When the work place is a battle ground.
As of late the media is running a clinic on the sexual abuse that has run rampant in the entertainment industry. Harvey Weinstein is the sacrificial lamb, as women are finally banding together and speaking out against the atrocities many of us have endured in the name of employment. I’ve seen variant points of views from those stating that women have been complicit in covering up the abuse of women, to the few bold voices of men who have spoken out with both sense and sensitivity.
One of my first jobs in Entertainment was interning for an Agent who sweated profusely in his office from taking too much speed, and visited the glory holes in the Macy’s Men’s Room in Union Square during his lunch break. He serviced strangers in a bathroom, did a bump or two and came back and talked all about it. He liked to watch porn in his free time, at work with headphones, luckily. Lovely guy. He smelled of public restroom disinfectant, sadness, drugs and sex. Constantly. Although his sexual proclivities didn’t include women, this was a hyper specialized environment for a 24 year old. This man was mentally unstable, toxic, addicted and displayed compulsive sexual behavior that could have killed him. And to think he accomplished this during his work hours. I dare to wonder what his personal life was like.
I worked with him for years before he finally had a breakdown. The very fact that his normal daily conversation revolved about the various, anonymous men he serviced, should have been grounds for a lawsuit, as I look back. It wouldn’t have been too hard to find one others to serve as witness to his unprofessional behavior which created a toxic work environment. The problem is, I was 24, with little to experience in the industry and happy to have a job. The problem is he didn’t “touch” me, nor come on to me. He never lured me into a hotel room or exposed himself and that age my concept of predatory sexual behavior was limited.
My first job in Los Angeles was a block away from a strip club. The Producers used to go have there for “Liquid Lunches”, and come back sloshed, and this was the norm. One of them would come back and wander around our work stations, calling the women “beautiful flowers”, smelling like booze and cheap Victoria Secrets body spray. It never occurred to them to feel embarrassed or ashamed that they spent their lunch hour(s) with women working the day shift at a Strip Club next to a cleaners, in a tiny strip mall. Instead of embarrassment they doubled down and we’re proud. Drunk, horny and proud.
I’ve seen women fire women because the men they hired and slept with had wandering eyes. This one might be one of that more depressing scenarios. A woman puts her career and/or reputation on the line to hire her paramour. Often this is done because she feels the desire to keep him close, because she knows innately he’s untrustworthy. Once hired, he acts like the Cock of the Block. He usurps her power by flirting with and/or sleeping with her employees. Stuck between a rock and a hard one, she fires the women. Keeps the man, because God forbid we hold men accountable for their behavior.
I had a woman Supervisor who used to let her dog pee on people’s desks and dare them to complain. I worked with a woman who was escorting on the side to pay for plastic surgery she didn’t need in the hopes of snagging a man, so she didn’t have to work again.
I’m not saying any of this is right or standard or normal. I’m saying Hollywood is an industry, not a location and it’s largely unregulated. Some may wonder how Harvey Weinstein got away with years of alleged sexual assault accusations. We can’t ignore the exploitive nature of the industry that feeds off other people’s hopes and dreams. Harvey got away with what he got away with because Hollywood will turn a blind eye in the name of fame and fortune. In this instance the whispers became a roar, and finally the behavior had to be addressed.
I’ve been in entertainment over half of my life. This is an industry that eats people. Women especially. Hopefully the more of us that speak out, the less these men keep getting ahead. May our roars never be silenced to whispers again.