The only experience I have that is even remotely comparable to sexual harassment happened to me when I worked in a fast-food restaurant as I was finishing up high school – almost 30 years ago – a time when we were just a few years removed from Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. There was a co-worker of mine – I’ll call him Larry – who was gay and he apparently had a crush on me. This came to my attention through another co-worker. Apparently Larry was all too willing to share this nugget of information with several of my co-workers at a party – a party to which I obviously was not invited.
Larry wasn’t horribly pushy with me. He would flirtatiously laugh or chuckle when I would do things like bending over to pick things up (I worked as the morning janitor at said establishment). Larry wasn’t a manager or supervisor or anything. He never had any professional authority or power over me; likewise, he never threatened me or blackmailed me or anything like that. The whole situation just made me a little uncomfortable – in that way that you feel when everyone is in on a joke except for you.
This experience last one weekend. I out the kibosh on the whole thing pretty quickly. That Monday afternoon, I made a trip into work to talk to my store manager. She had always had my back – I was one of her favorite employees in the restaurant. Upon the advice of The Old Man, I explained the situation to her and demanded that I not be scheduled to work with him anymore. I also went on to say that if I felt uncomfortable in the work environment or found myself having to quit because of the situation or because of Larry himself, then the company would hear about. As I expected, Larry and I never worked a shift together again.
I didn’t share that story to say “woe is me” or #MeToo. I share it to say that this kind of thing can happen to anyone – even a white, middle-class suburban slob like me. I can only imagine that my experience can only give me the vaguest sensation of what a victim of full-blown sexual harassment experiences. Going up against a person with the clout of the monster I have pictured above can only feel utterly hopeless.
For years, I’ve heard rumblings about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women in the entertainment industry, but I don’t think anybody was ready for the outpouring of stories similar to (or in many cases much, much worse) the one Courtney Love alluded to back in 2005. This story hit home with me a many levels.
As far as the trauma Rose McGowan suffered at the hands, of this lunatic…that goes way beyond sexual harassment or anything even remotely sexual. I think she turned the guy down, and became absolutely obsessed with destroying her life. The stories I’ve heard have convinced me that Harvey Weinstein once had as much power and influence as a Washington politician. The guy, literally had former Feds working for him.
Having grown up in a racially and culturally homogeneous suburb of Detroit, Michigan, I didn’t personally know anyone who had been a victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault or sexual abuse until I went to college. The stories I heard there were absolutely heart-breaking. I had obviously heard of such crimes but never had any idea just how pervasive they really were. As I’ve gotten older – specifically as I see the #MeToo hashtag appear on my Facebook timeline, I feel my stomach churning all over again.
And women are not the only victims of these crimes: men, boys and girls – no one is immune it seems, as CUCH points out here.
Naturally when I hear a story about the film industry, my thoughts got to The Auteur. As I’ve learned vicariously through her experiences, film is an industry that is overwhelmingly dominated by men. I’d see some of the guys she went to school with, I’d written a lot, if not most, of them off as undersexed dorks who lived in their parents’ basements and dreamed of being the second coming of Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino. Some of them are a bit anti-social and don’t seem to know how to act around women. Some are narrow-minded sexists who simply assume, in that throwback mindset, that women simply cannot tell a story, act, run a camera or do anything remotely creative – at least not without a man telling them when to jump and how high.
Harvey Weinstein is apparently on a whole other level of monster entirely. Let’s face it, EVERY industry has sexists and sexual harassers. Like racism, that will simply never change. No matter how tolerant our society becomes, we will always have some outliers. I think what’s so shocking about Weinstein is not the one man or even his transgressions, it’s the fact that Harvey Weinstein is just ONE example of the kind of behavior that has become almost institutionalized in the entertainment industry.
I worry sometimes about The Auteur going into this industry. The predatory, Weinstein types will be and are in every walk of life. That’s just inevitable. But I know how frustrating it gets for her when her male peers look at her and assume she’s brainless or talent-less solely she is a woman – even though they are either less qualified or less talented (in many cases both) than she is. She’s not naive to any of this and I know she has a thick enough skin to handle it, but swimming against the proverbial ocean gets tiring for anyone – even the Michael Phelpses of the world.
I truly hope that the news of the last few weeks results in some top-to-bottom widespread changes in the entertainment industry, as well as how we all treat each other – in and out of the workplace.
Having said that, I don’t want us to become a society where the merest implication of an indiscretion is enough to destroy a person life.