Tag Archives: Mzansi Magic

#MeToo: Its time to expose the Harvey Weinsteins of the world.

19 Oct

Since the large number of reports of sexual harassment and assault, actresses in Hollywood have inspired women to speak up about their experiences, using the hashtag #MeToo. Actresses such as Alyssa Milano gave momentum to the campaign that has spread far beyond the entertainment industry.

Alyssa Milano took to Twitter on Sunday with an idea, suggested by a friend, she said.
She urged any women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to write two words on Twitter: “Me too.”
“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

This came days after award winning filmmaker Harvey Weinstein fell into the spotlight as many women have spoken up and brought to the forefront that they had been sexually harassed by him.

According to online artifice on http://www.cnn.com, this is the story behind the Harvey Weinstein: Jason Kravarik and Brian Stelter contributed to this report.

It started with Ashley Judd.
The New York Times story that unearthed the first of what would become more than 40 accusations of sexual harassment, and in some cases assault, against Harvey Weinstein started with an account from Judd. The actress told the story of an encounter that happened more than two decades ago, when she was in the midst of filming 1997’s “Kiss the Girls.”

Judd claimed to the Times that she went to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for a business breakfast meeting with Weinstein but once there, a bathrobe-clad Weinstein asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower. Her account to the Times was confirmed to CNN by her publicist.
Judd went on say: “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”
The Times’ initial piece said a total of eight women made claims of sexual harassment in interviews. They wouldn’t be the last.

After Judd became the first actor to go public with an accusation against Weinstein, she was joined by a chorus of others who believed a dialogue about the alleged harassment they faced by Weinstein was well overdue.

The next wave
The New Yorker’s exposé on Weinstein came just days later and the accusations were even more damning. Weinstein was accused of rape by multiple women.
One of the accusers, actress Asia Argento, confirmed her account to CNN.
“This is our truth,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Weinstein denied the rape allegations in a statement provided to CNN.
“Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” the statement read. “Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”
Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, actress Mira Sorvino, actress and producer Jessica Barth, French actress Emma de Caunes, and former aspiring actress Lucia Evans also gave their accounts in the New Yorker piece.
Gutierrez can be heard in an audio tape that accompanied the article having an exchange with Weinstein in which he admits to groping her.
She wore a wire as part of a New York Police Department sting operation to investigate her allegations. The district attorney determined that he didn’t have enough evidence to charge Weinstein.
On the same day, more big names came forward in a follow-up report from the Times, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Rosanna Arquette — all telling similiar stories of sexual harassment by the movie mogul.
Paltrow said it happened at a meeting that “ended with Mr. Weinstein placing his hands on her and suggesting they head to the bedroom for massages.”
Paltrow said she refused Weinstein’s alleged advances, immediately left, and told then boyfriend, actor Brad Pitt, about the incident. He later confronted the producer in a “heated” exchange, a source confirmed to CNN.
French actress Judith Godrèche, once aspiring actress Katherine Kendall and costume designer Dawn Dunning, then an aspiring actress, also accused Weinstein of wrongdoing.
Still, they would not be the last.
To date, the accusations total more than 40 and span from 1980 to March 2015.
Judd will be honoured by the Women’s Media Centre later this month for kicking off a domino effect that collapsed decades of silence.
In a release, Gloria Steinem, co-founder of the Women’s Media Center, said the organization chose to honor Judd, a longtime humanitarian and political activist, for leading “global truth-telling in the most powerful way — by example.”

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In South Africa:
The sad truth is that sexual harassment on set, at the workplace or any place for that matter is serious global issue. There are similar if not worse incidents that have happened within the South African TV and theatre community. Many years ago there were allegations that a well know theatre practitioner used to throw chairs at his his students and cast members, there were also allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. When asked why did the cast member never fight back or leave, the response was always the same: What could they do, he is a ‘respected’ man in the community and plus they needed the work. A few years later he was cast in a local TV series and was accused by a few cast members for sexual harassment. Three of these ladies, who wish to remain anonymous have alleged that they were sexually harassed by this man. They went to the producer of the show and were made to sign non-disclose agreements. They were guaranteed that he was going to be dismissed but for other reasons. Neither of the three ladies received an apology and since they signed the non-disclosure agreements they were barred from pressing charges or talking about the incidents publicly.

One of the very disturbing factors surrounding the Harvey Weinstein’s and other sexual predators is that in many cases it is not just men who help in covering up the incidents but many times women stand in honour of the abusers, sometimes trying to convince the survivor that speaking out will do more harm. In 2015 when I complained about a production house not following protocol with adhering to the rights of women on set, my then agent told me that complaining would cause future trouble for me and the production houses will probably not want to work with me again. My response was that if that is how they operate the I would rather not work under those circumstances. The problem with such remarks is that if I was younger and just entering into the industry I would have kept quiet and allowed to be disrespected whilst working and then regretting my actions later on in my career.

What are the possible solutions?

There are many people who are working at changing these conditions on our local sets but we need to also call out those who are part of the cover up operations. The South African Guild of actors, http://www.saguildofactors.co.za have put in a tremendous amount of work with regard to changing legislation thus supporting the plight for women to receive dignity on sets.
With the rise of agencies and manager within the industry, I urge young actors (male and female) to know what your rights are. The general rule in life is that if something does not feel right with you, whether its entering into a dangerous place, signing a contract, meeting people, if you have a negative feeling about it, you have every right to act upon your feelings. If it goes against your feelings and out of your ethical zone at that point in time, you have every right to say no. No means no at any point in your life.

Know your rights.
When I entered the industry, over two decades ago, we did not have social media or platforms to discuss our concerns. Instead we sat in our change rooms with a few trusted actresses discussing what had been happening to us. Collectively we stood and refused to succumb to many of the sexual advances made by producers, directors and older men who were supposed to be there to guide us. This of course confused and infuriated these men but after some time, they left us alone and continued with the actresses that felt that they could not say no or perhaps the monetary compensation was sufficient for them. Granted we were never afforded the extra luxuries at that time but the rewards for that was that years after we did but through our own hard work and expense account, the rewards were much more higher and dignified. So in this era, these concerns can be put online and the information spread within seconds. If you are on set and being sexually harassed or forced to perform actions that you are not comfortable with or have not agreed to in your contract, step down. Request a meeting with your representation and the production company. Every South African contract should have a nudity clause in it. That is why it is essential to read your contracts thoroughly and if possible contact a lawyer who specialises in contractual agreements. The money will be worth it. I have attached a referral at the end of this blog. If the production company violate or contradict any clause within the contract, then you know you have a legal standing.
If you feel that correct procedures have still not been followed, then notify the head of the channel, if you still feel the same then take it to social media. Before you take it to social media, be sure to know all the facts and be sure to write down both sides of the story. There is no point in posting whilst upset or angry and the wrong sentiments will be sent out. Remember, once its online, it is there forever. Be strategic in your what you say and ensure the facts are all there.

If you are witnessing any form of violence on set or in public for that matter, it is sometime best not to intervene as you could get hurt or possibly be killed. Contact the authorities and find a safe place for yourself. Whatever you do, Please do NOT turn a blind eye and walk away. If possible record the incident on your phone, this can stand as evidence in court. You can also download the POWA App an request for help. If the police or the authorities refuse to intervene, go online and ask for help. Once again, ensure that you have all the facts and that you are in a safe place.

A special plea to all the producers, agents, directors out there who want to get show ratings up, perhaps work towards stronger story lines and direction. We will no longer stand for the comments and suggestions that women need to perform their scenes in their underwear as that is the only way to increase ratings. Granted there are genres and films and talent who want to follow that and there is nothing wrong with that but you need to respect that not all talent follow those sentiments and actually believe in the real craft at hand of telling stories through their craft, narrative and suspense factors.
To the management who cover up sexual harassment and sexism on set, the laws are changing in our favour, now it is not just the activists who are raising their voices but vigilant crew members and talent.

For actors living and working in South Africa, I urge you to join http://www.saguildofactors.co.za.

If you need legal assistance with contracts, I strongly recommend that you contact:
Founding director at Vusi Ndlovu Incorporated
Contact details
vndlovu@vusindlovu.co.za
O: +27117846532

If you need assistance with counselling or require information on abuse statistics, legal aid etc, contact http://www.powa.co.za

Collectively we can make a change.