I know this is a movie blog where I talk about movies, but I feel as thought this is an important topic to talk about.
Until recently I had no idea how much of an epidemic sexual harassment and assault is. I say this because it has featured prominently in the news and across social media in the past few weeks This has been a terrible issue for longer than anyone would like to admit. This isn’t something we can just say is a product of the ‘Mad Men’ generation, this is all generations. As far as I knew sexual harassment was something, reserved to SVU and inappropriate behaviour that came from uneducated morons. How wrong I was. When Alyssa Milano started her trending hashtag #MeToo, I expected to see more women from Hollywood come forward with stories of how men like Harvey Weinstein had harassed and assaulted them. What I didn’t predict was the number of women on my Facebook page who posted the hashtag. Some of them had stories to share and others simply put #MeToo, but the number of posts scared me. The only solace I could take away from the situation was that, thankfully, none of the women in my inner circle – my partner, my sisters, my mum or other family members, had posted the hashtag. Yet. This whole saga has brought to life the horrid truth that many men try to hide from: that sexual assault is real and can affect anyone. Sometimes it is easy to disassociate from celebrities when they come forward with stories of hardship, particularly some of the more recent harassment stories that the women of Hollywood have come forward with. Though when you see harassment affecting family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, it brings the truth down to your level. Recent events have made me think a lot about myself and how I behave. I like to think I know right from wrong; my parents raised me to respect people, from an early age my dad said to me ‘you never raise you fist to a woman and you never lay hands on a woman’. Pretty simple, or so I thought. I now realise I have a lot to learn. When I think about myself and the way I behave, I began to question what I perceive as humour, or even just a stupid comment and perhaps even the way I view a victim’s statement. I know I can be better.
Many people reading this know that I am passionate about film. I currently write about movies and would love to be able to create my own movie related content through different media. One of my biggest influences in pursuing this dream was Screen Junkies, a YouTube channel that produced some of my favourite content such as Honest Trailers and Movie Fights. Screen Junkies was also my introduction to the idea that YouTube was more than silly cat videos and idiots getting hurt doing something stupid.
On October 6th it was brought to light that one of the founders of Screen Junkies, Andy Signore had sexually harassed a young woman who was interning under him. Emma Bowers posted on social media that Signore claimed to have jerked off to some of her photos and offered for her to come over and do it in person. That’s pretty disgusting but it gets worse. After Emma’s post, another young woman named April Dawn came forward with more allegations against Signore. This time he tried to force himself on her and tried to force sex toys into her. He then threatened to fire April’s boyfriend, a Screen Junkies employee, if she told anyone. According to April and some other woman, she did tell someone; Defy Media’s HR Department. In a series of social media posts, a friend and supporter of April’s, Dani Fernandez put Screen Junkies and Defy on notice, stating she did contact HR, providing them with evidence and witnesses, including male producers and yet HR did nothing. As you can expect with a predator like Signore, there wasn’t just two victims. The floodgates opened and women from around the world began to share their inappropriate encounters with Andy Signore. Eventually, Signore was fired from Defy and Screen Junkies, with the companies claiming they had been investigating for 2 months, when April first came to them. I spoke to my girlfriend who works in Human Resources about the situation and she called bullshit, accusing the company of saving face rather than protecting the victims. I bet they regret that decision.
Anyone who is a fan of YouTube channels knows it can be a different type of fandom. Depending on the person or the channels popularity you may even be able to engage with that person. To find out someone you looked up to and were inspired by could do such deplorable acts left me feeling sick. I would watch their content at least twice a week, and like most fans of YouTube channels you think that these people are more accessible. I immediately unsubscribed from all Screen Junkies and Defy media platforms. Sometimes I think maybe I would like to go back and watch some of the Honest Trailers, or watch the last episode of Movie Fights, and whilst not everyone involved with the creation of those products is implicit in Signore’s crimes (Yes, Crimes), I can’t bring myself to support an organisation that was complicit with abuse.
I am talking about this example for a couple of reasons. First to identify that this man is a predator, and second, that there are no excuse for his behaviour, no addictions or disorders. This abuse is evil. Too often we victim blame and make excuses for actions like this, it’s not his fault, he didn’t know, she came on to him, is it really that bad? So on and so forth. If you see his transition from propositioning fans, being slightly inappropriate and downright creepy with them and how that escalated to offering to masturbate in front of a woman, to even trying force sex toys into another woman. These are progressions, but progressions that could have been stopped. Creating an environment that doesn’t allow men like Weinstein and Signore to have the power to abuse women, and an environment that women can feel safe coming forward to other people for help and support. The fact that these women did come forward disturbs me so much. They worked up the courage to stand up to their attacker and were ignored. It disgusts me that the organisation would respond the way they did towards the victims and it took pressure from social media for them to act. This is where society needs to change. We need to do more to stop this behaviour where it begins, and more to support victims when they come forward. Now I know what most men are thinking, because I am guilty about the same thoughts, what if a woman lies? First off, get that thought out of your head, ask yourself, what if she is telling the truth. If you listen, investigate and find out she did in fact lie, then at least you know the truth. Victims shouldn’t be afraid to come forward. What I learnt from this situation is to listen and to stand up for those who need my help.
Whilst the Andy Signore situation changed my view on the world, I know sexual assault is wrong and would never do it. Another situation that changed how I thought was when people started to attack actor Jason Mamoa for his comments back in 2012. Mamoa, Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones joked that one of the perks of the show was he got to rape beautiful women. His character was a barbarian and rape was a part of their culture. Discussing this situation with a male friend of mine, I said “I thought it was an off handed comment, that people should know he isn’t serious, it was just a joke and I hope they don’t start digging into every inappropriate thing a popular actor has said” I wasn’t condoning rape, just saying it’s ok to joke about it. My mate explained that it was the wrong attitude to have, he shouldn’t have made the comment, even if it was in jest. He explained to me how the Weinstein saga had made him change his view on the world, which lead to an in depth conversation about the way we talk about these issues. Whilst I have the ability to seperate humour from reality, the sad truth there are many people out there who don’t. People hear jokes about rape or violence against women and see it as someone condoning the action. It is because of this we need to not engage in jokes about sexual assault. It isn’t funny what victims go through. Jason Mamoa realised this too and went on to apologise in a heartfelt post on social media.
Sometimes it is hard to stand up and say that something is wrong. A lot of people in Hollywood are claiming they wish they had stood up to Weinstein, they wish they had done more or had said something to help the victims. Unfortunately for people who do stand up they can often be unfairly criticised. A person I look up to is Australian Rugby player David Pocock, not just because of his abilities as a rugby player but for his character on and off the rugby pitch. A few years back, he heard an opposition player using homophobic slurs during a match. David took it upon himself on multiple occasions to inform the referee that this behaviour was happening. David came under a lot of public scrutiny for making a big deal out of the situation, but guess what, it was and is a big deal. Many people praised David for standing by his convictions, and a large portion of the sporting community condemned him for being a whinger. Regardless, David stood by what he did, and I believe he would do it again. Many of David Pocock’s actions have be an inspiration to me, but I hope that I could have the courage that he displayed to actually stand up when something wrong is happening, and to say enough is enough or stop. For evil to triumph all it takes is for good men and woman to do nothing.
One thing I learnt recently, through the Signore Saga in particular, was the twitter DMs men sent to women. We have all heard jokes made about ‘sliding into their DMs’ whether it is through Tinder or Instagram or Twitter. A woman in the online film community I follow named Stacy Howard shared a screenshot of a DM she received from a random on Twitter. Some bloke thought it would be a good idea to message Stacy: “Damn baby lemme see that pussy real quick.” Whilst that’s a bad message, it is by no means the worst one I saw. First off, what dickhead thinks that line will actually work, that he can message a woman that he has never met and that she will magically show him what he wants to see? Secondly, what dickhead thinks that is an appropriate thing to say to anyone, let alone a stranger on twitter? I have never understood this behaviour but it needs to stop. I encourage women to name and shame these men, do not feel that you should hide their names or faces. Let us all stand up against this. Australian Rapper Briggs is often the victim of racial vilification on social media, he often goes out of his way to screen shot the abuse, with the culprits name and in some cases their occupation.
I realise this is a long article, with a lot of thoughts to float around. To put it simply: we need to be better. I recommend people check out the video Jim Jefferies did about Harvey Weinstein, it is titled ‘Harvey Weinstein is a sexual predator and a total piece of shit.’ In it he talks about the humour that was used around the Weinstein Saga, and the fact that he hoped people were smart enough to know his jokes are just that. We need to stop accepting boys will be boys. We need to stop accepting locker room talk. We need to stand up for each other. We need to support victims so that we do not experience anything like this Weinstein Saga again. Women should have the same rights to feel safe as men do, nothing gives a man the right to harass or assault women. This issue isn’t political, or specific to race or religion, this is an issue that is about a woman’s right to feel safe in the world. As I said earlier in the article, my parents raised me to know right from wrong, and what has been happening is wrong. We need to work hard to change it. I will make sure I no longer pass things off as just a joke, I will make myself approachable to people who need support and help and I will have the courage to stand up when some says or does something inappropriate. I will end this with a quote from Luis C.K.; “When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide you didn’t.”
All of the stories I have referenced in this story can be found with a simple Google search if you want to read more about any of them.