The systemic sexism of the film industry on a large and small scale
As a young woman studying film, I was surprised that when the news of Harvey Weinstein broke, I didn’t educate myself right away. I found myself resigned to the information, and ultimately not that surprised. An industry head using his power and platform to intimidate women? I had heard that before. The man behind the canon of the classics, which often placed women characters at the sidelines, was a sexual predator? It didn’t entirely shock me. Maybe I was tired of hearing another story of a man abusing his power, or maybe I was in denial that the profession I was about to enter let men like Harvey Weinstein get away with assault and harassment for over 30 years.
I went to my film theory course waiting for my professor to veer away from the lecture notes and discuss what was happening in the industry that we were all studying to be a part of. Silence. Realizing that my department was complicit in this culture of silence made me extremely angry.
Outside of the classroom, with other young aspiring female directors, editors, and filmmakers, I discussed the Harvey
Weinstein Scandal. We all felt hopeless, some of us more than others. We watched the rape jokes being made at the academy awards years before the Weinstein news broke, and all came to the harsh realization that Hollywood knew about this long before we did. Realizing that the industry had chosen not to protect its aspiring actresses, journalists and production assistants was extremely disheartening, but it wasn’t a revelation.
Most career fields are not built for women to succeed, and few protect women. And of course, cis white women are protected much more than black, latinx and any other marginalized groups of women. Film wasn’t an industry that wanted us to succeed, but we struggled to find one that did.
In grappling to find a way to combat the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world, we all collectively agreed that this casting couch culture probably would not exist if there were powerful woman in this industry. If the Weinstein company was headed by two sisters, this most likely would not have happened. If there were more women of power in this industry, we would have more dynamic women on screen, and women would feel a lot safer in the industry. But then it dawned on me: A woman would probably never be the founder of the Weinstein Company.
Realizing that the only real solution to sexism and harassment in Hollywood is more women in power in Hollywood, I found myself more discouraged than ever before. As a current film student, I see just how hard it is for women to get acknowledgement at an educational level. Just like in Hollywood, production sets on our college campus are dominated by men, the films we watch in class are predominantly directed by men and there is a constant pressure on women when they produce any work. Even in a setting designed to learn and make mistakes, women feel an immense pressure and embarrassment. In creating the next generation of filmmakers, we are giving men all the power, and doing nothing to make it more likely that there will be more woman in power in film, or that there won’t be another Weinstein figure in this industry in the future.
The news of the Harvey Weinstein scandal affected me because of my identity as an aspiring filmmaker, but also because of my identity as a latinx woman. As a latina women, I wondered if the conversation would have been this massive, if the outrage would have been so widespread, if Harvey Weinstein would have been fired, if it had been young aspiring latinx actresses, if it had been Sofia Vergara’s story instead of Angelina Jolie or Gwyneth Paltrow. I was frustrated that in the Tape Recording of Harvey, facilitated by the NYPD, Harvey admitted to groping the Italian Filipino aspiring model, Ambra Battilana the prior day, and that nothing was done about it. In the back of my mind was the thought that had this been Gwyneth Paltrow, a white celebrity with power, something would have been done, and Weinstein would have been stopped. When so many talk about the Weinstein allegations, they often discuss the “big stars” — Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie — and either fail to include Lupita Nyong’o, another survivor to Weinstein’s abuse, or include her as an afterthought in the discussion.
My race and colonialism professor sent our class an article by Jamilah Lemieux titled, “Weinstein, white tears, and the boundaries of black women’s empathy.” In this article, Lemieux specifically focuses on the struggle for her as a black woman, to stand with the group of white victims when for so long, black women are not even able to be recognized as victims. After I read this article I reflected on my initial reaction to the Harvey Weinstein stories being not that surprised, and imagined the reaction of black women all over the country. We need to be careful that when talking about Harvey Weinstein we assume that we all react to this in the same way, as our different identities affect the way we respond to Weinstein, and stories of sexual assault. We need to demand more from our media and peers to document and broadcast stories of sexual assault when it happens to marginalized groups of women, so that all voices feel valued.
Since Publication, Harvey Weinstein scandal has been briefly adressed in the author’s fiction film theory course.
Tatiana Jorio is a third year Film, Photo, Visual Arts Major who is well on her way to being a boss ass bitch in the film industry. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.