onus on men to start pitching in, and for the most part, they've obliged: Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, Judd Apatow, and even Kevin Smith, a longtime collaborator of Weinstein's, are among the many men who have condemned the mogul's alleged behavior since the claims against him were made public.
But there is still problematic language present in Baldwin's statement. For example, the assertion that women are merely "complaining," not suffering through an overwhelmingly difficult trauma. Or his tendency to fall back on his "generation" as the root issue, rather than taking responsibility as a grown man capable of making his own distinctions between right and wrong. (Which is, by the way, the same pretext Weinstein relied on: "I came of age in the '60s and '70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different," he said in his statement. "That was the culture then.")
That being said, the fact that Baldwin has taken a stance — that he is, at least publicly, owning up to his wrongdoings and vowing to improve them — is a sign of at least marginal growth. It's clear he still has work to do, but it's a step in the right direction, and now, it's on him to turn those words into action.