At every level of the entertainment world, starting from the very beginning of silent movies to the current stage of the theatre, sexual harassment is a source of stress and shame for women. Finally, a spotlight is being blasted on Harvey Weinstein for his unlawful deviant behavior and he was fired, but why did it take decades for the women he harassed to publicly accuse him? Why did he get away with it for so long allowing other women to to be subjected to his unwanted sexual advancements?
A few days ago, a friend said to me, “I'm saddened by the silence of Hollywood’s leading women. They talk about domestic violence and sexual abuse but when overwhelming evidence surfaces from dozens of abused women from Harvey Weinstein, they are silent. Despicable.” My answer to him was, “They’re afraid of not getting the next job as men rule the movie business. They rule everything.”
This made me think about the sexual harassment that I’ve endured over the last 20 years of being an actress. The casting couch got it’s name for a reason and I’ve definitely been asked to have a seat on a few. It’s a typical Friday night at any party in Los Angeles, where men claim to be “producers” to starving actresses. I was recently in a play and had to deal with not only myself being sexually harassed, but I witnessed 2 other female members of the cast dealing with the same indefensible behavior.
On the set or in rehearsals, the lines between acceptable behavior and sexual harassment are very blurry. A method actor might take his craft off the set and into real life thinking that another actor is still his “wife” after the camera stops rolling. I’ve had actors kiss me longer as the play went on and start touching me as if I was theirs off the stage. The list of the inappropriate actions that take place in the entertainment business is long and disappointing but most of it gets ignored because “the show must go on.”
As women, we feel that it’s our fault, that we must have led the guy on. We think that being friendly gave the guy the wrong idea, so we just have to deal with their unwanted advancements, however we can, to minimize further harassment. If we say anything, it just makes everyone else uncomfortable so we “take one for the team.” We have learned to deal with the inappropriate touching, the overly-long and wet stage kisses, the sexual innuendos, the MILF comments, and the sexual advances by letting them slide. Just because we smile at a guy or give our co-star a hello hug doesn’t mean we are asking to be treated as sexual objects.
My friend wasn’t wrong on how he feels and I’m glad he called me out so I can call myself out. I’m guilty of not saying anything, not sticking up for my fellow female thespians, and not demanding to be treated with respect. Meryl Streep has spoken out calling the women who have bravely raised their voices “heroes.” We can always count on Meryl to be a voice of reason and defend the innocent. It has taken a few days, but more actresses are coming forward to call out Weinstein’s actions as inexcusable, including Jennifer Lawrence and Judi Dench.
This is a major issue we women have, we don’t want to believe each other. When a friend of mine accused a famous man of sexually abusing her, I saw other women claiming that she’s a liar. Even when dozens of other women came forward, they chose to defend the sexual abuser over the women. I can’t wrap my head around that way of thinking but I understand that it’s a form of protecting themselves from admitting that they have been abused. The thin line of what’s right and wrong becomes invisible when you don’t admit that there is a wrong side.
In the future, I will not worry about being a team player. I will confront the harasser after the first offense, at the exact moment, so that it won’t happen again and won’t progress into a worse situation for me. It’s not my obligation to make everyone else comfortable, it’s my right to stand up for myself and be clear with my boundaries, on and off the set or stage. I didn’t ask for the endless sexual remarks by being a nice person. No woman should be fearful of telling a guy that what he’s doing or saying is making them feel uncomfortable.
Sexual harassment is a terrible way that men control us, manipulate us, sexualize us, and keep us down. We need to end the silence now before the next generation thinks that sexual harassment is acceptable behavior and our young daughters suffer the repercussions. It’s not fair for women to have to play nice by ignoring the abuse, while the guys get free rein to abuse their power in a workplace. It’s a sad fact that sexual harassment is an issue that plagues our national politics right down to our small town businesses and we have accepted it as the norm. Ladies, as soon as we women learn to stick together, defend each other, and realize our power, we will rule the world!