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Hollywood’s dangerous culture of silence

Harvey Weinstein is an American film producer and former film studio executive. Recently, he has begun presenting himself as a feminist. In public, he has said all the right things about empowering and respecting women. He openly supported the careers of female acting talents such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep.

On Jan. 10, the day after Donald Trump — another accused sexual predator — was inaugurated as president, Weinstein even showed up at the women’s march. However, it has been recently brought to light that he has sexually assaulted over forty women in Hollywood.

The reactions from other men in the industry such as Woody Allen have been grossly inappropriate.  Allen, in an interview with the BBC, said that this is a “witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself.” After those forty women found the courage to speak out about being sexually assaulted by Weinstein, Allen found that the most tragic part of this was not the women’s pain. It was that he and other men are expected to act appropriately in the workplace.

It is unsettling to think about why Allen felt so comfortable speaking out on sexual assault issues considering past allegations made against him. Why are the loudest voices coming from other predatory men in Hollywood?

This is because there has been a culture of silence prevalent in the film industry for as long as it has existed. This can be attributed to the fact that practically everyone in a movie crew signs a confidentiality agreement. Many assistants live in fear of speaking out about any suspicious behaviors they see their employer engage in. 

In an interview with the Washington Post, the assistant of a popular show-runner in Los Angeles said, “You are not in a position where you have any remote sort of leverage, and you are extremely replaceable.” The assistant only spoke on the condition of being kept anonymous because of his nondisclosure agreement and fear of retaliation from his employer.

“There are very few things that are worth speaking up about because when and if you decide to do that, it’s over,” the assistant added.

Hollywood’s culture of silence cannot continue. Movie cast and crew members are often in situations where they have the power to prevent sexual assault from taking place, but their fear of breaking confidentiality agreements is stronger than their desire to help.

Weinstein’s case has made it clear that when the boss commits sexual assault, it is not just overlooked, but actually enabled.  Luckily, due to a rise in awareness of corruption between employers and employees, lawmakers have pushed to throw away any contract from employers that prevents misconduct from being reported.

In addition, a movement called “#MeToo” has recently taken social media by storm. The mission of this movement is to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem of sexual assault by having every woman who was sexually assaulted simply post “#MeToo” on their social media. The power of #MeToo is that it takes something that women had long kept private and transforms it into something much larger. This is an accessible way to bring the massive issue of sexual assault, from Hollywood to small town, to light.