The #MeToo movement outed only the top guilty parties, but the entertainment industry is filled with similar expectations of newbies and up-and-coming actors, alleges a woman who wanted nothing but to write film scripts until she discovered the extras that were expected of her.
As a highly attractive young woman with a sharp mind and high test scores, Ms. X was accepted into the competitive program in screenwriting. She learned the topic quickly, yet despite her quick-study performance, the professor asked her what she was willing to do for her degree. She firmly refused all advances, completed the degree and secured a coveted job.
It was then made clear the expectations of "extras" were an industry standard. It wasn't enough to be good or even great, and she discovered being attractive had major drawbacks. At first, she blamed herself; maybe her hair was too beautiful along with her total appearance. She made a point of covering her body with conservative clothing; it didn't change things.
From every man she met, she received unwanted "solicitations." These went up the ladder as did the connections. Their job titles made no difference. The propositions were not physically threatening, but the threat of success on the job was there. It was upsetting to discover that being good in the job was not valued on its own. "They all wanted more ... and each time I got solicited sickened and angered me. I even cried but it made no difference." The goal of becoming an accomplished scriptwriter was not going to happen without fulfilling these sexual expectations.
The question then becomes: "What if a woman is not attractive?" Does she not get hired? Does she get hired and left alone? She discovered that even women who were not "lookers" were propositioned.
The #MeToo movement seemed to help only the top movie stars when it should have exposed all the guilty parties in the entertainment business. Instead, many of the affected women left the business and the experience ended their dreams.
She began wondering how far those propositions went in school, so she called her previous classmates to ask about their experiences. They agreed to be open and admitted the professor made the same proposition of sex for the degree. Some gave in, but those who did not discovered his threats about their grades were not to be carried out.
The question now is how any woman survives in the industry without a champion who protects her. What happens with the young men who share similar dreams?
Cleaning up an entire industry seems impossible when those in power aren't on board. Morals and values have disintegrated in this country. We have seen this in many fields, not just in entertainment.
The public has been split in their emotions — some groups revolt but address irrelevant issues, which doesn't help any major group, while others post complaints about misogyny but do nothing to organize a movement against the contributing problems.
"The problem is in the women's attitudes. They continue to be nice to the very parties who threaten them. Women don't speak out." The only time Ms. X expressed anger was when she was alone with a man. She voiced that anger loudly and the man backed off. Perhaps it's the women who need training in finding their voice. Perhaps they need to learn that angrily saying no might actually work. Until assertiveness training returns to the forefront, women will remain as guilty parties in a behavior they profess to hate.
In the meantime, the public is left hanging and forced to accept the status quo. It seems every industry needs leaders to shape it and take charge to ensure talented individuals get acknowledged. The future of the workplace needs people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.; unsung heroes for the unknown; perhaps even Joan of Arc. People who know what they stand for and make sure the public hears the message are needed for changes to be made. Propositions and threats are not limited to the entertainment industry. These situations are presented to female factory workers and white-collar employees across the country. The female population has to take responsibility for their behavior. They must learn that the courage to say no and mean it is their path to the freedom to follow their dreams.
Email [email protected] with all your workplace experiences and questions. For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.
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