What Women in the Industry Shared About Sexism & Sexual Harassment in Media. And How To Make It Better.
The last week has been eye-opening, to say the least. When a candidate for the highest office in the country has made misogynistic remarks and later been accused by a growing number of women of sexual assault, it’s bound to spark a much needed conversation about sexism and sexual misconduct on a national level. It’s an uncomfortable conversation for everyone involved. The women compelled to speak up and out are not just retracing the proverbial finger over old wounds; they’re ripping them open at the seams with determined and shaking hands to expose themselves and their pain, however messy and gruesome that may be. They do so expecting to be met by people who doubt or question them, people who mask their discomfort and fear behind angry and hateful rhetoric. But progress and change never come easy, and rarely over polite discourse among like-minded peers.
Despite this ugliness, many women are feeling empowered — or at least less scared — to share their own experiences with sexism and sexual assault. In one instance, a tweet confronting a well-known film critic brought the conversation to a more personal level for many in online media; the aftershock causing a number of op-eds, tweet storms, and Slack debates weighing in on the fallout. The need to vent is understandable, and when you work in media — especially as a writer regurgitating your thoughts and feelings out into the digital verse can be both cathartic and thought provoking. But there’s only so many think pieces you can read or social media confessions you can witness before it’s time to seriously consider “What’s Next?”
You can’t possibly answer that, or any problem, without truly knowing just what you’re faced with. We always read or hear that sexual assault occurs in larger numbers and frequency than people realize, and most women silently nod their heads in knowing agreement.
I have my own personal history with sexism, misogyny, sexual harassment, and assault, and mostly operated under the assumption that more women than not were in the same boat. But I wanted a clearer idea of what was going on in the industry I work in, with the intention of presenting the collected information in a way could lead to the type of constructive dialogue and action that causes real change.
I created a simple anonymous survey asking women who work in media about their own exposure to sexism, misogyny, and sexual harassment in the industry. The women who answered are writers, editors, actresses, creators, and artists working in either online media, TV, comic books, literature, and film. Some are relatively new to their careers while others have been in the industry for years.
Of the women polled, over 73% report being treated in a sexist or misogynistic way. 63% have been sexually harassed, usually by a male that has more power or influence in the industry than they do. The women are almost twice as likely to report sexism or sexual harassment when it happens to someone else as opposed to them. In instances when they have reported sexual misconduct, 70% say it wasn’t dealt with in a satisfactory manner. More than 90% say they have been warned about certain men in the industry. Freelancers outnumbered staff and contractors working on a by-project basis, and most of the women surveyed reported having male employers, bosses, or direct reports. They also commented on a lack of HR to report issues to.
When asked what steps can be taken to make the media industry a safer space for women, the most common reply was seeing more women hired in leadership roles. Others mentioned adopting a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexism and sexual harassment, and better training at hiring which clearly states what constitutes as sexism, misogyny, and harassment.