February 22, 2018

94% of Hollywood Women Have Been Sexually Harassed?

The survey’s salacious claim is dubious, but the underlying cultural rot in Hollywood is undeniable.

An astonishing 94% of women working in Hollywood claim to have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, reports USA Today. Piggy-backing off momentum generated by the #MeToo movement, the story takes aim specifically at the work culture within Hollywood. While most Americans may not be surprised to learn that an industry that has long practiced objectifying women’s physical form and glorifying sexual indulgence is one of the worst offenders, the sheer volume of harassment claims is dubious even for Hollywood.

The article notes that its survey consisted of 843 women who work in a wide variety of trades within the industry. USA Today also noted that its survey “was conducted online between Dec. 4, 2017, and Jan. 14 after emails were sent to members of The Creative Coalition and Women in Film and Television inviting them to participate.” And the article notes an important point that shouldn’t be missed: “As a self-selected sample of respondents, it is not scientifically representative of the entire industry, let alone the broader national population of women working in all industries.” Now that’s a pretty big caveat, which calls into question the accuracy of article’s headline claim of 94%.

Another obvious problem with the article is the failure to define what constitutes actual sexual harassment versus non-harassment and even non-sexual behavior. For example, the article lists several “types of sexual harassment/assault experience” by the women surveyed. Topping the list at 87% are “unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures to or about you.” What’s missing with this rather broad and undefined category? Context. Without understanding the context in which these harassing behaviors are said to have occurred, it is rather difficult to determine if they are indeed harassment. In other words, this is a highly subjective categorization open to a broad range of interpretations. It’s not an obvious, cut-and-dried moral line.

Then there is the categorization that is quite simply not sexual harassment. The category, which 65% said they’ve experienced: “witnessing others advance professionally from sexual relationships with employer/manager.” So, based on this logic, if one were to witness a coworker learning to play golf in order to get in good with the golf-loving boss, could one claim the boss pressured them? No, the actions and decisions of a coworker with the boss do not equate to one’s own personal experience with the boss. If the boss never propositioned these women, then they have not experienced this form of sexual harassment.

There is also the blurring of definitions or distinctions. The most glaring example is the category of having been “propositioned for a sexual act or relationship.” The article explains that “64% say they have been propositioned for sex or a relationship at least once.” There is a huge distinction between “sexual act” and “relationship.” Essentially equating these two terms serves to confuse and muddy the definition of sexual harassment. By “relationship,” was he asking for sex or a date or both?

There’s no question Hollywood took to heart that old advertisement adage — sex sells — and ran off the deep end with it. And in many ways, the industry’s men and women are reaping the consequences of what they have sown. The trouble is the cause for the problem is being blamed on a lack of equality, predicated on the fact that a greater number of men are in positions of power than women. However, the solution to this problem is not political but moral. As long as Hollywood continues to promote the fallacy of consequence-free sex, we can expect to see more of this abuse.

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