Words by Belinda Goldman Art by Audrey Chmielewski
It didn’t start with Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey, and it certainly won’t end with them.
It’s not just in the entertainment industry. It’s a systematic issue embedded in our culture; bleeding from the very core of workplace inequality.
The #MeToo campaign set forth social change and took 2017 by storm. However, unbeknownst to most, this movement didn’t emerge last year. It has been cultivating for almost a decade thanks to trailblazer Tarana Burke. Burke is an American civil rights activist, who coined the term ‘me too’ in 2006. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until renowned actors and celebrities broke their silence that the world could no longer turn away at this injustice. It’s because of the courage and conviction of women such as Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd that we are even having this discussion, and holding perpetrators accountable for acts of sexual harassment. On the other one hand, it is detestable that for society as a whole to take notice of this undeniable problem, we have to see it explode on our screens. Why isn’t one person’s suffering enough to promote reform or at the very least a conversation?
To some, it may seem as though the term ‘sexual harassment’ is tossed around too loosely. In reality, however, the prevalence of this kind of behaviour is most definitely disillusioning. After the wave of accusations regarding abuse and rape rightfully took down mogul Harvey Weinstein, the social media movement ‘metoo’ has been unstoppable. A survey conducted in 2017 by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News found that 48% of women in the US have encountered verbal or physical harassment in the workplace. As a direct result of this movement, more than 1.7 million people, both men and women have expressed their own experiences with sexual harassment.
The fact women have to wait for others to stand with them so their credibility isn’t ripped to shreds is beyond disheartening. Strength in numbers has never been more appropriate. As an aspiring actor, (not actress!) this ever-present plague that has been infiltrating our educational institutions and places of work since the beginning of time is no stranger to me. For two years, I studied acting in Sydney and there is no question that these types of people exist, no matter how low on the professional tier you look. In preparation for the industry, faculty members at my university not only warned us about this behaviour, but insinuated that this treatment is expected from casting directors, agents and really anyone who can get you a leg up in the industry. If this is the dream we wish to pursue, then it’s simply just a part of it. Don’t get me wrong. They were not condoning this epidemic, but like most, were merely desensitised to it’s depravity. It’s safe to say that most professionals are aware that this sort of thing happens all the time.
I am however, impressed with the retaliation and repercussions following this outpour of accusations. Although long overdue, it is clear that the landscape is changing. Just a few days after the Weinstein scandal broke, the board of his revered company sacked him with immediate effect. Netflix made the swift decision to sever all ties with Kevin Spacey as a consequence of two allegations of sexual harassment made against him. Personally, this provides me with a great deal of comfort. I think at this time most women are feeling empowered and relieved. But for me, it’s more than that. I am so incredibly lucky that this is happening at a stage when my professional career is just dawning. It’s less likely I’ll endure the sexist shit that my acting heroes have dealt with and persevered through for years. I will no longer have to pretend that a quid pro quo mentality in my workplace is acceptable. I am so grateful for this new era.
No industry is exempt. Everywhere we look both men and women are voicing their condemnation and corporations are finally listening. Companies have been quick to act and are invoking a zero tolerance attitude toward all misconduct. NBC News fired Matt Lauer, co-host of The Today Show, following a sexual harassment complaint. Journalist Charlie Rose of CBS News and PBS was dismissed after eight women accused him of inappropriate behaviour and advances.
Social media has changed the game. We now have more outlets and avenues than ever to express and expose the truth. Due to what is referred to as “The Weinstein Effect”, women everywhere are at last feeling safe and supported enough to share and report their experiences of harassment. Forums like Twitter and Facebook have enabled individuals to feel less isolated, encouraging victims to #metoo in solidarity. Personally, I believe that in this case, social media has served its purpose and is partly responsible for this international reckoning.