Like many, I am appalled by the degree and scope of the Harvey Weinstein abuse. I am sick to the core of my being, (yes by what Harvey has done) but more by the astounding silence of my fellow males to speak out in support of women.
I keep waiting for a chorus of men to join women in saying this must end. But there is silence, mostly.
As horrific as Harvey Weinstein’s behavior is, the more significant problem is the systemic discrimination against women (and minorities) that exists at the core of the Hollywood power structures.
We men can’t ignore this any longer, and we must take active steps to change our attitudes, and behaviors and encourage other men to do the same. There are simply too many women speaking out, saying #MeToo, I have been a victim of sexual harassment or assault, for us men not to hear them.
There’s no question that Hollywood is an abusive environment to work in. I’ve had phones ripped from the wall and hurled at me in fits of rage-filled blistering displays of testosterone. I’ve been verbally abused in long tirades. All of this followed by an oh-so-charming apology the next day. In these situations, you work in a complete survival mode. “Maybe everything will be alright, now.” You hope, time after time.
I was often the clean-up guy for these rages when they were not directed at me. “Oh you know, (famous director or producer) was just passionate about his project, he really meant ‘this’ when he said ‘that absolutely horrible thing’ to you.” All in an attempt to hold a film together.
But I have never once worried about being sexually attacked or raped. Not once.
So, the trauma must be exponential for women working in the business, who are subject to it daily.
As men, we can no longer ignore this reality.
I knew a female script supervisor who interviewed for a job with a famous director, whose name you all know. At the end of the interview, he told her if she wanted the job she had to take her shirt off and show him her breasts. She refused and didn’t get the job. What male would be told to take his pants off before being hired?
The problem is so not-just-Harvey.
It’s systemic and industry-wide, and, unfortunately, caused by men. Sorry guys, it is. And we must change it if we are to look at ourselves in the mirror and see our best selves reflected back.
Early in my career when I was working as a line producer, I was looking for the 1st Assistant Director. I couldn’t find him, and I ran into the 2nd Assistant Director who told me — as if nothing was out of the ordinary — that the 1st AD was in the honey wagon (a truck with actor dressing rooms) getting a blowjob from a background actor.
I thought he was kidding. I was naïve and new to Hollywood. So, I thought it was a joke. But I now know, he wasn’t. That’s where the 1st AD was.
You see, one of the ways to get into SAG, if you are a non-union background actor, is by getting a coveted union extra voucher. Get three of them, and you can join the union. It’s the 1st or 2nd AD who decides who gets these. And the often-asked price for these vouchers?
Ask the woman in the honey wagon.
I am haunted by this to this day, because I remember the look on the extras faces when I laughed it off, thinking it was a joke. It wasn’t a joke to them. Here’s the line producer (someone in power) validating that’s the way to get into the union — to blow the AD. I wish I could change that day. I can’t.
Every male who has worked in the film industry has stories like this if you look. And you don’t have to look too far.
I was at a meeting on the top floor of a major studio, and the powerful very-talented female executive shook her head in half-disgust and envy at one of her male colleagues entering his office with a young actress hopeful. This executive said to me, “Oh to be male in Hollywood. Every night they take home a different actress sent over by the agencies.”
And somehow that’s considered all right. Just business as usual. But at what cost?
I remember another movie where the big producers could not be bothered with casting the traditional acting roles. Really! They didn’t even want tapes. But come the day for the strippers — the three producers had to hold these casting session personally — over two days — where young actresses, one after another, had to come and entirely disrobe, completely naked, for these men. It was important because, well, it was a scene with full nudity — and you can’t just let any woman do that.
Then, there’s the movie where the director would “audition” extras each night at the end of shooting to see who would go home with him.
Or the big director with the studio deal, who has a unique shower in his office on the lot with three shower heads, big enough for three people to use at once.
Or the somewhat famous actor who insisted that the female medic on set give him a blow-job before he’d go to work. Incidentally, when this was discovered, SHE got fired for complying with his request, not him.
Or the other director who would humiliate his brilliant female assistant making her drive across town to his house, late at night, to get him something out of the trunk of his car — because he didn’t feel like walking out to the driveway to get it.
Perhaps these events don’t rise to the horror of Harvey
Or maybe they are even worse because they are so systemic and widespread.
This is a world that women travel through daily that we men don’t. Or at least, we are not expected to sleep with someone for the chance to audition for a role, or paid less simply because of our sex.
I think for centuries men have discounted what women have said and not believed them and their experiences. There are too many women speaking out right now (#MeToo) for us not to hear them.
Woody Allen said recently, in response to the Weinstein allegations “You do hear a million fanciful rumors all the time. And some turn out to be true and some — many — are just stories about this actress, or that actor,”
Maybe they are not just “fanciful” stories. Maybe, most of them are horribly true. Maybe it’s the tip of the iceberg. And, perhaps, we men need to start listening and look at the trauma we are unintentionally (or intentionally) inflicting on others.
It’s not a republican or democratic issue. Roger Allies, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, they come in all shapes, colors, and sizes but they have one thing universally in common.
They are all men.
And we men, who are not at the leading edge of this abuse, need to do something about it — and start speaking up against this behavior, unequivocally and without hesitation.
We need to learn to listen and hear what women are saying — and stand in support of them.
One does not need to have a daughter or sister to understand the injustice here.
All of these issues go back to discrimination. They are different pages of the same problem the country as a whole is facing. It’s time for ALL MEN to look at our part in this and take action to cause positive change.
It will be tough to watch a Weinstein movie ever again (even the ones I love) without being acutely aware of the pain and suffering behind it.
Or for that matter, any movie, because, as I said, it’s so, not-just-Harvey.