The continued exposure of alleged sexual assault and mistreatment of women within the entertainment industry have shaken some pillars of the Hollywood elite. But exactly what good will come from the heightened media attention? More to the point, since nothing about this problem seems much of a secret, why aren’t we addressing this issue in other industries with as much vigor?
A couple of weeks ago I was involved in a discussion about the idea that Hollywood’s misogynistic, casting-couch culture will likely never change. In case you’re not aware, the term “casting couch” refers to the practice whereby actors or actresses are awarded a part in a production in return for granting sexual favors to whoever is in charge. That could be a producer, casting director, agent, whatever the situation.
Because the entertainment industry is, even now, dominated by men, this despicable practice has largely been perpetrated on women. These men promise stardom, fame, and prey on lifelong dreams for a few minutes of repugnant self-gratification.
Cultural change within an organization, or an industry, is not so much different from that of a society. There is a status quo that has developed over time, fueled largely by the ambitions of people hoping to succeed and by those already at the top who abuse their power for nefarious gain.
It’s a struggle between the powerless, trying to achieve some level of status, and the powerful, who already have it and may not have achieved it solely on merit, but by largely more devious means. As the floodgates of these allegations began to break down, more women, and men came forward.
Although this issue should be about decency and civil rights, it has, of course, also turned political. Many of the women coming forward have been labeled publicity hounds and opportunists, primarily by conservative media. While there is certainly some measure of that going on, who can say what is real and what is unscrupulous? Only by investigating each situation can the truth come out and to not do so would be an incredible injustice.
Additionally, the entertainment industry is certainly not the only one where this kind of atmosphere is prominent. Every business has its unspoken norms, with the same stigmas attached to coming forward.
Mistreatment of women is a society-wide problem, with no isolated industry or socioeconomic group. And, while these issues tend to involve women being the subject of the abuse or misconduct, it can happen between anyone in a position of power and a subordinate or a person who feels they are required to accept such behavior because of their status. Unfortunately, we may never know the broad-reaching effects of this issue, especially when so much goes unreported or unprosecuted.
Very few of the well-documented cases within the Catholic church over the years have seen justice. It’s sickening to think that the church has so much power as to avoid the prosecution of potentially hundreds of priests who have spent years sexually abusing young boys. You’d think that the faithful would want to end abuse of any kind, but religion often plays a major role in perpetuating the oppression of women.
Many faiths persist in the subjugation of women to lower status than men, keeping them in positions of service. Young girls are taught to be fruitful and multiply and have as many children as possible to increase the congregation to better serve their god. It is one of the prime duties under the doctrine of their beliefs.
This is a disgusting level of abuse that no one seems to even want to discuss, let alone change. And, because this speaks directly to ignorance and misogyny so prevalent within the Bible-belt following of the conservative right, nothing will be done while they are in power.
Sexual assault and harassment are known and accepted practices in virtually every industry throughout the country. From entertainment to sports and government to big business, the exploitation and mistreatment of women (or others in a subordinate position) is a national, social problem. Society, as a whole, must work to end the stigma surrounding this issue and provide support and justice for those who come forward.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at www.deerinheadlines.com.