author: jael bartnik | mutimedia editor
The all too often common joke of the “casting couch” or “benefits” men in power toss around as a disgusting joke has significant consequences.
In recent weeks, there has been much in the news condemning Harvey Weinstein, well known film producer, co-founder of Miramax, and former co-chairmen of the Weinstein Company. Many sexual assault survivors have come forward with horrific stories of the producer’s predatory actions toward them. The details are despicable and concerning to say the very least. This is why I feel as a young film student about to step into a profession that is dominated by cisgender, heterosexual, white men that it is important to look at a story such as this and believe the survivors.
The all too often common joke of the “casting couch” or “benefits” men in power toss around as a disgusting joke has significant consequences. Something that they brush off and normalize as a part of the business can be career-ending, and damaging mentally and physically for women in all parts of the film industry; as if being questioned on your legitimacy based upon your gender identity wasn’t enough. To add insult to injury, there are people who remain silent on this subject or turn their backs on survivors and blaming them for what Weinstein did. How dare anyone in a position of power and influence say such deplorable things?
Anyone who has ever been sexually assaulted never asks for it. It is not something that can be avoided by dressing a certain way, smiling, not smiling, avoiding eye contact, or whatever other garbage misogynistic excuses people try to churn out. I am exhausted by the number of men who commit violent acts such as this, but are then still kept up on a pedestal for being an artist or a champion of the industry. This needs to end now.
Being a part of an industry with so many problematic aspects to it can be draining and frustrating to say the very least. However, it may be incredibly difficult to believe that I can be hopeful for the future. Much like music, literature, theatre, and visual art film can become an avenue those who are under represented. The more I look to my peers and the diverse background we all come from, the more I see that the film industry can be capable of growing into something that is not dominated by the voices of male privilege but can be a way to express frustration and rage. I’m ready to see films that are not centred on another white cis-male protagonist (or directed by another one I might add). Films like these perpetuate stereotypes and negate the voices of others. The power and success of people like Weinstein leads to the damaging cycle of toxic masculinity, and the silencing of voices who speak out against people like him.
For those of us who do come from places of privilege, I issue a challenge not just to you, but to myself, as well. Be more than some one who makes a passive tweet or status. Be someone who elevates those voices. Hold a boom mic, offer to do camera work, be person who talks the talk and walks the walk. Speak out against predators, call out people on sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and be active. As far as I’m concerned there is no more room for a fence-sitting attitude. When it comes to things like this, whether it is in film or in the real world, it is in no way a productive use of your time or mine to remain silent.