Time is up everywhere, or so it would appear. Harvey Weinstein and others of his ilk have dominated headlines this year, as have campaigns such as the MeToo hashtag on Twitter and actors wearing black to the Oscars in protest (albeit with differing levels of effectiveness – men wearing black suits to award ceremonies is about as radical as Exeter students wearing active wear to campus).
But the movie business isn’t the only industry coming under the spotlight. During a panel at the Sydney Writers’ Festival earlier this month, the award-winning author Junot Diaz was questioned by a woman accusing him of forcibly kissing her. Also recently, this year’s Nobel prize for literature was cancelled amid a sexual assault scandal. In an article detailing the events at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in The Guardian, Steph Harmon said, “For anyone who thought the #MeToo movement had lost momentum, the last few days proved otherwise.” And if these events signal anything it’s that authors and artists need to be included in the promotion of the #MeToo movement. Misogynistic abuse of power isn’t just limited to Hollywood.
Following the allegations against Diaz, a panel discussed ‘trial by Twitter,’ when women make allegations against men on social media, thereby sidestepping journalism and the justice system, which both so often take a victim blaming stance. This is an especially difficult task for women who don’t fit the mould of the majority of high profile victims whose stories have been in the media lately, namely white, straight, wealthy, famous women. There is also the issue with so-called whisper networks. Often serial harassers and abusers are known to many in the industry; their actions are an “open secret.” However, in such situations you often have to know the right people to find out these things and it creates an onus on women to find out for themselves, thereby exacerbating victim blaming culture.
Irin Carmon, one of the journalists behind the investigation into claims of sexual harassment against American TV host Charlie Rose, said, “I wish people knew that what reporters publish is just the tip of the iceberg of what we know, because it has to meet such a high standard.” For example, one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers had a recording of her harassment and “still wasn’t believed… So many people don’t have that kind of evidence.” She told The Guardian that “mainstream – what we would call ‘old media’ – organisations” have started “to pull away from some of these stories… Not only is it costly, but not only is it difficult because of defamation, but ‘it’s getting a little bit too close executives.’” Sexual harassment is rife in journalism, as the allegations against digital executive of VICE earlier this year demonstrated. This is also the case in academia, as the TimesUpAcademia hashtag on Twitter confirmed. So what has yet to be uncovered? Diaz will be the first of many authors to be exposed, I’m sure. Harassment and abuse is a culture; it tends to be the rule rather than the exception.
In the penultimate moment of the aforementioned Sydney Writers’ Festival panel, Australian writer and feminist Eva Cos said, “It’s not ‘How do we stop that man from doing that to us?’, but ‘How do we stop men feeling like they’re entitled to?’” Although there isn’t a straightforward answer to that question, making sure that no stone is left unturned in any industry, including the arts, seems like a good place to start.