It’s not enough to have a proud sexual predator occupy the highest elected office in our country - our cultural spaces are full of creeps and criminals, too. Misogyny takes center stage in the entertainment industry and people are demanding a new act.
The mounting allegations against Harvey Weinstein signal patterns of abuse and cover up that stretch decades. Weinstein steps into a growing list of Hollywood criminal elite, whose malicious ways have been exposed. Bill Cosby’s staggering list of accusers unraveled his warm legacy as America’s Dad. Playboy bunnies stomped out years of abuse and exploitation, issuing a public invite to the mansion’s dirty secrets before Hugh Hefner’s final party. The downfall of these titans - triggered by collective storytelling and investigative journalism - has emboldened victims of sexual harassment and assault industry-wide to speak out. Our cultural icons are telling their stories, collectively shattering the power structures that had once forced their truths into isolation. At last, the filthy underbelly of predatory abuse in Hollywood is all but exposed.
And while patriarchy’s hand has been fiercely swatted from its clutch on our cultural airwaves, this release is only momentary if we fail to handcuff it altogether.
We can start making change exactly where Harvey Weinstein’s poison ran deep - in the film industry. Women continue to be dramatically underrepresented in all roles and the disparities are especially stark among high levels of leadership. According to the New York Film Academy, only 1/8th of directors are women, ¼ of the lead writers, and less than ¼ of executive producers. Insidious predatory behavior becomes the norm in a vacuum of female leadership.
In an interview on HNL, film producer Emily Best explains that the hiring culture of Hollywood “cultivates victims”. Young aspiring actors are told to have thick-skin which paves the way for them to “receive and tolerate abuse”. As a minority population facing limited options for upward mobility, competition is fierce. Abuse is normalized and internalized in order to achieve success. More women must have opportunities to lead and create, outside of the ranks of this normalized misogyny.
Supporting women in film - in front of and behind the camera - is a huge way to catalyze change in Hollywood. Women in Film has a pledge to watch 52 films made by women a year - that’s one every week. Take the pledge and radicalize your entertainment. By prioritizing women-led productions, especially at the box office, we demonstrate economic investment into women’s stories and livelihood. You are effectively shifting power structures while downing slurpees and shoving fistfulls of popcorn into your mouth. It’s dignified armchair activism.
Take this a step further and organize women-led film screenings and raise funds to support victims of sexual violence or initiatives to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The dismantling of systematic abuse in Hollywood is a battle to reclaim our cultural spaces and we can leverage these cultural assets to dethrone misogyny. There are films by men worthy of celebration too - and still we must vehemently reject scripts that mill antiquated gender tropes and hollow female characters. Bring balance to Hollywood’s power, and celebrate women makers of their own doing who are building empires designed to uplift all women. These influencers wield their strength to deliver film thoroughly reflective of an equitable society - in depiction as well as production.
The 45th President is patriarchy’s heirloom. Sexual abuse didn’t start with him, and yet, his very presence enables sexism and it’s force uniquely transcends policy and shadows our culture. Waging resistance means occupying the entertainment industry and every space contoured by these powers and restructuring for radical inclusion. As much as we can build resilience against all manifestations of abuse, we chip away at him and the power of patriarchy’s influence.