Tuesday I wrote about actress Reese Witherspoon who told a “Women in Hollywood” event held in Beverly Hills that she had been sexually assaulted several times in her career, starting at age sixteen. Actress Jessica Chastain was at the same event and she offered her own take on the scandal, suggesting that Hollywood was full of complete and utter hypocrites. From the Hollywood Reporter:
“This is an industry rife with racism, sexism and homophobia,” she said, speaking to a room full of women including Laura Dern, Riley Keough and Aaron Sorkin. “It is so closely woven into the fabric of the business that we have become snowblind to the glaring injustices happening every day.”
She continued, “Oh we’re very quick to point the finger at others and address the issue with social action and fundraising. Yet there is a clear disconnect between how we practice what we preach in our industry.” Chastain pointed specifically to actors and actresses who have been told to stay closeted while the industry champions same-sex marriage, as well as the wage gap that exists between the sexes even as the industry itself supports equal pay legislation.
Additionally, Chastain addressed the issue of sexual harassment in the wake of the accusations mounting against Harvey Weinstein: “We rally against the presidential candidate who slants a narrative of his sexual assault as mere locker room talk, but at the same time we ignore the stories and warnings of sexual predators in our offices.”
This criticism isn’t coming from some closeted conservative. Chastain seems to be another very progressive actress, one who recently starred in the anti-gun, box-office dud Miss Sloane.
Chastain’s comment about ignoring the sexual predators in our offices is exemplified by another piece that was published today by Variety. Maureen Ryan is a TV critic for Variety and today she writes about her own experience being sexually assaulted by a TV executive who she says she cannot name for legal reasons:
The television executive who assaulted me was the boyfriend of someone I’d known in the industry for some time. I did not think the boyfriend of someone I knew would assault me. I did not think he would do it at an industry-adjacent event. I did not think he would make a sexually crude, harassing remark about me in front of dozens of people, which was extremely embarrassing.
I did not think that, a short time later, he would put his hands on me and say utterly disgusting things. I did not think he would come after me again, and then, when I’d moved away, grope me again, and hiss more even more crude, humiliating things into my ear. He came after me three times in total. He hunted me. The word predator works on so many levels.
Ryan spoke up at the time and even gave a 17-hour-long deposition, hoping her attacker’s company would take some action. In the end, he was given a written reprimand, a slap on the wrist. A few months later he took a job at a rival network. Ryan says the lesson of her experience is that there are many Harvey Weinstein’s throughout the industry who treat sexual assault as part of the “benefits package” that comes along with a job in Hollywood:
There are many Harveys, with varying amounts of influence, at every level in this industry.
The temptation to abuse whatever status a man has attained in this power-obsessed industry is ever-present. For some, taking what they want from others is part of what they think is the benefits package. Even if they’re not full-on sociopaths, too many feel free to ignore boundaries, to go too far, and lie to themselves about what they do. Along the way, they inflict countless kinds of damage on other human beings.
And at every level, formally and informally, they are covered for.
In other words, Harvey Weinstein is very far from being the only creep in Hollywood. According to Witherspoon and Chastain and Maureen Ryan, the industry is riddled with them. Hollywood had excommunicated Weinstein but before it goes back to preaching to the rest of us, it should really make an effort to clean up some of the problems that have been part of the industry since it began.