Purging sexual assault in the film industry

Tori O’Campo

By now, everyone has heard about the seemingly countless sexual assault allegations that have been slowly striking the surface for the past few weeks. Following the many claims against director Harvey Weinstein, women, men, and children across the entertainment industry found the courage to reveal their own sexual assault stories. This may seem like fresh and shocking news to some; however, there’s nothing new about this disgusting truth. The patriarchal systems that are engraved into our society have allowed Hollywood’s male elite to get away with these evil acts for far too long. Hollywood has always been operated and plagued by men asserting their power over young actresses chasing a career in entertainment. However, Hollywood’s problem doesn’t simply end with firing Weinstein or by ending House of Cards – this issue quite obviously has deeper roots. 

From the over-sexualization of Jean Harlow, the first woman to be labeled “the blonde bombshell,” to the way publicists shaped Monroe’s public image, women in the entertainment business have always been victims of men’s inability to see the sexes as equal. In 2015, Jennifer Lawrence made headlines when it was released that she was not paid as much as her male co-stars in the movie American Hustle. When interviewed about personally facing this discrimination, Lawrence became very open and honest about the struggles actresses face that would never cross minds of their male counterparts. Lawrence expressed that her persistence in power deals as an actress caused her to be labeled as bratty and annoying when male actors who do the same might be viewed as tactical and admirable.  Although women in the industry have been increasingly more vocal about the uneven playing field, nothing has changed.

Actors and actresses like to come across as politically active and socially aware in their award show speeches and on social media, yet their silence in the wake of injustice speaks volumes about their hypocrisy. Some of my favorite producers and actors have admitted to having some prior knowledge about Weinstein’s actions, yet no one said anything to stop him until now. In our legal system, if you witness a murder without reporting, that inaction becomes a crime in itself. Although you are not the one committing the crime, you are allowing it to happen and becoming an accomplice to the criminal when you remain silent.  It is no different when stars know about recurring sexual harassment and choose to not stand up against it. They have some moral responsibility for it too. 

Although Hollywood has many obvious issues that need to be fixed, it is also important to recognize that these situations are not specific to the film industry. We have not heard of the volume of workplace harassment because it is an uncomfortable subject and difficult to report for those who experience it. The issues in the film industry are representative of the working situation of women as  a whole. People are shocked at the stories that are revealed in Hollywood, but imagine the shock if every similar story was reported. Workplace sexual harassment and unequal treatment is not formally addressed nearly as much as it should be. Known sexual predators are often not fired from their jobs, and the legal procedures to protect survivors are not reliable enough to bring true justice to the situation. We, as individuals, can help relieve the issue by reporting when we see or hear of inappropriate conduct, seeking help if we face any type of sexual harassment and holding these people accountable for their actions. Starting at a young age, we should raise our children to respect the boundaries of others and pass down good morals to future generations in an attempt to lessen the ever-increasing problem of these assaults. 

Technically, there are laws in place that make sexual harassment illegal, but they are often not enforced. Cases are made too difficult to prove and reporting can be a painful process for the survivors who have to relive the assault. The legislation is there, but we need to demand its enforcement. As we become increasingly more aware of the vastness of these institutional issues, we need to decide to take action on what has been happening too quietly for too long. As reports continue to be released and survivors share their stories, investigations of the Weinstein Company will most likely unravel more of this ongoing story. Hopefully, some good will arise from this situation as people force the change to end high rates of sexual abuse.


Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor