For far too long, there has been a conspiracy of silence about the issue of sexual and emotional abuse. Now, that has to change... By Roe McDermott.
As a film critic and a feminist, I’ve felt pressure to write and talk about the Harvey Weinstein case – the seemingly unending, still unfurling accounts of his systematic sexual harassment and abuse of women.
Many of those offering these opportunities have asked me to explore the phenomenon of sexual harassment in the workplace, and how Irish women can protect themselves in their professional lives. I’ve been involved in conversations where the message has been to tell women to look for support from employers, HR departments and employment tribunals.
The problem is, the Harvey Weinstein affair isn’t about sexual harassment in the work place. This is about misogyny, period. To limit our conversations to sexual harassment in the workplace, is to ignore the larger culture that enables and emboldens sexual abusers in every area of life – the workplace only being one facet of that.
Limiting our discussion of sexual harassment to the confines of the workplace also means that, legally and culturally, women aren’t offered support when they are sexually harassed within a very particular workplace setting.
This gap in our understanding of how to deal with sexual harassment is clear in the case of Harvey Weinstein. The women he harassed, abused and raped were not his employees; they were women in the same industry, and he was a powerful gatekeeper to opportunities.
As a successful film producer, Harvey Weinstein’s power lies in opening up opportunities for actresses. The women who managed to dodge his advances were denied these opportunities: Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette, Sophie Dix, Mira Sorvino, Heather Graham and Ambra Battilana Gutierrez have all spoken about how their careers were negatively impacted after refusing to have sex with Harvey Weinstein, and how he even launched public smear campaigns about some of them to further hinder their career prospects.
But if our understanding of sexual harassment is confined to relationships between employers and employees, or co-employees, addressing sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein, who withhold opportunities for advancement from those who refuse to co-operate, becomes all the more difficult, as the pathways of employment are less clear.
What the Weinstein case reveals is how vulnerable many people are to sexual harassment, and how our idea of being sexually harassed by fellow professionals needs to change. In a time when a huge amount of people’s employment comes from freelancing, start-ups, self-employment and small companies without HR departments, it’s naïve and downright negligent to believe that the so-called “proper channels” cited as handling sexual harassment cases are available to all.
AWFUL AND OUTRAGEOUS
As a journalist who has to freelance to make a living, I have experienced sexual and gendered harassment while working, that has impacted on the atmosphere of my working environment, and my professional opportunities and income.
One example of explicit sexual harassment was when I was about to interview an actor, and the director of the movie he was starring in shouted across a room of PR people and other journalists, “Roe’s a good one, be gentle with her – only use one or two fingers!”
Ideally in that situation, I would have been able to call out the two men involved and leave. However, none of the PR representatives nor journalists present said anything, so my immediate response was to feel that I would be on my own if I spoke up. Maybe no one knew what to do or say. Perhaps one brave person would have sided with me if I had.
On the other hand, complaining could have resulted in me getting left out of further interview opportunities, and thus income, and for what? There was never going to be any legal or even personal recourse against those men. The people in that room who remained silent had already suggested as much. Besides, I also had a deadline to meet and a pay-cheque dependent on me going through with the interview – a pay-cheque I badly needed – and so I carried on. That’s what people tend to do, enabling bullies to keep doing it.
But harassment and complicity can often be more insidious, and all the more pervasive and impactful for it. I was in a relationship which involved constant emotional abuse, physical threats, and unrelenting harassment. When the relationship finally imploded, I left the country, fearing his backlash, and trying to mentally process the abuse that had left me suicidal and suffering constant panic-attacks.
Upon my return, I had a very strong feeling that I was being personally and professionally ostracised. The man who abused me had convinced not only friends, but also friends who were professional contacts, that I was a liar, a drama queen, a “psycho.” My main writing gig with Hot Press was never affected and my editors in the magazine were supportive when I told them about having to change my phone number to quell his constant phone calls. But my other positions as a regular contributor on several shows across different platforms simply disappeared, because a man was able to use his social and professional capital to shut me down, to protect himself. As much as half of my income was gone, as well as many of my professional contacts, and even some of the friends in whom I had confided.
Even now, in my work life, years later, I still frequently enter rooms where other media professionals ignore me because I committed the apparently punishment-worthy crime of being abused by a man.
I don’t think they’ll ever understand how terrified I am of them. How I was made to feel like I deserved what had happened to me, like I was being punished by an entire industry. How the loss of income hugely affected my life. This month, as I prepared to move back home, after living in San Francisco, I cried myself to sleep several nights, scared and already emotionally exhausted by the thought that I might be seeing them all again, these people who – knowingly or otherwise – made my professional life a constant source of anxiety.
Needless to say, many of them are now tweeting, writing and talking about how awful and outrageous this Harvey Weinstein situation is...
HIGH PROFILE CASES
The Harvey Weinstein scandal isn’t about sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s about misogyny and complicity, writ large. It’s about society’s default disbelief of women, and our silence regarding abuse, harassment and sexism. It’s about society’s unfaltering protection of abusive men.
It’s about the fact that Harvey Weinstein didn’t stop because women said no, he didn’t stop because industry types found out, and he wasn’t punished because his friends, peers and co-workers found out. He only stopped because we found out. He only stopped because it was made public. Because his private and professional sphere did nothing – or nothing effective at any rate – to stop him.
It’s about his assistants who sent women up to his hotel room when they knew what was about to happen. His colleagues who silenced women like Rose McGowan when he told them he had raped her. His actor friends like Ben Affleck, who claim they “told him to stop doing that” – but continued to work with him, to publicly support him, to enable him, to empower him. The studio reps and executives who withheld job opportunities from actresses like Rosanna Arquette, Heather Graham and Mira Sorvino, when Harvey told them to, because they refused to sleep with him.
It’s about Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Donald Trump, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Casey Affleck; men who sexually harass and abuse women, and who remain protected, employed, powerful while their victims are silenced and ostracised.
This support isn’t just cultural; it’s economic. Fox News paid $13 million to silence O'Reilly's many accusers, and a paid out $50 million in one single year to protect the late Roger Ailes. So far, we are aware of Weinstein’s companies making payouts to at least eight women who said Weinstein sexually harassed them. Allow me to stress: while women are socially, culturally and professionally destroyed, companies literally pay millions to protect abusive men, letting them know that their abusive behaviour will be supported in every possible way.
But these high-profile cases are only the ones we hear about. We don’t hear about the sexual harassment that women in middle-to-low income jobs face on a daily basis, about how the anxiety, intimidation and wage loss effects them. We don’t hear about women who don’t have the professional support systems to take cases to HR departments, or go to the courts.
We don’t hear about the women so exhausted and defeated by abuse that they just keep their heads down during their work day, praying before they enter a room that they don’t have to face their abuser and all those who supported him.
SEXUALLY EXPLICIT COMMENTS
Sexual harassment isn’t about the workplace. It’s about misogyny and abuse, and our seemingly never-ending tolerance for it. It’s about the fact that many people will tweet and write and tut about Harvey Weinstein, but will stand by and watch abuse when it happens right in front of them.
I’m glad we’re talking about Harvey Weinstein. I’m glad his victims are finally being believed, that they may finally feel supported and believe that they did nothing wrong – they never did.
But I wonder. I wonder after all the news stories have stopped, after the hashtags have moved on, after the conversation has changed, when we’re back to talking about Donald Trump, who was still elected President after boasting that he can “grab women by the pussy.”
I wonder if people will actually step in, the next time they see someone powerful making sexually explicit comments to someone else. I wonder if, when they hear that a man is “creepy”, they’ll follow up to see what exactly that means, and who he could be hurting. I wonder if someone powerful tries to rescind jobs and opportunities from others, someone will ask why. I wonder if a woman says she was abused, people will believe her.
I wish I could hope. But right now, it’s still hard to enter rooms with my head up.
Promising exploration of race undone by dodgy screenplay.Read More
Cops and robbers heist flick collapses under the weight of its cliches testosterone.Read More
Oscar-nominated director Sebastian Leilo talks about casting a trans person in his new movie, A Fantastic Woman, and what he learned about combating prejudice from growing up in Pinochet’s ChileRead More
Shubhangi Karmakar’s designs have attracted attention for their supreme stylishness – while also drumming up support for Repeal The Eighth.Read More
With Daniel Day-Lewis currently lighting up screens once again in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar-nominated Phantom Thread, Roe McDermott looks at five of his greatest performances.Read More
Daniel Day-Lewis' final performance is an unnerving triumph.Read More
Don’t settle in for that new episode of Fair City just yet! Roe McDermott’s guide to the year in cinema has all manner of screen delights to keep you entertained for the next 12 months.Read More
Acclaimed English director Saul Dibb discusses his stunning World War 1 movie Journey’s End, and – having previously worked with the disgraced producer – also talks about the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal.Read More
Exploration of Dia De Muertos becomes a kaleidoscopic adventure.Read More
Streep captivates in stuff-but-powerful tale of journalism's battle with the US government.Read More
Liam Neeson's train thriller gets derailed.Read More
Frances McDormand is ferocious in Martin McDonagh's compelling but flawed film.Read More
It's a four star show, for sure – but the award-scooping Martin McDonagh movie poses interesting political questions. Meanwhile, the magnificent Frances McDormand is superb throughout…Read More
John Oliver, comedian and host of Last Week Tonight, has spoken out about his now infamous confrontation with Dustin Hoffman.Read More
Lorde has tweeted that she is considering cancelling a planned concert in Israel after facing intense pressure from fans.Read More
Dave Franco discusses his role in new biopic The Disaster Artist, which chronicles the eccentric Tommy Wisseau’s creation of The Room – widely described as one of the worst films ever made.Read More
Latest Star Wars instalment stalls, despite spectacular visuals.Read More
Some have argued that in the wake of various recent international sexual harassment scandals, flirting is in danger of being done away with. Not so, says our columnist.Read More
It’s nominative determinism a-go-go this fortnight, as brilliantly talented designer Ciara Silke discusses her uniquely stylish silk scarves.Read More
Ezra Miller, one of the stars of DC's Justice League talks about the challenges of portraying iconic superhero The Flash.Read More
Roe McDermott pays tribute to the late Irish writer-director, whose courage, resilience and creativity were an enormous inspiration to many.Read More
Powerful documentary highlights the impact of xenophobia and hatred.Read More
Sentimental sheen deflates power of disability activist biopic.Read More
Classic whodunnit remake lacks suspense.Read More
A fairly uncritical documentary that will please McGregor's biggest fan - himself.Read More
THEATRE ADAPTATION PONDERS MORTALITY, MEMORY AND TECHNOLOGYRead More
With the latest DC comic adaptation Justice League due to land on November 17th, Roe McDermott caught up with Ezra Miller to talk about playing The Flash and the training that went into his preparation for the role.Read More
The Irish brand Theo + George is relaunching this season.Read More
Irish actors steal the show in this darkly funny tragi-horror.Read More
Irish star Cillian Murphy’s latest movie, The Party, is a fascinating exploration of the current state of British politics.Read More
Sophie Fiennes’ new documentary about Grace Jones, Bloodlight And Bami, offers a brilliant insight into the fascinating life and career of a cultural icon.Read More
As the fallout continues from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, thoughts turn to how the harrassment of women in the film industry can be prevented in future.Read More
Vince Vaughan is superb in this slow-burning grindhouse flick.Read More
Pitch black humour brings the laughs in Soviet-era satire.Read More
The latest installment in Thor franchise proves amusing, but forgettable.Read More
A documentary about iconic singer, which offers frustratingly little context.Read More
In a rare media appearance, Cork-born actor Cillian Murphy - The Wind That Shakes The Barley, The Dark Knight trilogy - sat down with Roe McDermott to discuss British politics, fatherhood and his darkly humorous new project, The Party.Read More
With checks and plaids back in favour this autumn, Roe McDermott gives the lowdown on this exciting new trend.Read More
Designer Melissa Curry's superb new jewellery collection, Success, has bee embraced by everyone from Saoirse Ronan to Arianna Huffington.Read More
Woody Harrelson oozes charisma as a dysfunctional dad in this too-tidy adaptation of Jeannette Walls' 2005 memoir.Read More
Kate Winslet and Idris Elba charm their way through boring romance flick.Read More
Visually jaw-dropping and philosophically complex sci-fi sequel simply astounds.Read More
Faltering supernatural thriller has shining moments of psychological horror.Read More
A powerful documentary about Irish filmmaker, Simon FitzMaurice's struggle with Motor Neurone Disease.Read More
Witting drawing room drama acts as sharp social satire.Read More
Daughter of Nancy Meyers plays it too safe in directorial debut.Read More
Sharply observed character study captures a generation's emotional isolation.Read More
Sadistic frontier thriller is cleverly devised by excessively bleak.Read More
Bright and funny instalment maintains, not elevates, the excellent Lego film franchise.Read More
Having re-emerged on the catwalks of New York and Milan, one particular colour is back with a vengeance this autumn. By Roe McDermottRead More
Colin Horgan’s hugely imaginative, neon-bright designs have found favour with stars such as Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga.Read More
Jairus McLeary’s new documentary, The Work, is a powerful exploration of a therapeutic programme that’s changing the lives of US prisoners.Read More
Speculation is rife about the identity of the screenwriter behind Steven Soderbergh’s new heist flick, but there is a long history of pseudonyms in Hollywood.Read More
Raw and intimate doc about therapy in prison explores effects of toxic masculinity.Read More
Gritty but high-energy underdog tale about rap launches a new star.Read More
Cult director astounds with apocalyptic fever-dream.Read More
Inspired by The X Files, Caoimhe MacNeice's latest collection has been worn by screen icons like Juliette Lewis.Read More
Attention students! A few simple revisions of your existing wardrobe will get you As in fashion all year.Read More
Icy and insightful crime thriller explores the struggles of indigenous Americans.Read More
Warm film about mental health and friendship proves thought-provoking.Read More
We know the staple youth movies – but students have turned to a new wave of cult classics in recent years.Read More
Fascinating but flawed thriller about the effects of sexual abuse.Read More
Margaret O’Connor’s stunning hat designs have attracted the attention of a wide range of celebrities, from Lady Gaga to Finbar Furey.Read More
Film about police brutality in 1967 feels exploitative instead of insightful.Read More
For all of the action blockbusters spearhearded by women this summer, actresses in the genre are still struggling to have their work appropriately recognised.Read More
Witty exploration of the artistic process evokes the absurd profundity of Beckett.Read More
Underwhelming effort from legendary director.Read More
Poetic exploration of love, life and existence.Read More
Irish director makes awe-inspiring documentary about space and humanity.Read More
Edgar Wright's crime caper is all car chases and cool tunes, little else.Read More
Oscar-nominated film uncovers shameful piece of WWII history.Read More
Natalie King's stylish and innovative designs have marked her out as one of Ireland's most talented young designers.Read More
For men, it’s all about staying low-key this season, as neutral tones come roaring into fashion – in a tastefully understated way, of course. By Roe McDermottRead More
Funny and touching film addresses culture clashes, family dynamics and romance.Read More
Superhero flick fails to swing into action.Read More
Irish star Cillian Murphy discusses his excitement about once again working with celebrated director Christopher Nolan, the man behind Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy. Their latest film, Dunkirk, is a powerful account of allied soldiers’ evacuation from France during World War 2.Read More
In the contemporary political climate, many writers and filmmakers have found their work taking on new meaning and relevancy.Read More
Excessive violence proves numbing in lacklustre Irish film about faith.Read More
Clever, claustrophobic premise elevates mediocre shark thriller.Read More
Having moved to Ireland after spending her childhood in Tbilisi, Georgia, Nino Sanaia became fascinated with fashion and is now one of the country's most promising young designers.Read More
There's no doubt which colour is dominating fashion this summer, with yellow all the rage on the catwalks. By Roe McDermottRead More
Powerful Irish indie tackles love, abortion and growing up.Read More
New Irish film Sanctuary is groundbreaking in its portrayal of intellectual disabilities – and has had a very real effect on Irish law.Read More
Remake of lurid Civil War flick needs less manners, more fangs.Read More
Conflict of interest results in incomplete portrait of Julian Assange.Read More
Comedy superstar Will Ferrell discusses his latest movie The House, reflects on his time withSaturday Night Live and explains why he'd like to take on some more serious roles.Read More
Promising comedy proves frustratingly uneven.Read More
Irish comedy about a Muslim abattoir is well-intentioned but not fully convincing.Read More
The internet and the LGBTQ community are not too pleased with actor Andrew Garfield after he said that he’s “a gay man right now just without the physical act.”Read More
Jay-Z’s recently released album 4:44 has been dominating the headlines, mainly for its personal revelations regarding the rapper’s relationship with Beyonce. However, the album has also stirred up controversy regarding its use of stereotypes, and has been accused of being anti-Semitic.Read More
Kesha dropped her new song, ‘Praying’, yesterday, and also announced that a new album titled Rainbow is on the way. Kesha has been embroiled in a hideous and oppressive legal battle with her former producer/collaborator Dr.Luke, in which she accused him of sexual assault among other charges. While Kesha managed to release some music and did a small tour last year, the lawsuit largely silenced her for the past three years as she fought for the right to be released from her contractual obligations with Dr.Luke’s label RCA. However, Rainbow will be released under RCA, indicating that she still can’t completely free herself form her former mentor.Read More
These days, Alec Baldwin is most likely to be annoying conservatives and Republicans stir with his unflattering (and accurate) impressions of Donald Trump, but the actor has now come under fire from a leading disability rights group.Read More
Ava DuVernay, director of Selma, The 13th and the upcoming adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, is set to write and direct a mini-series about the Central Park Five for Netflix. The Central Park Five were a group of teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of assaulting and raping investment banker Trisha Meili in 1989. The trial and publicity was an important event in American history due to the maelstrom of racially charged discourse around crime and punishment that emerged in its wake. Donald Trump took out a full-page advertisement in four of the city’s major newspapers advocating for the return of the death penalty, stating he wanted the criminals “to be afraid”.Read More