Confronting Sexism At Work

Categories: #MeToo

As the allegations against Harvey Weinstein explode in numbers (and as someone who is film student), I have to expand upon the fact that when we fight for feminism, there is no area in which we do not need to do it. The past two weeks of “me too”s have been accompanied by two weeks of men saying, “Wow, I had no idea,” or people in general saying things along the lines of “even in the entertainment industry?” Yes. If not especially in the entertainment industry.

How many times have we seen girls forcibly turned into women on screen for millions to ogle at? How many times do we see characters who aren’t even sexual beings in their films suddenly don the cover of a magazine wearing nothing but bedsheets? Treating women like sex objects happens more often than we realize. Oh, and it’s not just happening to actors (and I like to say actors for any gender, by the way). Crew members are also treated poorly simply because we are women. Sexual harassment occurs in every industry but it can start “small” with incidents like the one I’ll be talking about in this post.

In my first two months at graduate film school, I have received an abundance of sexist remarks. The one that most caught me off guard was when I was the producer on a short film. At the first crew meeting when I gave a run-down of the next day’s events, the first question asked was whether or not I had a boyfriend. I was quite honestly speechless and often if you retort, you get the “bitch” moniker anyway, and no one wants to work with you again. I had no idea I would feel this objectified so early on, especially as a producer. However, I try my best to recognize people’s intentions, determining when people didn’t know what they were saying versus if they genuinely wanted to hurt me.* Throughout my conversation with this man, though, it became increasingly clear that intention or lack thereof never excuses someone doing something cruel or threatening. At all. Even if it never reaches a physical level. 

“Small conversations with coworkers may seem like pointless battles, but they can make all the difference in the world.”

At one point, the man said, “I am anti-feminist because feminists do crazy things. They do crazy things to each other, even!” Case in point: He does not realize he is wrong about what feminism is. Luckily, I was able to explain to him that real feminists listen, grow, and work together. We don’t attack men for the sake of attacking men. We speak with men so that we have equal access to the same opportunities (and so that they stop saying inappropriate things that single out the fact that we are women). His response: “I had no idea.” When people say anything to that effect, we still have to take them seriously.

Seemingly insignificant and unintentional comments turn into warped cultures. Warped cultures can seem impossible to set straight again. However, the man with whom I had this conversation is now a very good friend of mine. He reaches out to me on a regular basis to talk about women’s rights because of his “insignificant” comment that I chose to address. In no way do I assume he would have ended up the next Harvey Weinstein, but instead of him accidentally perpetuating sexist culture for the rest of his life, he talks about how to be a better feminist. Even better: he talks to other people about feminism just because. In that way, I learned from him, too. We should all have these conversation just because. We shouldn’t wait until after someone’s transgression to talk to them about respecting women.

After the countless stories about Weinstein terrorizing women, it’s easy to assume it’s too big of a problem to solve. Wrong. We just have to chip away at its roots every opportunity we get. Small conversations with coworkers may seem like pointless battles, but they can make all the difference in the world. If we change those who surround us, we can literally change the future.

* Intention does not excuse someone’s actions and if someone is violating you, you should absolutely take the action you feel comfortable with.