Martha Thomases: The Casting Couch
Now even Louis C. K.
How far we have come in the one year after Trump was “elected” President, despite his boasts about being able to grab women by the pussy and being able to walk into the Miss Universe dressing rooms while contestants were changing. Women and queer people of all genders refuse to obediently walk off and let the men-folk run things. Instead, we are speaking up and telling our stories.
In January, with the Women’s March, I think we realized that, together, we could create our own system. We could create an environment in which we would be believed, and from which we could create change.
You may remember a time, lo these many weeks ago, when Harvey Weinstein’s behavior was first held up to the glare of publicity. In the last few days, we’ve heard horrible things about Kevin Spacey and Charlie Sheen.
Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly had already fallen victim to the news of their own bad behavior. These new revelations demonstrate that sexual harassment in the workplace is not a partisan issue.
Not all of this kind happens in show business, although the so-called “casting couch” gets its name from the exploitive behavior of people in charge of hiring casts. It exists in every business that has a hierarchical structure, including tech, politics and so much more.
Yes, that last link is to an old story, but it is newly relevant. Because the problem isn’t only the people in power sexually abuse people in their employ (yes, this sometimes includes women. The problem is also that, even when the abuse is known, the company will often cover for the abuser.
And DC Entertainment knew about Eddie Berganza. Their response was to protect him by limiting his exposure to what I think the Catholics call “occasions of sin.” In other words, women were not allowed to work with him.
I don’t want to sound like I’m excusing sexual harassment and abuse, but the problem is not always only with the perpetrator. When I read about Weinstein and Berganza (and Scott Allie) and Spacey, I feel terrible for them. I mean, they are horrible people and they shouldn’t have any authority over anyone else, much less command big salaries and respect, but I think they have a sickness.
The real crime is committed by those who choose to change the workplace to protect them and not the people they abuse. Instead of setting up a fund to pay-off victims, run businesses so there are no victims. And instead of limiting the opportunities of women to work on Superman comics, limit the authority of the man causing the problem in the first place.
The next steps are to connect the dots from actual abuse to other, more subtle ways of marginalizing women. I know that I’ve been the subject of gossip, suggesting that I slept my way into various jobs. I’ve heard parallel stories about other women — and men. As long as we are body parts first and humans with skills and talents later (if at all), we will never get the credit we deserve.
I’m part of a few on-line groups of women in comics, and in the last few weeks, there have been more than the normal number of warnings about other professionals in the business. Some are well-known, and some are new to me. I’m not going to name any names here because 1) the stories are told in confidence and I’m not going to violate a trust and 2) the laws about slander are much tougher when the stories are published, and I don’t have the first-hand knowledge. Also, you, Constant Reader, don’t need to know the specifics.
You need to know that we talk.
Women have always talked among themselves about predatory men. We’ve always warned newcomers about who was too “handsy,” who told lewd jokes, who to being alone with.
Now, we’re warning you.