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Harvey Weinstein

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Does it take 60?

How many victims have to come forward before media will believe that a respected and well-known public figure is a predator. In the case of beloved actor and comedian Bill Cosby, the number was 60 women. In the case of producer Harvey Weinstein, it was 65.

But why does it take so many women for the public to believe a woman’s account?  Do people actually think that a woman wants to be in the spotlight for an experience that they likely wish they could forget? This is never the case. The first victim steps up to address sexual harassment or assault. If it wasn’t for women bravely speaking up and calling foul against these well-known figures all women would continue to suffer mistreatment and gender inequality in silence.

A respected specialist in psychology and in the behaviour of sexual predators, Leonie Adamson shared the warning signs of a sexual predator and says “They can wield a lot of control and power.”

They are very attentive and use manipulative language, she says. They build a sense of loyalty in their target that they will use to manipulate them after they form a bond. Often these individuals  groom their co-workers and build a large and supportive social network, who can’t imagine them doing any wrong.

The predator will play the victim when caught and turn the spotlight on the victim, working to discredit him.her and alienate them.

The predator will work to make the victim dependent on them and groom them so the actual victim might be swayed to think that she is at fault, even when the predator is clearly in the wrong.

The predator will also use the bond created earlier to learn about the victim and know how to push buttons and to ridicule her.

But when these victims do finally come forward, why are they shamed and discredited? It’s because the predators have spent years building their public persona. – grooming their co-workers and followers, they turn to social media knowing if they discredit their accuser they win. This makes the plight of the victim all the more difficult which is why so few woman don’t come forward. Predators know all too well the control and power they can flex, and many enjoy the thrill that comes from destroying  the credibility of their victim, and the hero status bestowed by those too foolish to see they are being duped.

Steve Paikin is a public figure and host of The Agenda on TVO, he sought and received the Order of Canada. An investigation was launched by TVO after Sarah Thomson, former mayoral candidate, privately accused him of propositioning her for sex back in 2010. Paikin made the decision to go public with the accusation. But the investigation was curtailed from the start when Mr. Paikin and TVO refused to give confidentiality to witnesses who had information on other instances of misconduct.

Evidence brought forth by Thomson was rejected and without confidentiality witnesses refused to give testimony. The investigation came up inconclusive because the offer of confidentiality was never given to the witnesses-and once again the shame and defame strategy so often used by sexual predators succeeded in burying the truth.

But time has shown that the truth always rises to the surface. There will always be people who believe everything they read in the media, but it is refreshing to watch people who bother to “READ THE FINE PRINT”  reach out with support to Ms. Thomson. Maybe the world is changing.

Is it ‘TIME’S UP’ for the 2017 feminist movement?

Women in the entertainment industry — including actresses America Ferrera and Eva Longoria; lawyer Nina L. Shaw; actress Reese Witherspoon; producer Shonda Rhimes; and lawyer Tina Tchen, to name a few — have come together to form an initiative that will fight systemic sexual harassment in Hollywood and in blue-collar workplaces.

You may be thinking: sure, a whole bunch of famous people have come together to do some fundraising, big deal?! This happens a few times a year. But, in reality, the initiative TIME’S UP is much more than a pet project spearhead by a select number of privileged people. Instead of focusing on the sensationalist media coverage of the #MeToo movement, the initiative provides real support for victims and calls for new legislation that will penalize companies that tolerate sexual harassment.

As the initiative’s website says, “TIME’S UP is a unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live.”

After the social campaigns and the marches — this call for political and legal change is the next logical step. Ironically, it was a group of victims rather than those elected to lead our nations who stood up to call for this change.

TIME’S UP will provide a legal defence fund, based on $13 million in donations, to help less privileged men and women protect themselves from the fallout of reporting sexual misconduct. The fund will be administered by the National Women’s Law Centre, which has a network of lawyer and public relations professionals available to provide assistance.

The initiative is also calling for an increase of women (including members of the LGBTQ community and people of colour) in positions of power across all industries, as well as equal representation, benefits, and pay. Perhaps North America can follow Iceland, who made equal pay mandatory on Jan. 1. Every single company in Iceland now has to obtain a certification saying that men and women are being paid equally in similar positions.

Can you imagine every company in North America needing to obtain proof of pay equality? It’s the stuff of dreams.

TIME’S UP was formed after 700,000 female farmworkers sent messages and letters to celebrities throughout the entertainment industry following the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo social media campaign. “Even though we work in very different environments, we share a common experience of being preyed upon by individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist and otherwise threaten our economic, physical and emotional security,” they wrote. “In these moments of despair, and as you cope with scrutiny and criticism because you have bravely chosen to speak out against the harrowing acts that were committed against you, please know that you’re not alone. We believe and stand with you.”

The TIME’S UP website leads with a letter written to show support for those farmworkers, in which over 300 people within the entertainment industry acknowledge their suffering and stand with them to try and help change the system.

The initiative is volunteer-led and doesn’t have a leadership team. It is comprised instead of smaller working groups, each one tackling a certain area. For example, one group is creating a framework to end sexual harassment in show business while another is reviewing legislation that will tackle abuse within businesses, including the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims.

About half of men think women are well-represented in leadership, despite the numbers that show otherwise. When the #MeToo campaign started to trend, most men couldn’t fathom how many women had been sexually assaulted.

2017 may have been labelled as the year for feminism and women’s rights, but nothing actually changed. Perhaps more people are aware of the situation than before, but there was no legislation promised by politicians and no guarantees made by industry management.

There is still a lot that needs to change in order to ensure gender equality — and our time is not up!

 Featured Image by Vini.

Time Magazine names ‘Silence Breakers’ as people of the year

In what is a serious slap in the face for U.S. President Donald Trump, Time Magazine named the women who started the #MeToo movement as Person (or People) of the Year for 2017.

These “silence breakers”, as they have been called, have influenced a global movement that has inspired women to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Men in prominent positions within the entertainment industry have lost contracts and are being investigated by police. Women are finally being heard. They are recounting their stories without fear or repercussion or consequence. Tens of thousands of people have used the #MeToo hashtag since American actress Alyssa Milano put a call out to her followers to show how widespread sexual harassment really is.

One in four women in North America will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime, and of every 100 assaults, only six are reported to the police. These statistics are even more grave when you consider that most people don’t share their #MeToo stories.

That’s why Time Magazine’s decision to showcase the silence breakers — “the voices that launched a movement — is so revolutionary.

The women being honoured include Ashley Judd, who went on the record with the New York Times detailing an incident with Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Isabel Pascual (pseudonym), a strawberry picker from Mexico, Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, and Adama Iwu, a corporate lobbyist, among many others like Alyssa Milano, Tarana Burke, Selma Blair. Juana Melara, and Taylor Swift.

Time Magazine editor in chief, Edward Felsenthal, told NBC’s Today show that “this is the fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades. It began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women – and some men, too – who came forward to tell their own stories”.

The feature mixes the stories of those in the entertainment industry — the stories that are so prominently displayed in the news and on social media throughout 2017 — with the every day experiences of “regular” people, who may not get the spotlight as often. Housekeepers, fruit pickers, hospitality workers, journalists, and activists all told their stories.

It was rumoured that U.S. President Donald Trump would be named Person of the Year for 2017, just like last year, but that Time Magazine required a confirmed exclusive interview first. He tweeted that he would not promise an interview for an honour that was not guaranteed.

In the feature, Time Magazine does mention the United States President, but alludes instead to his Access Hollywood tape that shows Trump bragging about how he could just walk up to women and kiss them and “grab em by the pussy.”

Thousands of women took the streets during a Women’s March, held after Trump’s inauguration.

“The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover—Ashley Judd, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, Taylor Swift and Isabel Pascual—along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s.,” Felsenthal said in a statement about the choice. “We are in the middle of the beginning of this upheaval. There is so much that we still don’t know about its ultimate impact. How far-reaching will it be? How deep into the country? How far down the organizational chart? Will there be a backlash?”

Things are shaking up — finally, the voices of women are being heard. No longer is it simply assumed the woman “deserved it” or was “asking for it”. The global conversation, and the attention of the press is ensuring this movement stays alive. #MeToo will continue until women are no longer afraid to go to work or walk down a street alone.

It is a future many of us can only dream about.

What do you think of this year’s Person of the Year? Let us know in the comments below!

Time Magazine cover for Person of the Year 2017

Tens of thousands of women share #MeToo stories of sexual harassment

I don’t really have a #MeToo, but I stand with those who do.

I’m extremely fortunate (so far) and I know that. I have my own experiences with sexism — I’ve been treated differently by employers, mocked during interviews, and called a bitch by random strangers on public transit — but my stories are tame compared to those being shared on Twitter right now. And for them, as well as my friends and colleagues who have experienced sexual harassment and assault, my heart breaks.

Following the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, women started to share their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault. The latest forum is Twitter, using the hashtag #MeToo.

This particular movement started with American actress Alyssa Milano, who asked her followers to reply with the words “me too” to show how widespread sexual harassment really is.

Tens of thousands of people replied to the battle cry, and that number is increasing with every minute. Some people simply used the hashtag, while others provide context describing their situations. The responses have been from people of all genders, sexual orientation, professions, and economic demographics.

On Oct. 13, women boycotted Twitter in support of actress Rose McGowan, who was blocked by the social media agency for her criticism of Weinstein and those who are supporting him. Now, it seems like women have reclaimed this platform, using it to voice their opinions and show exactly how prominent sexual harassment is in the twenty first century.

The number of people using this hashtag should shock us, but it doesn’t. One in four women in North America will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime, and of every 100 assaults, only six are reported to the police. These statistics are even more grave when you consider that most people don’t share their #MeToo stories.

The are many reasons for not doing, and no one should be chastised for choosing to remain silent. It could be the victim was told to be ashamed of their experiences. It could also be that they were made to believe the attack was their own fault, or that alcohol or their wardrobe was to blame. It could also be that they are not yet ready to talk about their traumatic experience, which is okay. As many people on Twitter pointed out, just because you don’t talk publicly about your experience or use the hashtag, doesn’t make your story any less real.

I am a bit worried that this campaign will fall on deaf ears. These are real women who were brave enough to share their stories with the world in hopes of inspiring change. But, who will listen? In the United States, the White House is in the midst of making abortion illegal and removing birth control from insurance packages. While Canadian government officials pride themselves on providing free abortion pills, the debate surrounding safe spaces has become much too political. Every day a new challenge presents itself. Women who do accuse their attacker are often shamed in courtrooms or treated as liars. What happens when the Weinstein story dies down? Will these women be ignored once again?

Every few minutes someone experiences a #MeToo. It could be a family member, a friend, or a coworker. It could even be you. It’s incredibly important to stand with the courageous women and men speaking up today and realize the struggle to end sexual violence is an uphill battle. It will take decades.

What will you do tomorrow to help?

Weinstein allegations desserve more than an apology

It’s funny how no one talks about sexism or harassment within an industry until a bigwig gets caught with his pants down. It’s funny how a woman can tell her coworkers, bosses, and friends about an uncomfortable and dangerous situation and be pushed out the door. It’s hilarious how sexual harassment and “locker room” banter has been normalized over the years.

In case you missed my sarcasm – no, it’s not funny at all. It’s sickening. When news of film producer and director Harvey Weinstein came out, I couldn’t help but think back to Jian Ghomeshi case in Toronto. The press went crazy and people expressed their disgusted, but as soon as a trial started the women making the accusations were shamed and Ghomeshi disappeared. No one got justice.

The latest allegations against Weinstein have done more than tarnish the reputation of the accused. They have opened up a larger debate about the treatment of women in Hollywood. The number of women who have now come out and made accusations of rape and sexual assault against Weinstein increases every day. And he has hardly denied it. In fact, he has fled the country to “seek treatment”’. While police have opened a formal investigation, there is not much hope these women will get their day in court.

While the world waits to find out if the Hollywood mogul will ever be charged, there are a number of debates that have circulated the press and the Internet. Women’s Post discusses three of them:

Apologies

One of the byproducts of a big scandal like this is that all sorts of actors, producers, and directors are coming out to speak on the subject. Women and men are now talking about their abusive experiences in Hollywood, which is absolutely necessary if the system is to change. However, there are a lot of apologies circulating as well–mostly men apologizing for not taking their female colleagues seriously after they confided in them.

Friday, Colin Firth came out and said he was ashamed he didn’t act on what his co-worker Sophie Dix, one of the women making allegations of sexual assault against Weinstein, told him during the filming of their movie The Hour of the Pig. He told the Guardian she never went into detail regarding the incident, but he could tell there was something wrong and all he did was sympathize. And Firth isn’t alone. Dozens of men have come forward and apologized for being party to this system of abuse.

And then there is Ben Affleck, who admitted to sexually harassing a co-worker (grabbing her ass) and then proceeded to apologize for it. There may have been a good intention somewhere in this claim, but honestly it seemed like a slight defense of Weinstein and the whole sexist Hollywood mentality. Sure, I guess it’s a good thing Affleck recognized he was in the wrong, but does it take a big Hollywood scandal for men to acknowledge their role in perpetuating the sexualization of women? Or even in harming them physically, emotionally, or psychologically? And how much do you want to bet there will be no repercussions for the men who come out now and say sorry?

Fathers of Daughters and Husbands to Wives

A lot has been written about the use of this phrase by men speaking against sexual abuse. Actor Matt Damon was quoted recently used this phrase in relation to the Weinstein allegations.“‘As the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night,” he said. And it caused a big uproar on the Internet. To be fair to Damon, he isn’t the only one to use the phrase “as a father to a daughter’” or “”as a husband” and the rest of his interview showed deep sincerity in his disgust. 

But, let’s get back to the phrase itself. “As a father of daughters”. Let me get this straight. Before, it was okay to grab a woman’s ass, but now that you have a daughter and you don’t want some guy sticking his hand (or anything else) down her pants, all of a sudden it’s not okay to sexually harass a woman. It’s like these men suddenly have skin in the game – they can’t picture their little girls being harmed like their co-workers, colleagues, and friends were.

Men often use these phrases without thinking. I’m pretty sure most don’t mean they were disrespectful before they had their offspring. But, just in case, listen up guys. Here is what you need to know about the phrase “fathers of daughters” or “as a husband.”

You should be respectful to all women, regardless of whether or not they have something to do with your penis. Teach both your sons and daughters to respect each other, and treat all of the women you meet the same way. It doesn’t matter if you are married or have children. Be a good human being and recognize when someone (of any gender) is being mistreated — and then say something.

And just stop using the damn phrase!

A broken system

There is a very real possibility that Weinstein’s abuse of women was an openly known secret in Hollywood. There are a lot of people who had to know this was happening. And yet, it took the strength of a few select women and a group of reporters at the New York Times to actually get people to listen and open their eyes. 

While these public revelations have disturbed most of us, there is a slight glimmer of hope. Women and men who have been sexually assaulted are speaking out. Regardless of whether or not Weinstein is charged, the system will have to change, if only because less people are going to accept it now. 

And it’s not just Hollywood. Social media users are starting to see that sexism exists within large corporations as well. Following Affleck’s sexual harassment revelations, actress Rose McGowan tweeted about it. Twitter then suspended her account, claiming she included a personal phone number. It has not been confirmed if that is the case. McGowan was one of the women featured in the New York Times expose on Weinstein and has alleged Weinstein rapped her.

Twitter is not getting a kind response from its users. In fact, numerous women have vowed to boycott Twitter on Oct. 13th in support of McGowan.

For most, the irony over what is considered a violation of Twitter’s terms is too much. Most compared McGowan’s use of Twitter to that of United States President Donald Trump, who has used the platform to threaten foreign countries, attack free speech, and personally bully reporters and politicians. Trump has never been suspended.

Many users have also said that Twitter violations are not enforced fairly.

What do you think? Can this system ever change? Will this scandal be enough to help spur it?