- 01 Nov
#MeToo to #WhatNow?
Millions of women (and men) are joining the chorus of courage and posting their #MeToo. Some have simply left it at that, some have shared their stories, and some have even named names and taken it to the justice system.
That so many people have been sexually harassed or assaulted shocks me to the core and yet my own history makes me shrug. I’m shocked—but not surprised—by the magnitude of our rape culture.
In most business cultures, companies give mandatory sexual harassment training to their employees at all levels—entry level through leadership. Some of the major film studios provide human resources along with safety trainings yet, overall, the entertainment industry has very loose behavior parameters. Reports of sexual harassment are often dismissed, if not buried, by their mostly male leadership. Also, most independent professionals—actors, directors, producers, and crew—don’t have to attend any kind of harassment training. Our unions ask us to pledge ethical behavior but there’s no governing body overseeing whether we do or not.
For many people, the stories we’re hearing are like old news. I don’t know one woman who hasn’t felt the pain of some kind of sexual harassment or assault. The tangible reality of this dark stain on humanity is no stranger to us. Sexual assault has been happening among us, without consequence, since the beginning of time.
So, why has this subject suddenly gone viral?
Firstly, it seems to have taken A-list celebrity voices to make this a subject worthy of serious consideration. Because Rose, Angelina, and Gwyneth spoke out about Weinstein, a victim’s testimony is suddenly assumed truth rather than lies. I’m incredibly grateful for our colleagues’ courage to speak out—our sisters have set the ball rolling for us—and at the same time I can’t help wondering how many other predators would be in jail if it didn’t require celebrity for their victims to be heard. But moving forward, if it takes celebrity to get this subject out of the shadows, then I’m all for it.
The second reason the Weinstein case has started this cascade of publicly declared reports is that we’ve reached a tipping point. We’re at a critical place in evolution where enough of this has come forth that the law of nature takes over and a new and irreversible development occurs. The same process happens when a caterpillar finally turns into a butterfly.
This may be the silver lining to all this sordid stuff.
We are part of a shift, and that means we get to carve out something new together.
My question is what? WhatNow?
I have some simple thoughts about it, which I share below, but I know they’re just a small part of a very big shift. Please feel free to share your ideas so I can pass them on to my readership.
Walk the talk.
I vote that we all become more educated about the behavioral and ethical boundaries that keep those around us safe.
“Sexual harassment” can be defined as involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks. If you’re not sure what that literally encompasses, consider taking an independent training course like this one.
“Sexual assault” can be defined as a form of sexual violence, and it includes rape (forced penetration), groping, child sexual abuse, or the torture of the person in a sexual manner. I would add that it is also exposing genitals and/or pleasuring oneself in front of a person without their consent.
Take a stand.
If you feel uncomfortable about another person’s behavior, speak out in the moment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laughed off inappropriate comments or behaviors, and it was never because it was funny. I was just mortified and embarrassed. I know I’m not alone on that one.
Self-defense training is a great way to get better at speaking out. Once you know you can flatten a man twice your size, saying “hey, that’s not okay” seems like a breeze. From my own personal experience at Shield Self Defense, it’s very empowering.
With good reason, victims are afraid of the shame, criticism, or career-ending consequences of reporting sexual harassment or assault, so we stay silent. Sadly, that is what allows predators to keep going.
Sexual assault must never be ignored or buried again, no matter what, and I believe we are ready, together, to end it. I hope you never have to report anything in the future. Meanwhile, I urge you to communicate with your union about this important topic and ask your representatives what their protocol is for reporting. Here is the Screen Actors Guild discrimination and harassment policy.
If you’ve been feeling triggered or hijacked recently by old trauma, consider working through it with a licensed therapist. There are some good therapists and some not so good ones, so do your due diligence. If you can’t afford it there are free hotlines and low fee therapy clinics in most areas. RAINN is an organization that can provide resources and support.
Your wellness allows you to live a good life despite what may have happened. Your healing is the healing of our crazy world.
See your “competition” as your colleagues. When you and another person are up for the same job, don’t fall into the trap of “me against them”. In order for a community to thrive, we need to stick together. Remember, the majority of women have experienced some kind of sexual harassment, if not assault, and that means the actor across from you waiting to read for the same part is probably one of them.
Let’s beat the bad guys by coming together in compassion and empathy. Read my article about collaboration.
Trust your own process.
People rarely get discovered in Hollywood. It takes hard work, talent, and luck to make a good career in the arts and entertainment. If someone “powerful” suggests that giving them any kind of sex will lead to fame and fortune, they are lying. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Trust your own process, take the steps necessary to be good at what you do and get yourself out there with dignity, self-respect and joy in your heart.
Acknowledge the good ones.
Pay attention to the good people around you and thank those who treat you with respect. There are plenty of good men out there who value others, act with integrity and speak honestly. As the Hawaiian Huna principle says, energy flows where attention goes, which means, what we focus on gets bigger. Let’s reward what we want by giving lots of appreciation and positive attention to the good guys!
Let’s stand together for love, empathy, goodness and most of all right now…. justice.
And yeah, #MeToo.
About the Author
Justina Vail Evans
Justina is a personal development coach, speaker, award-winning author, and award-winning actor.