27 Feb

The “Me Too” movement became trending towards the end of 2017 as a hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. It followed soon after the public revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

The hashtag was first used by Tarana Burke and was popularised by Alyssa Milano when she encouraged women to tweet it to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.
Tarana Burke is an American civil rights activist. She is known for being the first to use the phrase “Me Too”, in 2006, to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society. The phrase has since developed into a trending online hashtag. She is currently Senior Director at Girls for Gender Equity.
Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) is a Brooklyn-based, inter-generational non-profit organisation dedicated to strengthening local communities by creating opportunities for young women and girls to live self-determined lives.

In October 2017, Alyssa Milano encouraged using the phrase to help reveal the extent of problems with sexual harassment and assault by showing how many people have experienced these incidents themselves.
After millions of people started using the hashtag it spread to different countries and translated into different languages.

There has been a lot of attention on USA with the news of many women who have opened up about the sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein and a few other award winning Hollywood producers. Unfortunately sexual harassment does not only happen in the USA but has been very much alive on the film and TV sets in South Africa.
Many years ago, I dated a man who’s business partner saw it fit to touch me inappropriately , any chance he got, when addressing the issue, I was first told, that I was overreacting, then I was told that he was drunk and I should leave it alone, only when I threatened police and legal action was an apology made and the touching stopped.

A few years back I wrote an article on how I had to resign from a TV show as the production house were trying to force me to perform semi-naked and simulate sexual scenes, it was the same set that I witnessed how young actresses were not given the respect of closed sets whilst acting out bedroom or sex scenes, on one particular day a young actress had to walk across set in her skimpy panties without any covering as the production did not see it necessary to respect her and close off the set. When I spoke candidly about my personal ordeal, I received a lot of private messages in my social media inboxes, these messages were from young actresses, who had been treated the exact same way and even named the producer, although I had not put his name in any my articles, unfortunately, they did not believe they had a voice and did not report the incidents. Another concerning matter was when I had a mediation with the producers and the heads of the channel, my agent at the time called me to say that I should not speak too much as I might not be able to work again, I immediately informed her that if that is how people work, then I would rather not work on their sets, I fired her after that.

I began speaking to other actresses and soon discovered that there have been many cases of misconduct and sexual harassment on sets, by prominent actors. In one case, an actress reported it to her agent and producer, the actress who reported it was then told to sign an NDA, which restricted her from going public. The actor (the perpertrator) was fired but for other reasons as according to the producer that did not want to upset the male actors feelings, totally dehumanising the actress and silencing her.

Last week on one of my social media feeds, I came across a worrying post by my fiend Amrain Ismail-Essop. She has given me permission to talk about it and post in on this stream, this is what she posted:

Amrain Ismail-Essop
February 22 at 7:48am ·

This is a hard post to make but I feel deeply that it is necessary. People tend to balk at all the personal posts, ‘how can someone share that’. I am sharing it because I strongly feel that if we don’t, if we keep silencing ourselves, these abuses will continue.
Yesterday I was Sexually harrassed on set. It doesnt matter what I was wearing because that has no bearing on what was done. If I was wearing a burka it still wouldn’t matter. Why? The undelying attitude of the aggressor was one of entitlement, of ownership and of power over me (well his assumed power).
He walked up to me, his eyes locked on my right breast as he approached. His stare never faltering. As he closed in he looked down and filled himself for a good few seconds, without embarrasment and rather a look of right, on my breast. he was so close, he almost touched me. He then casually sauntered off. I watched him watching me, stood firm, the anger building, my fists clenced. Not once did he acknowledge my presence, nor did he make eye contact. All this in plain public view.
I approached him, surrounded by other actors, and told him not to look at my breast.
His answer:
‘I was looking at your bra and could see it wasn’t the right bra for the camera and I check these things.
No look of humiliation on his face, no look of shame, no apology was given. He is a unit magager not a cameraman (so his excuse is baseless), and even if he was a camerman, he would have no need to feast on my flesh. My flesh is MY TEMPLE, MINE.
He didn’t stop there. He then made a comment (aimed at me) that he believed one of us actors were Halaal, in reference tos ome of the product being pork. Once again his arrogance and entitlement made him feel like he had the right to dictate how I should live and be. HE HAS NO RIGHT.
I will mention his colour and his ‘faith’ NOT BECAUSE I wish to stereotype or paint all men of this community with the same brush, as we all know this is all too prevalent across every colour and creed. He calls himself a Muslim ( MUSLIM MEN are not like this, nowhere in the texts does it say you have a right over women. These are the actions of a few misguided and disturbed individuals). He wears the marking, a long thick beard in the fashion of a ‘devout’ man. He wears this marking with pride, it apparently denotes a pious man of Islam. I keep thinking would he feel so emboldened to do this to a white woman?
Muslim men that have this attitude of hypocrisy, YOU DO NOT OWN your Muslim sisters (I do not practice and I have no shame about this, I do identify with my cultural heritage, how can I not). YOU ARE NOT their moral comapss, nor their dictators and judges. STEP BACK INTO YOUR OWN SPACE. THIS SPACE IS MINE! And I an not afraid to put you back into yours.
I once again stood up for myself right there and then. I reported him too. I am not sure what was said and if he will face any repercussions. BUT I WILL NOT BE SILENT.
What further angered me was a response from another male actor to me (of the same age and colour as the first man, but a different religion (he calls himself a Christian and goes to Church regularly), as if to offer solace; ‘ He should have known better, some women are touchy about these things’.
Are you fucking kidding me?! Some women are touchy about these things? I immediately challenge him on that and his pathetic retort; ‘ English is not my frst language, that’s not what I meant’. Yes it is what you fucking meant. OWN YOUR SHIT AND APOLOGISE! Don’t hide behind your ‘morality’ as if it has made you God. I was then compared to this actor’s neighbour who is ‘a difficult woman, always arguing’. Well honey, if you are uncomfortable with the fact that women are empowering themselves and not going to let you get away with your prejudicial, patriachal and plain abusive bullshit anymore, perhaps it’s time you packed up and bought a ticket to Mars. Because we don’t want your kind here anymore.
So why do I mention the colour and religious factor? These men will vehemently fight for their rights and identity, fight for their right to practice religion and for their right to freedom under a previously oppressive state, yet when it comes down to it, these rights are really only for them and not for all. Not for the higher value that we are all equal and the same. They use their identity to pervert and override the rights of others. It’s another tool in an arsenal of abuse. And it does not belong.
It was hard getting through the day after that. I did my professional best but I won’t lie this experience cut deep. As women we face this crap everyday all day long, and are expected to still perform and if we speak up are seen as agressive or victimising ourselves. No sister! I HEAR YOU!
I was so irate that on my way home, I screamed and cried loudly in my car, all the way. I raged at the insanity. This is happening ALL THE TIME. I WONT STAND FOR IT. This is not the first time either. But no longer will I be ‘civil’ about it.
Speak up, for yourselves and for your sisters, mothers, daughters, friends. Speak up. I STAND WITH YOU.

After reading the post, I immediately made contact with her and requested permissions to share with the SA guild of actors, chairman, Jack Devnarain. He responded within hours and shared empathy for her and expressed a tremendous amount of support. Through SAGA we have been working on implementing laws that protect actors, both male and female form these type of incidents, after all it is a human rights violation.
Amrain had made the production house aware of the incident but to date, she has not received an apology or feedback as to how they plan to handle the matter. As a member of the IPO (independent producers organisation), I have attached an official letter stating their stance on issues pertaining to sexual harassment. I wonder of this particular production company are even aware of this.

IPO – Respectful Workplace Policy – signed

So in conclusion to this blog, I urge talent and crew to speak out on any forms of abuse, sexual harassment or misconduct they they expertise whilst world on sets. The world has focused the attention on international predators, its time to smoke out our local ones.
We need to move away from attacking and ridiculing the survivors and rather showing more empathy and support. On her article many have liked it, some have shared and a few have confessed to experiencing it. We need to take more action, being sexually violated is a human rights issue.

If you have been a survivor of sexual harassment or abuse on set whilst working in SA, please speak up and talk about it under the hashtag #METOO.CO.ZA

For assistance with counselling, court preparation or safe housing, contact:

If you are. working actor in South Africa, I urge you to jon http://www.saguildofactors.co.za

If you are a concerned citizen, help us speak out under #METOO.CO.ZA

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