Back in the mid-80’s, I lived and worked in LA and was trying to get into modeling. I was not naïve to the “casting couch” as I had read the non-fiction “Hollywood Babylon” (published in 1959) as a teenager and knew this was a dirty world. My last time to try and make a go of it was with an agency looking for older models (I was 26-ish by then). They were off of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Blvd. It was in a building across from the famous newsstand which may or may not exist anymore (do people still buy trade magazines and newspapers?). The guy who ran this agency worked with his wife, a beautiful Swedish/Norwegian looking blonde lady who was very pregnant with their first child. He took me and another younger woman to Malibu and we spent the day doing photos for our portfolios. We were in bathing suits and had to endure two Mexican men ogling us from over the side of a cliff we were under. We also had to endure this man/photographer telling us about his days with Playgirl magazine (when he was a model) and the size of his male part and how great he was.
The photos turned out really well actually and when I went to retrieve them from his office, I then had to endure being propositioned. Behind him on the wall was a huge painting of a woman with her legs spread apart (pre-Sharon Stone scene) and I only recall the color red and that the painting was very ugly. Not ugly as in bad artist but ugly woman, it was actually quite a good painting as artists go. As he was propositioning me, his pregnant wife was two offices up on the phone conducting business. He told me that Brooke Shields and Cindy Crawford had done these things, he was requesting of me, because he had been to parties where he had opened doors and seen things. He had photos in his office of different celebrities with him (I don’t recall if they were the same people he was mentioning or not). The photographs made his statements seem legitimate to me though. It was obvious he knew people. However, I told him that I wasn’t that interested in getting into the modeling business if it meant performing on him to get a job. I said I was pretty surprised to hear that those women did those things but nonetheless, I was not. Naturally, he would not go on to work with me.
As I left the office, pissed off once again for having to put up with crap like that, I kept wondering to myself “Why is it that all these famous women haven’t done anything to protect women in the industry?” Here we are in 2018, the #METOO movement comes out of nowhere, only a few months ago and our country behaves as if they are in shock to know this is happening. This is three decades after my incident that I described above. Three decades of very famous, very wealthy actors and actresses who could have done something so that it would have been dealt with by now. After all, if you are Meryl Streep who has a reputation that will never be tarnished and has been in Washington lobbying one thing or another over the years (nothing to do with women’s rights), you don’t have to worry. If you are Mira Sorvino or Gwyneth Paltrow, whose parents preceded you in the “business,” you don’t have to worry either. Yet, here they are, jumping on the bandwagon that they themselves could have fixed many decades ago.
The “casting couch” has been around since the industry began. We have seen movies about this world; we have read non-fiction books, which include auto-biographies and memoirs and yet nothing has ever been done about this until now. Tyra Banks had a modeling show during this time where she paraded young innocents around in soft-porn situations and kicked a Christian woman off the show because she wasn’t comfortable participating. Tyra’s comment to her was that this is part of being in the industry, which is no different than the kind of thing pimps told our young foster girls that they were grooming for their “business” in Oakland, CA; when I worked there. I am sure there are more women involved in this business, who led these women onto the couch. You haven’t heard anything about this though, #METOO seems only to be focused on men.
Back in the mid-80’s my girlfriend in LA was involved in a women director’s association and I was aware that there were quite a few other associations, specifically for women in this field. There are also unions for all actors, most notably the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG). Yet up until now, too my knowledge the subject of sexual harassment of women has been ignored in Hollywood.
What was concerning to me about the #METOO movement is that it does not appear to be doing anything but performing a “Witch Hunt” in Hollywood. There were many non-acting women on the #METOO board on Twitter, giving graphic stories about their situations which no doubt caused them to be re-traumatized as they wrote. These other women who are not in Hollywood assumed (I would imagine since they spoke out) that something would be done by telling. Yet other than hearing one more story about some actor/director/producer in Hollywood, we hear nothing about women in general and change being made. What needs to happen is better training that should be mandatory for all police and fire fighters – who are the people a young woman would run to in an emergency situation. I have known plenty of trainers who have worked with these professionals around the country but as I hear stories of people where I live locally (and work as a therapist) I am aware that it is obvious no training has been conducted here. The reason I say this is that I have heard women tell me that they were not offered a “rape kit” that they were told “it is a he said, she said” situation, that were told there wasn’t enough evidence and who were led to believe it was their fault that it happened.
I even heard a story by a young woman who told me her sister was left in a parking lot, in the winter, after a sheriff asked her why she was sitting there in her car with her child. She explained that her husband had a gun and had threatened to use this on them and she had escaped and had nowhere to go. Instead of being given resources to a domestic violence shelter or even being told that she could call 211 for a bed, he just said “Oh, okay” and left them there.
Worrying about damaging Harvey Weinstein’s career is hardly the concern of the average young woman. Having Matt Damon harassed for his opinions by an ex-girlfriend, Minnie Driver, who he broke up with because she sicked the Paparazzi on them while they were on a date is rather hypocritical. It all works though because most of the general public doesn’t remember these things and they like focusing on reality shows which are merely the freak shows of yesteryear that people would view inside of a tent at a carnival.
None of the big actresses in Hollywood, who got on the bandwagon of the #Metoo movement, have anything to worry about. They are rich and powerful ladies. All women, who are average everyday people, who have survived horrible situations by men who aren’t rich and powerful, will continue to have something to be concerned of for the rest of their lives. Those who we need to be worried about the most are the naïve teen girls and young adult women who are fresh, inexperienced, and vulnerable. I too assumed that the #Metoo movement was going to make change and have an impact on women around our country. I soon began to realize that all it was doing was focusing on men in Hollywood. How wrong it was to misinform the public and have all those survivors re-traumatize themselves by sharing their stories online when it was really just a waste of time. I haven’t seen one article about changes being made locally or across the country to help women and girls who have been affected by sexual harassment or abuse. It would have been a great movement, had it actually accomplished this.
There is a big difference between a woman who is making a choice, for her career and a woman who has no choice at all. I am sure there have been some actresses who really didn’t have any choice because they weren’t being propositioned. The average woman never has a choice. When a woman is raped, sexually harassed or abused it is not about a career but about a man (usually) who is asserting their power over a powerless person. We need to focus on abuse to women and girls, not just in Hollywood but in general. Not as a publicity stunt that is focusing on an issue that should have been dealt with decades ago but as a real concern that has only been given partial attention up until now. The only major attention the average woman gets is when the situation gets really, really bad, like when she is killed.
Unfortunately, taking advantage of women and girls is another hot topic that goes in the back seat just like mental health in general and gun control. It is exciting to hear about the first few weeks of the incident and then another scandal comes to our attention or the weeks go by and we all just forget about it and quietly go about our business of living our lives.
Incidentally, I sent this recent Hollywood photo to the #MeToo movement on Twitter a couple of days ago. Wondering why it was okay for women to sexually harass people. I was offended by this photo and if we were working together in a business, this woman would be fired for third party sexual harassment. So, #TimesUp #MeToo, Sexual Harassment is not okay, whether it is men to women, women to men, women to women or men to men.