Hollywood producer and film executive Harvey Weinstein was fired from his own company, following a report which accused him of sexually harassing female employees, actresses and journalists who were hoping to break into the film industry when they met him. Reading the reports today it seems that this was one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets (which actually wasn’t a secret at all cos apparently everyone knew but no one said anything).
The news brought back memories of a time that I myself was trying to make it in the film industry as an actress, and came across a sexist male film director who treated me like shit – a story I have never told anyone about.
It was the first feature film role I got and although it was a super low budget horror movie, I was over the moon to get the lead part and I was sure it would kick start my acting career.
In the script there was a scene where my character was taking a bath. It was supposed to be a bubble bath and the director said that no nudity would be involved, which suited me just fine because I wasn’t prepared to flash my boobs on camera. He did however mention that as I would be covered in bubbles I wouldn’t need to wear a bra or a bikini top because there would be no need for it.
Being young and eager to please, plus when it comes to movies there usually is (or at least should be), a lot of trust between actors and their directors, I agreed to trust him and we started shooting the film.
A couple of days in to the shoot I started feeling uncomfortable on set.
Something about the way he talked to the women actors, or how he brushed his hand across our backs, or touched our shoulders when he wanted us to move slightly, and eventually how on one day he brought in some female “extras” to shoot a scene that wasn’t in the script behind closed doors.
I suddenly worried that perhaps I was in a porn film and didn’t even know it.
We were planning to shoot my bath scene the next day so that night I called him up and said that after giving it some more thought, I would feel more comfortable wearing a strapless bra under the bubbles and that it shouldn’t be an issue since he had no intention of seeing my breasts in the first place.
He called me back 30 minutes later and fired me.
He said that the producers found me “difficult to work with” and that they have cast someone else instead of me.
I was gutted.
I remember wondering if I had done the right thing. I remember thinking that I blew my big chance. I remember thinking that perhaps they were right and I was just “being difficult”. And I remember feeling so bummed that he had already managed to find a replacement, almost as if to say that I was completely disposable to begin with.
But mainly I felt ashamed.
I remember not wanting to tell anyone what had happened. For some bizarre reason the feeling I walked away with was that I had done something wrong and it took a long time to snap out of that mind set I can tell you that!
The reason I am telling you this story is because I can completely understand why all those actresses and female employees kept their mouths shut for all those years.
I felt like I missed out of a big break and it was a freaking’ low budget rubbish film that went absolutely nowhere and in retrospect would have probably done nothing for my career, imagine having someone like Harvey Weinstein ask you to watch him take a shower? I mean, come on.
And no, I am not saying that keeping quiet is the only choice, I actually think that as women we should speak up for the sake of others and I regret not doing that myself, but what I am saying is that I completely understand the silence and the fear it evolved from.
If we are being totally honest then lets face it – women who do come forward face such scrutinizing and criticism (why did she wait so long? but she got something out of it? did she ask for it? etc), is it really so surprising that in some case women prefer to just deal with it themselves and say nothing?
Personally I am delighted whenever sexual harassment is the topic of conversation, not because I am happy it’s happened again (obviously not), but rather because it is being DISCUSSED again and addressed, instead of being brushed under the rug.
I also think that the fact these events happened nearly three decades ago has no bearing whatsoever, since women today are still fighting against the “grab them by the pussies” mentality. I think the women who are coming forward now (who include the brilliant Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan) deserve our respect and support. It is not easy to talk about sexual assault and sexual harassment and I for one know exactly where they are coming from.
Looking back on my own experience I know I did the right thing. The experience taught me a valuable lesson – sticking up for myself had a price but in the long run it felt damn good. My only regret is that I never told that director what I thought about him but you can be sure that if it happened to me today I would tell him he can stick his shitty, little film up where the sun don’t shine and piss off!
I know there are many women out there have been through similar situations and worse. One out of six women in the US has been a victim of attempted rape, or rape, and I don’t think there is a single female on the planet who hasn’t experienced some form of sexual harassment. Whether you said something or didn’t, please know that you did what you thought was right and that whatever happened to you was NOT your fault. Know that you are strong and that if you want to tell someone, it is NEVER too late.
And finally, please know that you are not alone.