Sunday February 24, 2019
Home Lead Story The Never-end...

The Never-ending Fight of Gender Inequality in Hollywood

Sexism against women in the workplace is too pervasive to change overnight.

0
//
Sexism
A woman wearing an outfit with the names of men in Hollywood she claims sexually harassed her, is seen during a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters, in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. VOA

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements address the sexual harassment and abuse of women by powerful men in Hollywood and elsewhere today. But systemic sexism in the film industry goes back decades, influencing how stories have been told on the silver screen.

Consider the cartoon Pepe Le Pew, about a persistent skunk in relentless pursuit of Penelope Pussycat. When the TV series first appeared, more than half a century ago, it was considered cute and romantic.

Today’s audiences find the skunk’s unwanted advances creepy, and reflect female characters as passive sexual objects, said George Mason University professor Lisa Koch.

Domestic abuse and patronizing behavior of husbands toward their wives were often glorified as passionate relationships, Koch added, such as in the narrative of the 1939 epic drama Gone with the Wind. The character of Rhett Butler, played by Clark Gable, is derisive and controlling toward his on-screen wife, Scarlett O Hara, played by Vivien Leigh. She is scripted as petulant, erratic and manipulative.

Hollywood glamorized and validated the hypermasculine male character who had to rein in the manipulative and childlike female characters, Koch said.

On screen, behind the scenes

Sexism and abuse on screen also reflected the pervasive sexual abuse actresses often endured behind the scenes, said Giovanna Chesler, director of film and video studies at George Mason University.

“You read about how Bertolucci and Marlon Brando had an arrangement for their actress in Last Tango in Paris. They knew that this would be a rape scene they would be filming but she (actress Maria Schneider) did not.” Chesler was referring to Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci as well as U.S. actor Brando.

 

Hollywood, sexism
Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara stars in the 1939 classic, “Gone With the Wind.”. VOA

In her 2016 autobiography, Tippi Hedren: A Memoir, the actress who was Alfred Hitchcock’s main muse and star of his films The Birds and Marnie, writes that when she turned down the filmmaker’s sexual advances, he threatened to destroy her career.

 

Chesler says this pervasive culture of sexism and blackmail produced men like Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“He was the Oscar maker and he anointed all of these actresses into Oscar-producing roles.” Chesler said. “They thought that once they really broke through, they would get out of being sexualized on screen. How ironic that in order to do so, they had to deal with this predator.”

Dozens of women have accused the disgraced Hollywood studio boss of sexual misconduct that includes harassment and assault. Earlier this year, Weinstein was indicted on sex crimes charges but remains free on bail while he fights the accusations.

Beyond Hollywood

Since the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements began, many films have offered more nuanced and textured female characters and are telling more women’s stories.

But activists say more needs to be done to increase women’s equitable treatment in Hollywood. Lisa Koch says there is definitely power in the number of women who are uniting against sexism and sexual abuse from all walks of life.

“It started with 300 women in Hollywood,” she said. “It has expanded dramatically, so 700,000 farm laborers pledged their support and that is just one example across the spectrum. Within the first 60 days, the movement raised $21 million in financial backing.”

Activist and filmmaker Shannon Lee says female producers and behind-the-scenes artists are offering women jobs, equal pay and creative expression, such as film producer Ava DuVernay, who has an artist collective that distributes films and mandates that all the directors be female.

Lee cautions, however, that sexism against women in the workplace is too pervasive to change overnight.

“When there is an imbalance of power, there is an abuse of power. USA Today did a survey that came out in 2017 saying that 94 percent of women in the film industry have had some experience of sexual harassment or sexual assault,” Lee said.

Koch offers another statistic: “Ninety-five percent of Hollywood directors are men, 18 percent of those involved in film production as directors, producers, writers cinematographers, editors, are women.”

Both women say the goal in the industry is 50/50 by 2020.

“Where there is 50 percent male and 50 percent female, you don’t have the opportunity to this gross misconduct,” Lee said.

Hollywood, sexism
Harvey Weinstein exits the Manhattan Criminal Court room in New York. VOA

Sunu Chandy is the legal director of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington. She represents thousands of women who have come forward to seek legal support against sexual harassment and discrimination. She says both the #MeToo movement, where women openly addressed the abuse they suffered at the hands of men, and the #TimesUp movement, where sexual predators like Bill Cosby have been prosecuted and convicted for their crimes, are significant legal steps in establishing gender equity in Hollywood and elsewhere.

“Hiring women into roles that are traditionally male roles is absolutely something that we are pushing for,” Chandy said. “But if someone goes there and is sexually harassed and leaves, it’s continuing the problem. If the Time’s Up fund helps that case to come forward and be publicized and that company takes meaningful steps to create a better workplace, more women will be encouraged to apply there.”

Also Read: Top Hollywood Women Unveiled A Sexual Harassment Initiative

Chandy says that although progress is being made in offering women the legal help and support they deserve, much still has to be done to bring about real change in the workplace, be it a factory, a farm or a Hollywood movie set. (VOA)

Next Story

Accusing Without Formal Complaint is Not Authentic: Kailash Kher on #MeToo

"Earlier, I have sung many Marathi songs and it will be my 20th Marathi song with this film. I have sung songs in 25 languages and I have come at this event after singing a Tamil song for Ilaiyaraaja sir."

0
Photo: www.uthtime.in

Singer Kailash Kher, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment, says that in his view, if a person is not making a formal complaint and just continues to accuse, it is not authentic.

Kailash was interacting with the media at the music launch of Marathi film “Dokyala Shot” along with Riteish Deshmukh and Abhijit Panse here.

A few months ago, singer Sona Mahapatra had shared her alleged unsavoury experience with Kailash, and after that, at least four other women raised allegations against the “Teri deewani” singer.

Sona, in an interview, has said she will not lodge a police complaint against Kailash, but she will make sure he doesn’t repeat his alleged act in future.

Reacting to this, Kailash said: “Everyone has their own thinking. If I accuse someone only by taking that individual’s name over and over again then, nothing will come out of it. If you will take legal recourse against that person, then it becomes another matter altogether.

“If I tell you that I will not make a complaint against that individual, but still I will accuse him of doing certain criminal activity, then I feel it’s not an authentic complaint.”

#MeToo, Victim
Do not accept that it is a norm and do not keep tolerating. Flickr

Does he feel Sona’s allegations are baseless?

Kailash said: “No. I will not decide what is right and what is wrong. I have never accused someone. I am living my life. We are simple human beings and we focus on creating music.”

On his upcoming projects, Kailash said: “We are now doing live concert of Kailasa all over India and the world. Along with that, we are working on our new album. It is named as ‘Tham Ja’.”

Also Read- Good Content, Great Box Office Go Hand in Hand, Says Actress Yami Gautam

Kailash has sung a song in “Dokyala Shot”.

“Earlier, I have sung many Marathi songs and it will be my 20th Marathi song with this film. I have sung songs in 25 languages and I have come at this event after singing a Tamil song for Ilaiyaraaja sir.” (IANS)