By now, I don’t think anyone in our industry hasn’t heard the news about Harvey Weinstein. He’s now been fired from his company with allegations of rape, sexual assault and lewd behaviour levelled at him.
The Weinstein board is looking at their own complicity with his behaviour. How could he have gotten away with it for so long?
I find it hard to believe so many people said they had no idea about his behaviour. It was well known that he was a bully and had a short fuse. He was the epitome of the powerful man who could make or break careers.
Unfortunately, this kind of behaviour is often tolerated in our industry.
I conduct workshops on respectful workspaces. The harassment or bullying behaviour I heard about in the workshops was similar in nature – being propositioned and threatened with losing the job or perhaps not working again with that director, producer or head of department.
It happens at any level of the hierarchy but it’s especially challenging for young women establishing their careers. Like many of the victims of Weinstein, they can easily be labelled and not believed by others.
Now the lid has been blown off hopefully more people will see themselves as an ally and be supportive of others being harassed on set, in the office or at casting sessions.
Here’s some options on how to prevent harassment and also be an ally.
Know your own boundaries
We are in a very ‘huggy’ business. We work long hours and sometimes see our coworkers more than our partners and children. We all have our own concepts of personal space. We need to be clear where our boundaries are. If you don’t want to be touched or hugged, say so clearly. Practice with a friend. Don’t allow someone to come into your space if you don’t want them there. This feeling of discomfort needs to be articulated from the very first experience. Otherwise people get confused and feel they have the right to touch or hug.
Find an ally
There is strength in numbers. Look for support from fellow coworkers who are experiencing the same level of discomfort over someone’s behaviour. With all this attention on harassment, people will be much more sensitive to it.
Document the incidences
Sometimes harassment can spin into a ‘he said she said’ battle. One way around this is to keep track of the harassers comments with dates and times. Have your supporters and allies do the same. This way you’ll have proof beyond just your words about the effects of someone crossing boundaries.
Seek out someone who can change the situation
That could be your union rep, head of department, producer or manager. On some sets, there’s a requirement by law to post the process or procedure for dealing with harassment or it is definitely a no bullying or harassment work place. People actually do get fired for that kind of behaviour.
We all deserve harmony and respect in our workspaces.
I’d be interested in your experiences on set or as an ally or as a manager in handling these kinds of situations. What has worked?