Skip to main content

NZ Update #15 Screen Women Demand End to Sexual Harassment at Work


The Mount Eden War memorial Hall: Where SWAG made history this week!

This week, the Screen Women’s Action Group (SWAG) held two forums for women in the screen industries, in Auckland and Wellington. I went to part of the Auckland forum, where a large group of women from the screen industry filled the Mount Eden War Memorial Hall. I long for a War Against Women Memorial Hall, for this battle for our safety to be *over*, but these forums are a huge step forward, as for the first time screen women begin to speak publicly about their experiences, without fear of being blacklisted.

Again, congratulations and warm thanks to SWAG for what they’re doing and the thorough, heart-warming and inspiring way they do it. The group’s accessed impressive support from various government agencies and NGOs and presented a carefully considered programme with a diverse and engaging panel to introduce us to some key people and ideas, in a safe environment: there was a counsellor on hand and food to keep us all going at the end of the day.

I particularly enjoyed the panel’s emphasis on the intersectionality of the issues and at least one reference to the need to address bullying as well as sexual harassment (NZ has the second-highest rate of workplace bullying in the world and it affects one in five of us).



"The Screen Women’s Action Group (SWAG) held the forums to ‘break the silence’ around this issue, and we found a profound sense of frustration that the current policies are ineffective," says SWAG spokesperson Emma Slade.

“There was a lot of anger and a lot of pain, but there were also a lot of fantastic constructive ideas for industry-specific initiatives that would make difference."

The meetings heard from women across the industry that unacceptable behaviours – from creepy comments and jokes through to sexual assault – were part of a culture that must be changed.

"Pieces of paper and clauses in contracts have failed to stop sexual harassment. We need a raft of initiatives to deal with it before it happens, when it happens and after it happens.

Many industry women didn’t know the law or their rights. But even when they were told, the power structures in place are huge deterrents for anyone taking wanting to take action except against the most criminal end of offending.

Women asked us how do they stop the smaller stuff, the constant innuendo, the pornographic images, and the colleague who gets 'handsy'? We think it requires an awareness campaign that helps people understand exactly what sexual harassment is and how damaging it is."

Emma adds–

"This is about being safe at work. Until now complaining about sexual harassment has been risky in terms of no clear processes and the risk of women being blacklisted. Solutions to change the culture and prevent sexual harassment suggested at the meeting included robust education for everyone, sexual harassment being part of all health and safety briefings on film sets, sexual harassment officers trained in supporting safe behaviour, and independent specialists to investigate complaints and awareness campaigns to change attitudes.”

A snapshot survey SWAG is running alongside their forums (STILL OPEN!) has shown so far that 60% of respondents have either witnessed someone else being sexually harassed or experienced it themselves, usually from a person senior to them at work. I was initially surprised by the high percentage, attributing it to the self-selected responses. But then I read this, about a US survey that shows that *94*% of women in the US industry have experienced 'sexual misconduct'.  (I also heard that in Aotearoa New Zealand sexual harassment may be more pervasive in projects that come in here from overseas, a new and plausible idea for me.)

"We will be writing up the recommendations from the forums and expect swift, united and coherent action from industry leadership to implement widespread change," says Emma.

"Thirty years ago people didn’t think it would be possible to make our workplaces smoke-free. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth over that too, but look how successful it’s been. We can begin the process now to change attitudes to make our workplaces sexual harassment free."

A few days later, on its Facebook site, the group posted–

"From our forums we heard how some women particularly in post production, digital content, in writing situations or with all male crew on locations were often isolated and vulnerable.

We were recently made aware of an app developed by a woman to help other women working in situations where they felt unsafe. The app has a check in buddy system with a HELP alert and an 'at risk' button so you don't need to ring or text. You can alert friends, family or other crew to your situation. Some women may find this useful."

I watched the video below and read the Verisafe site and YES Verisafe is amazing. For any time we're vulnerable. Or someone we care about is.

And then SWAG posted this.




We can all use this template to contribute our ideas, on their Google doc.

Go SWAG! Excited to learn what happens next.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Saving Mr. Disney: A Lesbian Perspective By Carolyn Gage

To stay focused when I'm writing intensively, I go to the movies in the afternoons. It's a kind of meditation that includes the walk down the hill to the cinema and back up again afterwards. And a few weeks ago, I saw three women-directed movies in three days: Rama Burshtein's Fill The Void, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette's Inch'Allah and Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said. Maybe things have changed, I thought to myself, ever optimistic. But I also noticed that men wrote and directed Catching Fire, from a novel by a woman, about a young woman and produced by a woman. And then I read Vocativ's analysis of 2013's 50 top-grossing US releases. This shows that almost half were Bechdel Test-passing films and that they did better at the US box office than those that weren't. BUT except for Frozen, which Jennifer Lee co-directed (and wrote) men directed all 50. And then at the weekend, all three of the new releases reviewed in our local paper (with enthusiasm) told s…

Pause. Reflect. Cherish.

Chantal Akerman's Death
I tried to write about why I felt so deeply sad about Chantal Akerman's death, then read a post from poet Ana Božičević, who got it just right for me–
No one knows for sure why a woman takes her life but that Chantal A might have done so in part because her No Home Movie – about her mother Natalia an Auschwitz survivor, which was grueling to make – was booed...really breaks my heart this morning. I wonder always, who cares, as in provides care, for the women artists who go to deep dark uncommercial places? Which intimate understands the skill, of craft and emotion, necessary for the work that they do? I wrote in some napkin or tweet once 'they only love the Sylvias after they are dead'. Give care to the woman artist in your life even and especially when she does the hard depth work that challenges the mind and body, yours and hers. And if you are that woman, thank you today & every day. Thank you, Ana. And many thanks for letting me reprint …

Ally Acker's 'Reel Herstory'

I fell over Ally Acker’s work via this tweet. Not Ally’s tweet, you’ll notice, because she doesn’t engage with social media, which may be why I missed her before.


I was immediately curious about Ally's extraordinary magnum opus, Reel Women, the two-volume revised and expanded book and the 10 discs (see below) and the forthcoming Reel Herstory: The REAL Story of Reel Women. Introduced by Jodie Foster, Reel Herstory is a feature-length documentary that runs two and a half hours. It's in two parts. The first covers The Silent Era and the second Talkies Through Today (first ten minutes below).