I hardly know where to begin with this…but I do know that something must be said.
Sexual harassment in this business is a dangerous subject. It feels like great courage is required to call it out and take on the lecherous among us. I recently worked with a man who….who…well, fuck…like I said, where do I even begin? Beyond his initial greetings with every woman on the crew being a comment on their looks, which is staggeringly sexist, objectifying and patronizing, he subsequently made the rounds grabbing women’s asses. Fortunately, my Mama raised me to call that shit out….so when he hugged me and grabbed my ass I called him on it and made it known that it wasn’t cool…thereby establishing that I was not a woman to be fucked with. But even more disturbingly, on multiple occasions, he took the hands of young women on our crew, pressed them up against his pants and rubbed his penis. With their hands.
Now, beyond the obvious, here’s the trouble: many young women don’t feel empowered to be able to say ‘No dude, not okay.’ In this case, the production was dependent upon this man delivering a performance in a short period of time. Having proven himself to be argumentative and problematic on multiple fronts already, the women who spoke to me didn’t feel like there was anything they could do about it…because they didn’t want to create waves, risking him not doing the job he was being paid to do.
This sickens me. It sickens me on a level I cannot adequately describe. That they would even think of such a thing makes me ashamed to be a part of this industry. Yet, I totally get why they felt powerless to do anything. It’s super important to point out that the producers in this case did EVERYTHING in their power to both protect the crew and limit this person’s access to the women on set. They tried to keep women away from him and had someone by his side 24/7. This isn’t about villainizing them. This is about the bigger picture of sexual objectification and harassment that our culture is so deeply steeped in that women often don’t even recognize what is happening as not okay…that’s how normal it is. The list of things I have witnessed over the years is too long to recount….inappropriate conversations, homophobic slurs, men whispering their previous night’s sexual adventures while we’re rolling, cock jokes, producers bringing their young one night stands to set, shooting nude scenes without the required closed set being observed…someone once asked me on a date while I sat in a robe waiting for them to set up the next shot on a love scene. At this point in my career, although I could cease working tomorrow for all I know, I no longer feel I can sit by quietly and let this shit go. More accurately, I no longer feel like I have to. It is the responsibility of ALL OF US to ensure that no one, man or woman, feels that dark ball of shame in their stomach because of a situation they’re put in at work.
So, to the young women and men out there: if you ever feel like something is not okay, or that you’re put in a position where you feel violated and powerless, please find the closest ‘Chelah’ on set. Find someone assertive, older and less concerned about possible professional consequences. Or call your union. Or your agent. Please do not think it is your responsibility to ‘let it go’ or ‘forget about it.’ We will stand up for you and be the one to take the hit. Furthermore, should you witness an act such as this, and you’re unsure whether it’s okay, ask yourself this: If the very same thing were being done to your young son or daughter, would it be okay? No? Then put a goddamn stop to it and prove that you value human beings, dignity and respect more than the bottom line of your production.