Sex and Harassment in Entertainment Industry
The entertainment industry was a male-dominant industry since its inception. Silent films didn’t use women in lead roles. However, things have moved on even if female representation is still low – females comprised a small 12% of protagonists in 100 top-grossing films of 2014, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, as highlighted by Variety magazine. But even at this point, the $546 billion entertainment industry involves a lot of sexual harassment, sex, and even rape.
First let’s understand what is sexual harassment. Then we’ll move on to know the horrible state of Hollywood, the “struggle” of models, and the state of the TV industry. We’ll also do some interesting talk on prevention and mentality change.
Verbal or sexual remarks without the consent to such a level of frankness is sexual harassment. Unwelcome acts, like the stereotypical boss putting his hand on a female employee’s shoulder and sexually-suggestive displays at workplaces come under the radar of punishment for sexual harassment.
Hollywood, the $10.2 billion industry of glamor, sex, and money, is the biggest propellant of sexual harassment and rape. An article on Log Angeles Times suggests that the primary reason behind this is the nature of Hollywood, its films, and its culture. Hollywood is a place to explicitly discuss sex, finding new ways to sell erotic-natured films, and inventing all sorts of new-age relationship paradigms.
If Hollywood is making money, it’s because people are buying into what they sell. And for that, people responsible for making Hollywood movies openly endorse sex as an integral part of lifestyle. Such an environment isn’t conductive to women respect. The position of the “normal” female is always threatened. She’s made to feel uncomfortable at some point.
Inevitably, the nature of their work bleeds inside their workplaces and even their ethics. Interestingly, it’ll be worthwhile to analyze the impacts of working in the Hollywood on its workers. Let’s save that idea for another article.
In a brilliant article on BuzzFeed, the entertainment reporter Ariane Lange compiles a list of 11 films that make sexual harassment a joke in movies. The list includes The Wolf of Wall Street, a movie where we laugh when “A man physically assaults two women while they are at work, set to funny music. The women are visibly upset.” She also talks of Superbad, where “In a public place, a man invites two women to pay him for his help in sexual favors. They are uncomfortable” and that’s meant to be taken as humor. I highly recommend you read her article. She finally comes to a conclusion:
Movies routinely push the boundaries of realism, but no matter how otherwise farcical these 11 movies are, the filmmakers behind them decided a world without sexual harassment would be too implausible. In a sense, they’re right, but I wonder how much turning sexual harassment into a throwaway joke in movies contributes to the banality of sexual harassment in real life.
Hollywood can’t be blamed. It’s the work they do that naturally encourages perverted mindset and the freedom to be explicit. However, it doesn’t mean sexual harassment is to be tolerated.
The usual perils of the fashion industry aside (an article on Chron, Pressures of the Modeling Industry, elaborates on these perils in depth and is a recommended complimentary read), sexual harassment plagues it too. And evidently, it’s covered in popular media more than the coverage of other industries.
An “anonymous model” (perhaps someone with a first name of Tatiana) gives an account of a 16-year old girl in a touching and highly engaging piece on Jezebel.
The girl rolled with a musician boyfriend who was fucking my friend when she was 16, and she had a [manager] who lived off her earnings, which included at that time $25,000 for a major global campaign. And, said my friend, the teenager had actually just entered rehab in Arizona because the whole time I had known her, she was shooting heroin. The story — with the stage mother, the influence of one of the many dudes who fuck 16-year-olds, the money jobs, the intravenous drug use — all seemed at the time like a giant neon sign flashing Get Out Of This Industry Now. I still can’t believe I didn’t even realize she was strung out. Perhaps that contains a depressing message about the kinds of connections this business fosters between people.
The fashion industry has a lot of teenage girls and this makes it a heaven for the perverted mindset, breeding sexual harassment and rape. Without permanent residences, guardians, and with broke economic situations, these girls are an easy victim. They know that if they want to climb the ladder the right direction, they have to compromise their modesty. This creates an unethical situation.
Giving more weight to this situation, Misty Fox also talks about underage girls sleeping with 60-something men for big breaks in an interview to Flare. The problem is too deep-rooted. Photographers, managers, and company agents are constantly found guilty and charged accordingly, but most of the unethical sexual pervasion goes unnoticed.
Louise Gagnon narrates a very disturbing case while talking to the author of an article on The Fashion eZine, Prostitution in the Fashion Industry. It should be enough to make the modeling industry look very dirty:
I was raped regularly. Sometimes multiple times per week. I was depressed all the time and the only thing that made me feel better was the heroin. It didn’t stop when I stopped [modeling] either. I was in some bad relationships with the photographers who I had met years earlier and I was involved with them professionally so I had to ignore my feelings. It was complicated and I became more and more disgusted at myself everyday. I finally decided I needed to quit before I killed myself.
Such people are in powerful positions, while the girls are helpless with big dreams in their eyes. Fashion industry showcases a very elegant and proud face painted with colors of success and popularity. It’s not the fault of aspiring models to be lured in. They want to live the dream and be popular. Amid that, they start getting trapped in networks that pay great benefits in return of sex. Slowly, they’re too deep inside the problem, getting complicated relationships with multiple people and losing their identity. There are a lot of such cases. Here’s a case from UK that implies such powerful people directly make the offer, knowing well enough they could be prosecuted for it. Here, a sleazy model agency boss tells teenager she has to sleep with him ‘to make it’, to use the official title.
Here’s an excerpt from the report of Mirror Online:
The boss of an award-winning [modeling] agency offered to make a teenager famous if she had sex with him. Nicholas Kisirinya told shocked 19-year-old hopeful Lauren James his sleazy demand would send her “up the ladder”. Kisirinya, whose online agency attracts thousands of wannabe teen models a week, told her: “The first thing I will do after we sleep with each other is set up a shoot and get some nice photos of you. “Then I’ll make you priority for few castings this year. In this industry those who take that extra step get further.”
The TV industry is already infamous for exploitation. Hollywood and fashion industry make sense, but it couldn’t be imagined how TV industry could be so infamous.
It’s fairly easy to get inside, and generally praises beautiful faces without disrespecting them. It’s mostly because their main goal isn’t selling faces, or slim bodies. They need all sorts of women for all sorts of purposes.
However, TV industry needs a lot of additional work. Production-related office work, especially, fuels workplace harassment and assaults. A news report on MSNBC highlights a case of a former employee of Ink Master engaging in “severe and pervasive” sexual harassment with a former production assistant.
A newspaper article dating as back as late 1994 can confidently say that a study finds television shows rife with actions prohibited in public life, while citing the results of a national research university, University of Dayton (Ohio) study. “Lewd remarks, suggestive touches and other forms of sexual harassment can trigger lawsuits in the real world. But a research team has found that it’s routine in the world of sitcoms.” it said.
A Thomas Skill of the university remarked as follows:
We were very surprised to discover there is a good deal of sexual harassment on television. More importantly, it is presented in such a way to make it seem acceptable.
If the 90s saw this, the 2000s saw this, and we’re midway into 2010s with no change in the sight, it’s very depressing to think of the TV industry as one of the centers of creative excellence.
Talking of UK again, results of a member survey of WFTS on sexual harassment on 12 November, 2012 at a BAFTA debate revealed as follows: 86% agreed sex discrimination remains an issue, 50% experienced sex discrimination, while 23% experienced sexual harassment.
Prevention and Mentality Change
In an interview to the Guardian, Anne Robinson remarked as follows:
What disappoints me now is that girls leave school and university with decent brains and qualifications, but at no point along the line has anyone taught them a few tricks of the trade, whether it’s negotiating a salary or how to deal with a predatory male.
She continues to explain the state that makes things worse: a powerful boss and your need for the job.
…what women need to learn is to give over a message of: “Don’t mess with me.” I still think it’s difficult … if you’ve got a boss who’s behaving inappropriately, and your job depends upon it. It doesn’t matter how much legislation there is, if they’ve got the power over you and your career depends on it, you are in a very difficult situation.’
In an article titled Gwyneth Paltrow, Sexual Harassment and the Limits of Privilege, The New Agenda author Henrietta comes to three conclusions that need to be known by everybody.
…when you are female, privilege only counts for so much. Economic privilege, status and even racial privilege cannot protect a woman from a host of dangers including rape and sexual harassment.
…the entertainment industry loathes women. [It’s] infamous for preying on young [women] and the fact that it did not stop [its] ugly misogyny in the face of a young woman from a powerful Hollywood family shows the extent of women hatred in the film and television industry. [She’s talking of Gwyneth Paltrow]
…the entertainment industry is lying to themselves when they claim to be progressive. Progressives do not sexually harass women. Progressives do not rape women. Progressives do not delight in the rape, sexual harassment and degradation of women in films and television programs.
What do you think? Leave a comment.