Hollywood sexual harassment stories raising visibility for women’s assaults: A story roundup

A roundup of some of this week's Hollywood harassment and assault stories
By Esther D. Kustanowitz  Published on 10/18/2017 at 6:13 PM EDT

When it comes to sexual harassment, assault and coercion in Hollywood, we all know that the issue is more widespread than Harvey Weinstein. And as stories begin to emerge, we’re hearing from Hollywood industry people – men and women – who are sharing their uncomfortable experiences, owning their shame and in some cases, their complicity. But amid these tales are also moments of redemption and inspiration that indicate that our awareness may be moving us forward on the road toward eradicating shameful Hollywood behavior. We’ve collected some of the “best” stories here – memorable moments, mournful recollections and empowering voices – as a start in elevating the visibility of these stories. (We know there are more to come…please feel free to add other articles you’ve seen in the comments.)

Janis Hirsch: The Writer & the Dead Parrot (The Hollywood Reporter)

In 1986, Janis Hirsch was hired as a writer on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show – she was thrilled, and according to her account in The Hollywood Reporter, she got a nice L.A. Times write-up of the two episodes she wrote. Then, things changed, she said:

The guys started excluding me from meetings: “Oh, we couldn’t find you”…at my desk. Then they started excluding me from the table, instead assigning me “the slit scenes” to write. Even though these scenes were the ones that featured the only female castmember, it didn’t occur to me exactly what slit they were referring to until one day in the ladies room.

[…]One day, I was sitting in Garry’s office across the desk from him. A few of the writers and one of the actors were in the room, too. I felt a tap on my shoulder, I turned, and there was that actor’s flaccid penis draped on it like a pirate’s dead parrot. Riotous laughter ensued from all but one of us.

When the show producer became aware of what had happened, he suggested that she quit. Read this story’s inspiring ending here.

Scott Rosenberg: “Everyone Knew” – Screenwriter from Miramax’s Golden Age Feels Complicit in Weinstein’s Harassment (Deadline)

What’s it like to be a man in Harvey’s world? Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, who wrote the film Beautiful Girls (picked up by Miramax), knows – he was part of the larger Miramax family, where – he now admits – he benefited from Weinstein’s attention even as he knew some inappropriate things were going on with women. In fact, he says in this epic – and even poetically structured – post, everyone knew: they were just too busy having fun to say anything.

“He had a monarch’s volcanic generosity when it came to those within his circle,” Rosenberg said of Weinstein, “And a Mafia don’s fervent need for abject loyalty from his capos and soldiers.”

But everybody was just having too good a time.
And doing remarkable work; making remarkable movies.

[…] in the end, I was complicit.
I didn’t say shit.
I didn’t do shit.
Harvey was nothing but wonderful to me.
So I reaped the rewards and I kept my mouth shut.
And for that, once again, I am sorry.

Molly Ringwald: The “16 Candles” & “The Breakfast Club” Star Talks About the “Harvey Weinsteins” of Her Career (The New Yorker)

As someone who’s been acting since her teens, Molly Ringwald, writes in the New Yorker, she has had “plenty of Harveys of my own over the years, enough to feel a sickening shock of recognition” at the recent accusations against Weinstein.

When I was thirteen, a fifty-year-old crew member told me that he would teach me to dance, and then proceeded to push against me with an erection. When I was fourteen, a married film director stuck his tongue in my mouth on set. At a time when I was trying to figure out what it meant to become a sexually viable young woman, at every turn some older guy tried to help speed up the process. And all this went on despite my having very protective parents who did their best to shield me. I shudder to think of what would have happened had I not had them.

Read Ringwald’s full essay here.

Krista Vernoff: “Grey’s Anatomy” Co-Showrunner Calls Out Hollywood System for Complicity in Harassment Culture (The Hollywood Reporter)

“If we make this all about Harvey Weinstein, we’ve already lost,” said “Grey’s Anatomy” co-showrunner Krista Vernoff in The Hollywood Reporter, acknowledging that system’s complicity in the culture of sexual harassment:

I get to put overtly feminist messages on a major network television program every week and tell my female centric stories because I have largely played by Harvey’s rules — the rules we all play by. The rules where we laugh off misogyny. The rules where Casey Affleck wins an Oscar despite the allegations. The rules where Woody Allen gets to marry his stepdaughter and still have a career. The rules where Bill Cosby doesn’t get convicted and most of Hollywood stays silent. The rules where mediocre male directors get to fail up, but female directors get one shot (if they’re lucky). The rules where actresses are required to be paper-thin and hungry all the time, and then get called crazy when they complain about anything. The rules where women aren’t allowed to age in television or in movies, but men get to have lines in their faces and grey hair and “dad bods” and they are admired for it. And if you think I am conflating gender bias and sexual harassment — I AM, because it is the culture of misogyny that allows for both. A culture which openly pays women markedly less than their male counterparts supports the notion that women are literally worth less. That thinking quite easily leads to the idea that women can be taken against their will in hotel rooms like playthings, like property.

Vernoff has already taken steps to change Hollywood’s future:

I hire a lot of women now. I stand up in the face of abuse now. I refuse to ask actresses to lose weight now. I have amassed just enough status that I get to insist that lists of approved directors submitted to me by studios are 50 percent female now. And I do these things in the hope that the next generation of women in this town won’t all have stories like mine.

And in case you missed it, we couldn’t not post this story, as it features one of our favorite fierce females:

Screenwriter Heather Robinson’s Sexual Assault is Avenged…by Carrie Fisher (Los Angeles Times)

In 2000, when Heather Robinson was assaulted by an Oscar-winning producer – she revealed the incident to Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher. Two weeks later, Fisher called Robinson, telling her that she had gone to Sony Studios to present that producer with a white-bowed Tiffany box.

“It was a cow tongue from Jerry’s Famous Deli in Westwood with a note that said, ‘If you ever touch my darling Heather or any other woman again, the next delivery will be something of yours in a much smaller box,'” Robinson recounted.

Carrie Fisher, our lady of righteous feminism, we miss you. Read all the details here.

What stories of Hollywood harassment or complicity have surprised, shocked or impacted you in some way?  Share your responses in the comments below.

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