#MeToo. What I’ve learned from the social media storm as a writer (and a film fan)

It’s been more than two weeks since Harvey Weinstein allegations saw the light of the day. And it does feel like ages already, as it always does when the news break on social media. In an unlikely case you didn’t know about it, here’s what happened: a group of strong women came forward, admitting what they knew about the film producer; several accusations of rape and sexual harassment followed. The conversations about the predatory behaviour in the film industry brought Polanski and Allen back into the spotlight, as well as other prominent directors and actors. Many women started sharing their own experiences to show sexual assault and harrasment aren’t isolated cases.

Not to mention that my head was a mess. For two reasons: firstly, as literally every woman I know, I faced sexual harassment. Catcalling, groping, inappropriate subtexts – which one of us hasn’t had to deal with that? When it goes a step further, it’s traumatising to the point of facing a PTSD attack of sorts while reading the confessions of many strong, inspiring women that decided to come forward. I’m not brave enough to speak about this stuff publicly, but I know that I’m ready to cut the past bullshit off. And so are many other women, tired of sexism in everyday life, misogyny spreading across many industries, and treatment of women that implies we’re nothing more than our bodies. Think of female filmmakers that had a chance to work on a major studio project. Think of female film critics in the industry, and how only a few of them make it to the major publications. Think of how actresses must appear fresh, beautiful and ageless at all times. Think of the gender pay gap. I can go on and multiply things to think about for hours; women who work outside of the film industry could easily join in.

Secondly, I undoubtedly have a difficult relationship with the art created by those who have toxic attitudes towards women or contribute to hiding appalling behaviours of the others. Quentin Tarantino, who admitted to covering up what he heard about Weinstein, created stuff I spent a lot of time with: Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction are classics. I’ve been told to watch most of the Woody Allen films to understand more about the particular type of humour he became known for. And I did like some of his movies: Blue Jasmine or Irrational Man come to mind. Polanski is recognised as one of the best Polish directors. When it comes to arts education, teachers aren’t paid to read us the news or biographies of the artists. They often have to utilise short time they’re given in the best way they can. Should I blame them for not giving us enough background? I thought about this a lot, and I’m not sure I should. It’d be simply unfair. I am, however, deeply disappointed that none of them gave us at least a hint to kick-start our own investigation. In a little village in the middle of nowhere, where girls are told that certain jobs are only for men, where it’s still acceptable to measure woman’s value by the wedding ring on her hand, and where you can see a number of men who control women around them because that’s how their grandfathers and fathers functioned, it should be a thing to tell girls in the classroom. I promised myself to address more of my work to those who come from the same disadvantaged background: I want to empower and change at the roots. I got in touch with some of my old friends for that – we’ll see if it takes off.

I’ve always been told to separate art from the artist, too; reading up on their crimes made me think of ethical issues behind this approach. Would you like to support someone who has a bad track record when it comes to treating women right? It’s likely that they’ll reflect it in their art when you come to think of it. They may be great craftsmen, but there are many talented people that’d grow with your support. And you do make a political statement when you choose where your money goes.

And I need to admit – I used to let go of some problematic film content while reviewing. Sometimes it would slip out of my conscience. I would wonder, “Well, maybe I’m exaggerating? Maybe it’s just a dumb film, so it’s a part of the parody? Maybe that’s the intended effect?”. I’d literally come up with the silliest reason, unable to believe someone would make such an out-of-place mistake. So stupid of me… It’s much clearer since I started writing reviews on a regular basis. If I made a mistake, I’d like a person who noticed it to call me out on it and allow me to learn; this is the only way to stir up the world. Doesn’t the same rule apply to everyone? There’s substantial transformation ahead of us. That’s why I promised myself to make a conscious effort to pay three times as much attention to the politics of the film.

However, Hollywood seems to forget quickly, and its selective collective memory doesn’t help either. Despite having a criminal record, Polanski is still a member of the Academy. Casey Affleck, who was accused by the members of his crew of sexual assault, walked out of the Oscars gala with an award in his hand. And just yesterday, I saw the headline praising Weinstein for spending a week in rehab.

A week.

Ein. Un. Jeden. Uno. One week.

I don’t know why media decided it makes the news. It’s not very sensitive; it sounds like a threat of a possible return of the “prodigal son” to the welcoming circle of brothers who indirectly facilitated his atrocities for ages. It makes his removal from the Academy feel like a move that was merely an effect of the public pressure followed by a self-congratulatory pat on the back. We kicked him out! We’re done! Sexism is cancelled! If only it really was that easy…

You can’t change outdated mindsets of thousands of people only with removing only one of these rotten people out of your circle. It requires constant work and conscious choices. Include women in the decision-making process, allow them to take the creative control, give them a chance as writers, directors, producers. And when you start allowing these talented women to become role models, this rotten system will slowly dissolve and disappear forever. Only then, we’ll pay due respect to the victims of his behaviour have had their careers destroyed and lived in trauma for every single day of their life. They didn’t confess for the situation to stay the same – this man needs to stay away from being anyone’s superior for abusing his power. And only then we’ll finally reach the next milestone on our way to equality.

 

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