Harvey Weinstein’s global exposure as a sexual predator within the entertainment industry has sparked a long-overdue public debate about sexual harassment, particularly within theatre, television and film.
WITS offers an official statement about the industry-wide problem within Australia and beyond:
Our industry’s problem with bullying, sexual harassment, and assault has been well known for decades. In a small industry characterised by insecure work, tight-knit social networks, and professional cliques, it has never been reasonable to assume that the silence around these issues means there is no problem. Artists are vulnerable, and speaking out is a daunting prospect.
The vocal commitment to zero tolerance bullying, harassment, and assault policies from the major performing arts companies is to be commended. However, the question must be asked: Why does it take a major Hollywood scandal to motivate some companies to commit to their basic legal obligation to provide safe workplaces? While artists are disappointed that it has taken a Hollywood watershed to make power brokers listen, we are hopeful that this can be a turning point for our industry.
We need an industry wide, no exceptions, no excuses commitment to changing the culture of fear and normalisation of abuse. Ticket sales, ego, and the status quo are not more important than vulnerable people’s safety at work. This means zero-tolerance policies developed and enforced in workplaces.
In a highly social industry where professional relationships and friendships are almost indistinguishable, it is crucial that we are committed to change as a community. We must ensure that the power structures that make speaking out at work difficult are not exploited in the bar, or at the launch, or at the premier or the opening night.
Companies truly committed to changing the culture will now ensure all complaints are taken seriously, will not hire known predators, and will demonstrate to our industry’s most vulnerable people—women, and in particular women of colour and trans women— and all artists, that they will be safe at work, and should they make a complaint, this will in no way affect their future employment prospects by hiring them again.
We encourage all employers to start with the simple premise that everything they do should embody respect for women. That means gender parity, producing work that respects women, and ensuring women (and all artists) are safe at work. WITS are willing to work with any arts and entertainment organisations wanting to improve their practices when working with women.