We should applaud the brave women who spoke out. But the obligation to prevent harassment falls on all of us—and means questioning the nature of insecure workby Dawn Foster / December 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
To his tweeted chagrin, grabber-in-chief Donald Trump was not Time magazine’s person of 2017. That honour fell instead to a group: the “Silence Breakers,” the #metoo movement of people first in Hollywood, then globally who risked their careers, professional relationships, and in some cases personal safety to blow the whistle on sexual harassment, abuse and assault.
That certain industries—Hollywood, the media, theatre and politics—have been hit by near-identical scandals is hardly surprising. All operate on similar structures, with unconventional working arrangements, a large number of young, powerless people working with far older men, and a high degree of precocity and jostling for a small number of positions. Sexual harassment exists in all industries: I’ve experienced inappropriate advances as a paper girl, working minimum wage cafe jobs, in admin roles and in the media. But certain industries are set up in a way to make abuse far more likely, and to close off the avenues for raising disputes over colleagues’ behaviour.
The fear, not unfounded, within these industries, is that if you make a fuss, you’ll never work again. While within these fields, many people have set up ‘Whisper Networks’—behind-the-scenes, ad hoc methods of alerting junior staff to known sleazes—so much work is reliant on word of mouth. Causing a stink over inappropriate behaviour carries the very real threat that the people around your abuser will ensure you’ll never find work again. You can too easily be marked as a troublemaker, or a careerist.
When the Harvey Weinstein stories began to pour forth, the usual questions abounded focusing on the behaviour of the victims rather than the immorality of the named predator: why did these women agree to meet him in a hotel room alone? Simply, because that’s how Hollywood operates. Refuse to do so and maintain your personal integrity, and you risk jeopardising your career, as actress Alice Evans discovered. Upon rejecting Harvey Weinstein’s advances, her husband Ioan Gruffudd was rejected for a Weinstein film he’d recently auditioned for, and both had their careers seemingly blocked within Hollywood.