#metoo

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    One year after the groundbreaking New York Times exposé about Harvey Weinstein, Amanda Palmer and Welsh songwriter Jasmine Power have released a powerful video accompaniment to their protest song, “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now.” The totally crowdfunded video (all profits are being donated to #TimesUp) is a female tour de force, directed by Noemie Lafrance, shot with an all-woman cast and crew, and featuring sixty women artists. It’s NSFW—shots include full-nudity and implicit assault. It’s a tough but essential watch. Shots of solemn, white Oxford-clad women alternate with anguished dance. As the final shot expands to a full choir, the sorrow—and defiance—is palpable. BUST spoke with Palmer about #MeToo and the difficult, but necessary, process of making this vision a reality.

    “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now” features the work of more than 60 women and the video concludes with a choir; why was it important to have such a strong collective, female presence?

    This moment in time and the progress that we are just beginning to grasp is so clearly about the power of the collective. So while we could have choreographed a video with five killer professional dancers, the sheer force of the number wouldn't have been an ingredient. It's also always important for me to include my community in what I make. This story isn't just my story—it's theirs. I come from a punk and performance art background, and it's always important to me that we all create together. I believe that everybody should be involved in making art, not just the so-called "professionals." So a lot of the women you see in the video have literally never been in front of a camera before, much less naked and raging in front of a camera. And there's something innately powerful about giving all these women a chance to be on the other side of the screen. It reflects what's been happening in the #MeToo era in general: women at every level are grabbing back the narrative, and the very platforms in which that narrative gets told.

    So, the video was totally crowdfunded—how does that interact with the video’s narrative or themes?
     
    The fact that this video was crowdfunded is essential. People are so used to seeing content appearing on their screens that they don't often think about where the funding comes from, and most musicians are still very loathe to express how the art-sausage gets made. Every time you see an expensive video, that money had to come from somewhere, and videos themselves don't earn any money. No major label would have ever funded this project. I was on a major label for many years and I have friends who still have to do battle in giant boardrooms to convince a bunch of men that their ideas are worthwhile. I don't want to work in conditions like that—it's why I went indie ten years ago. I would also never let corporate dollars fund a piece of work like this. I mean, I'm from the '80s and '90s and still believe that selling out is real. I think that having Dove Soap or Mac Cosmetics fund art like this literally undercuts the point of the art.

    Feminist art has to be able to exist in a liberated playing field without boundaries, without permissions, without dudes up in marketing telling you that your work is too this, too that, or "off brand." Fuck that. That's the sort of idiocy that trapped us in this mess in the first place. So if you're not independently wealthy, and there's no money coming from labels, and there's no money coming in from sponsorship, the only answer left is crowdfunding. The media is in a strange freefall right now, and people are so hungry for truth and authenticity in art and storytelling. This is why you're seeing people starting to flock to journalists and writers and musicians on platforms like patreon. I've been working on building my patreon for over three years, and I now have 12,000 people giving me about $3-4 a month so that I can make the art I want to make without having to answer to a higher power, and more importantly, without having to rely on the mainstream media to push my work into the world. And that feels like a revolutionary act right now. 

    Rape is (to say the least) a difficult topic to depict, and even imply, in a music video. Can you tell me about the process of translating that topic into visuals?

    Noemie [Lafrance, the music video director] and I discussed this at length and so carefully when we laid out the plans for the choreography, cast and crew. One of the most important things you'll notice is that Weinstein himself isn't represented in the video. Nor is a rape depicted. The song was written as an argument in a woman's head: Jasmine's voice and my voice are pitted against one another as if two sides of a woman's brain—"escape right now and deal with the consequences" versus "just lie back and let's get this over with." So many women I know have had to deal with that inner, crazy-making decision at one point or another. It was such a difficult thing to write about, especially with a specific title like that: these weren't our experiences, and we were using Weinstein as a springboard to a much larger conversation. I actually leaked the title of the song to my patreon blog before it came out and I got a text from one of my feminist journalist friends—Laurie Penny—saying, basically: "Eek - don't call your song 'Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now,' it's not your story to tell, Amanda. Be really careful and don't get yourself into a typical kerfuffle." And I challenged her and said: "Listen, when Weinstein is on the cover of every newspaper and his name is now synonymous with #MeToo, I think we're at the point of fair use." And she said: "Don't." And I said: "What if I just emailed Rose McGowan and asked her permission?" and Laurie said, "Wow. That's fair, I guess."

    So I wrote to Rose McGowan—whose book I had just finished reading, which played no small part in the inspiration for this song—and sent her the track and the lyrics. I asked for her blessing to use the title. And she told me that the song made her heart race and cry, and to go ahead and use the title. And I have to say, that whole exchange gave me so much hope for feminism. Laurie calling me out, my reaching out to Rose, all of us discussing the etiquette of story, respect and ownership together. Like feminism itself: it's always going to be messy as fuck, and nobody is ever going to agree completely, but we have to keep working together to keep this fire burning. Otherwise we are going to perish in the flames of in-fighting and useless battles over the nuances of language and consent while the patriarchy just marches along and crushes our chances.

    The song was originally released in May as a response to Weinstein’s crimes, but the video arrived in the midst of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. How do you think the timing has affected the conversation surrounding “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now”? 

    Oh my god, it was too poetically painful. The video release date was set for the 5th of October, which was the one year anniversary of the New York Times article on Weinstein, but as fate would have it, that was also when the hearing and the vote for Kavanaugh was going down. I hadn't planned to do a screening for the video—I've never done that—but I just happened to be in L.A. that week making a record and I said: fuck it, I really want to get everybody together in one room. Every artist and woman I know right now is just in a state of shock, being on the internet just wasn't enough. So I booked a theater and a few hundred people got to huddle in the dark and watch it together. And we did what needs doing right now: we talked. We wept. People got up and grabbed the mic and shared stories. A six-foot tall man wept in my arms while he told me about his assault and how people find it so hard to believe because he's such a huge dude. Making art and gathering people together is what I do. It felt like the strongest response I could possibly have to Kavanaugh: to get women in a room and share our stories. 

    How has the process of filming this video personally changed you?

    I've been making art and music videos like this for so many years and it wasn't until Trump was elected that I started proactively using my Patreon money to hire crews with more women. the "Mother" video that I shot was with a female director and a crew that was predominately women, plus a lot of them brought their kids, and I was like: holy shit, it's actually incredible when you have a film set that's run by women, there's just a completely different energy. And with the Weinstein video, Noemie and I committed to a cast and crew that was almost entirely female as well. And I can't quite describe the feeling in that room, but it was alchemical. As if we were harnessing something really massive and giving a pointed message to the universe with the act of making this video. And every woman on that set commented on it, and felt it. That video wasn't just about the product we were making, it was about the act of communion that birthed it. I think it fundamentally changed every woman in the building. We left feeling like we had a posse, we had hope, we had a voice. I said to the whole cast while we were rehearsing: even if the footage all gets lost in the river tonight: the point of this video has been archived. Because we're all here, we're all feeling this, and we're going to take this feeling back out into the world tomorrow. 

    What’s the change—big or small—you hope to provoke in viewers?

    I've already read some comment from women who said that the video provided them a real catharsis. That's the ultimate purpose of this work. And if just one person found a sense of camaraderie or healing as a result of this video, that's enough for me. 

    Top photo: Youtube / Amanda Palmer

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  • Brian Singer International Competition Jury at Opening Ceremony of the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival 22427114066 cropped 3e2fa

    Director Bryan Singer’s history of alleged rape, sexual harassment, and assault has been an “open secret” in Hollywood for years—but a damning Esquire expose is supposedly imminent, reports the Wrap. On Monday, Singer released a statement on Instagram saying the article will “rehash false accusations and bogus lawsuits.” The exposé is rumored to be released in the November edition of Esquire, out this week.

    Singer's statement continues, “In today’s climate where people’s careers are harmed by mere accusations, what Esquire is attempting to do is a reckless disregard for the truth, making assumptions that are fictional and irresponsible.”

    The truth, though, is that over two decades, Singer’s career has been marked by allegations ranging from inappropriate on-set behavior to accusations of sexual assault and rape—which IndieWire compiled into a timeline last year.

    The accusations begin in 1994, when production allegedly halted on Singer's film The Usual Suspects,reportedly due to star Kevin Spacey's "inappropriate sexual behavior." (Singer has said that production was not stopped.) Then, in 1997, the parents of 14-year-old Devin St. Albin and other young actors sued Singer and the producers of Apt Pupil for allegedly filming St. Albin and other young extras naked for a shower scene without permission. The suits were eventually dismissed for insufficient evidence. 

    The accusations against Singer include rape: in 2014, former child actor Michael F. Egan III filed a civil lawsuit against Singer. Egan said that in 1999, when he was 17, Singer flew him to Hawaii multiple times under the pretense of casting him in movie roles, but instead gave him alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs and anally raped him. Singer denied the accusations. In 2014, Egan volutarily dismissed his claim against Singer. Later in 2014, another former child actor, an anoymous plaintiff known as "John Doe No. 117," accused Singer and Singer's frequent collaborator Gary Goddard of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape him when he was 17; later that year, the plaintiff dropped Singer from the case. In 2017, a man named Justin Smith also accused Singer of sexually assaulting him in a series of since-deleted tweets; after Smith's tweets, Singer deleted his own Twitter account. Later in 2017, Cesar Sanchez-Guzman filed a complaint against Singer saying that Singer had orally and anally raped him when he was 17. Singer denied the accusations. 

    In December 2017, Singer was fired from his movie Bohemian Rhapsody, apparently due to repeated failures to show up on set and resulting disagreements with star Rami Malek, reports Variety. Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher as the director in the film's later stages, but Singer still receives the directing credit and is involved with the promotion of the movie. In his statement, Singer writes that the Esquire exposé has been "conveniently timed with the release of my film, Bohemian Rhapsody" and is an attempt "to tarnish a career I've spent 25 years to build." 

    Top Image: Wikimedia Commons / Dick Thomas Johnson

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    Actress Charlize Theron, and recent star of the film Bombshell, has spoken in length to NPRabout her experience with sexual harassment by a “very famous director” early on in her career. The actress reported that the incident occurred in 1994 when she traveled to an audition to a well-known director’s house. Once Theron arrived, the director was “drinking in his pajamas” and at some point during the night, he touched her leg inappropriately, prompting her to get the fuck out of there.

    Like many victims of abuse and harassment, Theron blamed herself for not telling him to stop. She also figured that the motives behind the audition’s location should have been apparent, being in his private residence on a Saturday night. She felt foolish. "I put a lot of blame on myself... that I didn't say all the right things, and that I didn't tell him to take a hike, and that I didn't do all of those things that we so want to believe we'll do in those situations," she said.

    In Theron’s latest role, she plays former Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly, who alongside Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman, portrays the real-life story of how women took down the CEO and chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment at work—leading to his resignation. Although the story is a remarkable one, Kelly and her colleagues were anything but feminists and have made some insulting remarks before (Kelly’s career has never recovered since she defended Blackface on air). After all, this is Fox News we’re talking about.

    But Theron and her co-stars know this. She commented on how their aim wasn’t trying to make them “heroes” or “whitewash” anything, “We were going to pepper those things into the film so that we were authentic to them and the story and still feel like, through all of that, that what they did was still incredible. They took down this media mogul, and that has never happened before.” Maybe her opinion would differ if she wasn’t white.

    Still, the coinciding of the film’s release and her story feels like we could be about to receive a second wave of the MeToo movement. The decision to speak out was changed from a moment she recalls a plan on confronting the accused years later, only to feel disappointed with his dismissal of what happened. He dodged the subject and acted like it was nothing, regardless of how much it had obviously affected Theron. She wanted this big moment but never got it. And now she feels that this is the start of his retribution.

    The importance of details, severity, names and so on are not what matters in this case. What does matter is the prevalence of this happening to women then and now and in every industry. When, and if ever, Theron decides to name the director is up to her. For now, what’s important is allowing women to feel safe to share their stories and see the sufficient actions taken against the perpetrators.

     

    Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr

     

     

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  • Screen Shot 2020 10 14 at 1.12.23 PM 7940cMedusa’s origin story is varied. Yet, the most widely recognized comes from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, in which Medusa was a mortal maiden in the temple of Athena, where she was raped by Poseidon. Soon after, Athena banished and cursed Medusa with a head of snakes and a gaze that turned men to stone. As the story goes, she was eventually beheaded by the epic hero Perseus, who used her head as a weapon before gifting it to Athena. Yesterday in New York City, a seven-foot-tall sculpture of Medusa was unveiled across from the Manhattan Supreme Court, where men accused of sexual assault, including Harvey Weinstein, have stood trial. However, this artistic rendition is an inverse of the Greek myth surrounding Medusa. The statue does not show Perseus holding the head of Medusa, but the other way around.

    The exhibition was conceived by MWTH (Medusa With The Head), an artist-led project that reimagines classical artists and their work. The sculpture was created in 2008 by Argentine-Italian artist Luciano Garbati but has amassed newfound fame in recent years. After Garbati posted a picture of his statue on social media in 2018, it went viral. Bek Andersen, the founder of MWTH, explained over email, “In my own art practice I have investigated flipping the script of power and gender roles, and in that moment, Garbati’s unapologetically revisionist Medusa spoke to my interests by reimagining the outcome of the myth of Medusa.”

    Placed across from the storied courthouse, Garbati says that Medusa’s location is important because the statue explores themes of justice. Yet, questions have been raised about why, then, would Medusa not hold the head of her rapist. Andersen explains that her initial inspiration for the project was sparked by a more specific event in recent history, the Kavanaugh hearings. “A man abuses his power... gets called out on it, and the woman is the one who ultimately suffers the fallout. And the man goes on to (gain) fame and acclaim,” she explains. Soon after, Andersen wrote a patron of the arts and proposed to bring the sculpture to New York and organize an exhibition featuring works that focus the center of power away from the patriarchal structures.

    Andersen points out that Medusa is familiar enough to engage a broad population in the dialogue, but with popularity comes criticism, this time about the nudity of the sculpture. Medusa With The Head of Perseus, which was sculpted by a man, is thin, pube-less, and perky-breasted raising criticisms that the work is yet another iteration of the male gaze. “But really she’s still the total object of the male gaze here,” explains Jerry Saltz for New York Magazine, “not of thought, fear, admiration, pathos, power, agency, or anything other than male idiocy.” Saltz goes on to say that this sculpture is business as usual: another naked female figure made by another white male artist. In all fairness, on Medusa’s behalf, Jerry Saltz is also a white male. “The criticism directed at Medusa comes as no surprise,” says Andersen, “whether or not intended, the style of mannerist sculpture is provocative in the context of our western puritanical value system. For a woman to be nude, to be beautiful, for no one’s gain, she is no person’s property.” Andersen explains that this reimagined Medusa is an independent agent, acting in self-defense.

    Although controversial, the discussion surrounding the sculpture which depicts one of the most famous mythological characters of all time is neither unfounded nor surprising. In 2017 as the #MeToo movement took off, the media’s spotlight was mostly focused on A-list celebrity accusations despite the original call to action being created by a Black female activist, Tarana Burke, in 2006. “The women of color, trans women, queer people—our stories get pushed aside, and our pain is never prioritized,” said Burke for Time Magazine. “We don’t talk about indigenous women. Their stories go untold.” However, Andersen doesn’t see MWTH’s new exhibition as an ending point. Instead, “a movement forward in a long and imperfect journey toward an embodied cultural understanding of equality.”

    Despite it all, Andersen welcomes criticism. She explains, “It is exciting that images of the work have generated a dynamic conversation. I don’t take issue with anyone’s response, and I don’t think any reaction could be considered wrong.” She continues to say that this sculpture is a reaction to an antiquated ideology. “My goal with MWTH project,” Andersen says, “is to provoke conversation and action that examines the narratives that shape our worldview.”

    Medusa’s rebirth as a victor makes a statement, especially as it sits across from the place where many abusers during the #MeToo movement faced the court, but may we not forget about the women who aren’t famous, and don’t have cultural influence whose stories have not been told and whose abusers have not been held accountable.

    Top Image: Luciano Garbati Medusa With The Head of Perseus, 2008-2020 Installed at Collect Pond Park. Courtesy of MWTH Project.

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    In an unsurprising but immensely saddening move, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court this weekend. 

    Saturday afternoon’s vote was exemplary of the nation’s sharp, partisan state; Senate members voted 50-48, almost totally along party lines, and in one of the slimmest majorities in the Court’s history, the New York Times reports. During the call, protesters could be heard shouting, “Shame!” from the Senate gallery. On the Senate building steps, protesters raised signs and voices.

    The nomination was rushed with unprecedented speed after the gut-wrenching testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Her hours-long testimony was a landmark moment in both American gender politics and the #MeToo movement. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was a bitter fight, evoking the events of 1991, when law professor Anita F. Hill accused then-Judge Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

    In the weeks leading up to Kavanaugh’s vote, hundreds of women were galvanized to descend onto Capitol Hill, directly confronting Republican senators. In the face of such protests, the confirmation sends a clear, cruel message that their voices were not acknowledged.

    According to NPR, while en route in Force One to a political rally, Trump said he was "very, very, very happy" about the vote and said Kavanaugh—a man accused of sexual assault by three separate women—will be "a brilliant Supreme Court justice for many years."

    In the debate preceding Saturday's roll call, senators were alternately defensive and disgusted. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Kavanaugh a victim of "an ugly left-wing smear campaign."

    Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who was first elected in the wake of Anita Hill’s testimony, said that confirming Kavanaugh is akin to showing young girls and women that "your voices just don't matter."

    Special attention had been on Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the sole GOP supporters of abortion rights capable of keeping Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court. Protesters called on her to vote “no.” She did not. Instead, she delivered to the Senate a 45-minute defense of her decision.

    “We’ve heard a lot of charges and countercharges about Judge Kavanaugh,” Collins said. “But as those who have known him best have attested, he has been an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband and father.” The political ramifications for her vote are steep. Collins is up for re-election in 2020, and many voters view her actions as a betrayal of women’s rights.

    Before the vote, demonstrators had broken through barriers around the Capitol, attempting to climb the building's steps. Women occupied the Contemplation of Justice statue in front of the Supreme Court, bearing the hashtag #MeToo on signs. 

    According to U.S. Capitol Police, 164 people were arrested. In the morning after Kavanaugh’s confirmation there is a feeling of national mourning. Mourning for the survivor, disregarded once again; for the unfortunate reality of the Supreme Court as just another stage for partisan machinations. 

    So, feel what you need—anger, outrage, disbelief—and prepare for the battle ahead: the midterm elections.

    Top photo: Wikimedia Commons 

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    Seven years ago, social media users spurred Egypt’s civil war. Now, one woman’s disparaging post on Facebook has landed her in a Cairo jail cell. A recent feature in WIRED details the plight of Mona Mazbouh, a 24-year-old from Lebanon who was visiting friends in Egypt. 

    In a Facebook video, uploaded to Mazbouh’s private account, Mazbouh railed against the sexual harassment she experienced in Cairo, which was designated by a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll last year as the “most dangerous megacity in the world for women”.

    The following day, her post had gone viral. Concerned friends feared for her safety. Death threats flooded the video’s comments. A month later, Mazbouh was in a jail cell. She was sentenced to eight years in prison, convicted of "deliberately broadcasting false rumours which aim to undermine society and attack religions.”

    Mazbouh’s ordeal is one example of the Egyptian government’s crackdown on women who protest sexual harassment through social media. This past summer Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s signed legislation giving the government control of websites critical of the government, under the guise of targeting “false news”. Under these laws, even visiting a flagged site can warrant an arrest. Social media users with over 5,000 followers are treated as media organizations on pair with major publications – thus subject to censorship.

    The broad security laws have swiftly targeted women attempting to bring #MeToo into Egypt’s digital conversation. According to the Wall Street Journal, in May Egyptian actress and activist Amal Fathy was also arrested after she posted a video to Facebook.  In the video, she curses Egypt and protests her harassment by a Cairo police officer. Fathy was charged with illegally possessing “indecent material” and, like Mazbouh, of spreading “fake news.”

    This is a stark difference to role Facebook and Twitter played during the Arab Spring in Egypt. In 2012, the Facebook page, “We Are All Khaled Said” — created to protest the killing of 28-year-old Khaled Said, who had been beaten to death by the Egyptian police — gathered 250,000 likes. Their outrage culminated in the historic rally at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, a pivotal protest leading to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

    Social media proved an oasis, and rallying point, for the anxieties of the Egyptian generation coming-of-age during the Arab Spring. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi gained power in 2013 after the military coup with substantial support the aftermath partly from women hungry for reform. In his early presidency, he promised to crackdown on sexual harassment in Egypt’s cities. In 2014, he even visited a woman who had been attacked in in Tahrir Square by a group of men celebrating his inauguration. 

    That same year, the government passed a law making sexual harassment punishable by up to five years in prison. Despite the criminalization, Al-Jazeera reports many women feel the law is not widely enforced. A UN survey in 2013 reported that 99% of Egyptian women had experienced a form of sexual harassment. Though, according to the Guardian, Maya Morsy, the president of the national council for women, has claimed only 9.6% of women in Egypt have faced sexual harassment. Another poll conducted by the UN reports that almost 65 percent of men acknowledged harassing women. 

    It’s an apt time for Egypt to have its own #MeToo Movement, but the current regime has proved outcry can expect retribution.

     

    Top Image: Wikimedia Commons / Gigi Ibrahim 

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    Sunday night, The New Yorker published an incendiary report of new sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In the piece, Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale, recounts how Kavanaugh exposed his penis to her at a freshman party, to the jeers of male onlookers. Kavanaugh and the White House denied the accusations.

    By Monday afternoon, national media began discussing Ronan Farrow, a reporter attributed to the piece. The outlets’ headlines tell an unflattering, but illuminating, story:

    CNN reports, “Ronan Farrow details new Kavanaugh allegations.”

    The Huffington Post reports: “Ronan Farrow Stands Behind Reporting on Latest Brett Kavanaugh Accuser.”

    From Yahoo News: “US Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh latest target of Ronan Farrow.”

    Notice anyone missing from those headlines? Maybe New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer, who shares a byline with Farrow on Sunday’s article? Mayer is a staple of the magazine; she's been on staff since 1995 and is the current chief Washington correspondent covering culture, politics, and national security. 

    Mayer is no stranger to covering Supreme Court nominees accused of sexual harrasment. Mayer co-authored with Jill Ambramsom Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas (1994), a study of his fractious nomination and appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Thomas' case reverberates strongly today; in 1991, Anita Hill testified before an all-male Senate Judiciary committee that, as her previous boss, Thomas had sexually harrased her. Hill was deemed delusional, called by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, a high ranking member on the Judiciary committee—who is still a member 27 years later—as suffering from "erotomania."

    After hundreds of interviews, Mayer and Abramsom illustrated the political machinations that conspired against Hill. Machinations still at work in favor of Brett Kavanaugh. So Mayer is not some transitory contributor or entry-level writer. She is an authority. While readers aren’t privy to the magazine's exact division of labor, their shared byline implies equal reporting. So why then is the spotlight trained on Farrow?

    As the son of Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow was, in a way, never far from the public eye. As a journalist, he shot to professional prominence in late 2017 after his expose in The New Yorkerhelped uncover Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual abuse. He would go on to be jointly awarded the Pulitzer Prize with The New York Times’ team, led by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Both teams helped spur monumental change within mainstream reaction to sexual abuse; we are, according to most media outlets, in the throes of a “reckoning.”

    Yet of the three reporters, Farrow alone was referenced during the 2018 Emmys opening monologue. When addressing Netflix, host Colin Jost joked, “Netflix, of course, has the most nominations tonight. If you’re a network executive, that’s the scariest thing you can possibly hear, except maybe ‘Sir, Ronan Farrow is on line one.'”

    Farrow is of a selective class: the Celebrity Journalist. The term was first coined in 1986 by The Atlantic writer James Fallows to describe the journalist as public personality, a highly-paid figure whose presence rivals the story in prominence. This “celebrification of journalists” is usually credited to Watergate and its principle journalists, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. 

    Female journalists, even those working the same story, are often not awarded the same recognition. There are, of course, the exceptions—the Joan Didions, the Christiane Amanpours—but history favors male journalists. In 2007, Ira Glass curated the unfortunetly titled journalism anthology, The New Kings of Nonfiction. Of the authors included, the gender ratio of women to men was 2 to 14. Last year’s report by the non-profit feminist organization VIDA: Women in Literary Arts had a similarly dismal outcome. That year, only 2 of the 15 major magazines had published more women writers than men. Women’s writing accounted for under 40% of the overall articles published. It was a 15% rise compared the previous year, but far from ideal.

    So, we return to the New Yorker article on Kavanaugh. Return to Jane Mayer, Ronan Farrow, and forgotten bylines. Female journalists deserve credit for their work, especially during an era when unethical portrayals of women reporters are on the rise. This situation also showcases the trouble in making any one journalist the voice of the #MeToo movement. Celebrity is a double-edged sword; the journalist’s name contributes gravity to the piece, but can threaten to eclipse the issue. And when the issue is sexual abuse, we—reporters, readers—should stay especially vigilante to the gender politics at play.

    Top photo: Jane Mayer by Larry D. Moore, Ronan Farrow by Fuzheado, both via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Javier USE 454f4

    Javier Bardem has (yet again!) voiced support for director Woody Allen. During a master class at the Lumière Film Festival in Lyon, France, Bardem told the audience Allen is “a genius,” adding that, “I would work with him tomorrow,” reports Variety. The Spanish actor played the passionate painter, Juan Antonio, in Allen's 2007 film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

    The allegations that Allen sexually abused his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, have long polarized Hollywood elite. In February 2014, Farrow published a New York Times op-ed, writinging, “when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me.” 

    Allen has resolutely denied Farrow's accusations since the '90s, and no charges were filed after a police investigation. The accusations gained newfound attention in the #MeToo movement, compelling past collaborators—including Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Colin Firth, and Timothée Chalamet—to apologize for working with Allen.

    Bardem, apparently, will not join in what the Huffington Post reports he describes as a “public lynching" of Allen.

    According to Vulture, Bardem told the class, "Today, 11 years later, it is the same accusation. Public accusations are very dangerous. If some day there is a trial and it’s proven to be true, I would change my opinion, but at this moment, nothing has changed.”

    This isn’t the first time the  actor has defended Allen. In an April interview with French newspaper Paris Match, Bardem said he was shocked by #MeToo’s “treatment” of Allen, saying he has “doubts” about Dylan Farrow’s accusations.

    Whether Bardem will face (harsher) backlash is to be seen. But despite Bardem’s confidence, Allen’s fan club only grows smaller. 

    Top Image:Wikimedia Commons / Georges BiardGeorges Biard

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  • KAVANAUGH 54028

    Over the weekend, Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing just got more complicated: another woman has come forward with accusations of sexual assault. On Sunday night, The New Yorker reported the account of Deborah Ramirez, a domestic abuse advocate who attended Yale with Kavanaugh. According to Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer's report, Kavanaugh exposed himself to Ramirez and demanded she "kiss it" during a drinking game during freshman year, to the ridicule of male onlookers.

    The Democratic Senate offices believe the allegations merit further investigation. “This is another serious, credible, and disturbing allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. It should be fully investigated,” Senator Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, told The New Yorker. Of the four Democratic senators to receive information about the allegation, at least two are investigating it.

    Kavanaugh’s rebuttal was swift: “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, a defending my good name—and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building—against these last-minute allegations.”

    In the face of mounting accusations, the White House has (unsurprisingly) only strengthened their support of Kavanaugh.

    White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said, “This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man. This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say.”

    To call these claims, “uncorroborated,” though, isn’t quite accurate. The New Yorker contacted dozens of former classmates, to mixed results. One identified source reported that he was “‘one-hundred-per-cent sure’ that he was told at the time that Kavanaugh was the student who exposed himself to Ramirez,” and independently corroborated many of the same details reported by Ramirez.

    The report continues: 
“Another former classmate, Richard Oh, an emergency-room doctor in California, recalled overhearing, soon after the party, a female student tearfully recounting to another student an incident at a party involving a gag with a fake penis, followed by a male student exposing himself.”

    One of the male classmates accused of egging Kavanaugh on at the party to expose himself also gaves his take:

    I don’t think Brett would flash himself to Debbie, or anyone, for that matter,” he said. Asked why he thought Ramirez was making the allegation, he responded, “I have no idea.”

    Mark Judge, a conservative writer, recently emerged as a prominent witness and defender of Kavanaugh. In her initial report, Ford accused Judge of being in the room during her assault, “alternately urging Kavanaugh to 'go for it' and to 'stop.'’ Judge has claimed “no resolution” of the event.

    In Sunday night’s New Yorker article, 
Kavanaugh’s ex-girlfriend of three years, Elizabeth Rasor, gave a more damning take on Judge. Rasor named him as Kavanaugh’s accomplice during the parties, claiming Judge told her “ashamedly about an incident in which he and other boys took turns having sex with a drunk woman.” Kavanaugh was not presumed to be present at this incident, but Rasor’s account is being taken seriously.

    Nearly an hour after the article went live, attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted a screenshot of an email in he claimed to have “significant evidence” that Judge, Kavanaugh, and friends would “participate in the targeting of women with alcohol/drugs in order to allow a ‘train’ of men to subsequently gang rape them.” He wrote, "I represent a woman with credible information regarding Judge Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. We will be demanding the opportunity to present testimony to the committee and will likewise be demanding that Judge and others be subpoenaed to testify. The nomination must be withdrawn," and clarified that his client isn't Ramirez.

     Judge’s attorney said that he “categorically denies” Rasor’s report. 

    Christine Blasey Ford has committed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. In light of Sunday's report, the pressure on Kavanaugh can only rise. 

     

    Top Image: Wikimedia Commons  

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    Woody Allen and Judge Kavanaugh: Their Defenders and Accusers Speak Out

  • 1920px Olivia Munn 29726372858 05aba

    The latest news regarding Shane Black’s reboot of 20th Century Fox’s Predator franchise gives the film’s title a more sinister meaning. On September 6th, The Los Angeles Times reported that the studio cut a scene featuring Olivia Munn and Steven Wilder Striegel, a longtime friend of Black. After filming, Munn discovered that Streigel is a registered sex offender: in 2010, Striegel pleaded guilty to risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer in response to allegations of his attempts to seduce a 14-year-old girl into a sexual relationship. Striegel served six months in prison.

    After Munn shared this information with her lawyer and manager, Fox studio executives were quick to remove Striegel from the film. In a statement to The Los Angeles Times, a Fox spokesperson said, “Our studio was not aware of Mr. Striegel’s background when he was hired. We were not aware of his background during the casting process due to legal limitations that impede studios from running background checks on actors.” However, Shane Black was well aware that his friend is a registered sex offender and originally issued a defense saying, “I personally chose to help a friend,” but later released a follow-up statement and apology.

    Munn told The Los Angeles Times that she found the ordeal “both surprising and unsettling that Shane Black, our director, did not share this information to the cast, crew, or Fox Studios prior to, during, or after production.” She then had to go to Toronto International Film Festival to promote the film, explaining on Twitter that she's contactually obligated to do so. However, Munn found that she had to do interviews alone (save for one with eleven-year-old Jacob Tremblay). According to The Hollywood Reporter, most of Munn’s co-stars chose to withdraw from scheduled interviews, likely because of the controversy surrounding the deleted scene. 

    After finishing an interview with Tremblay, Munn sat down for a solo interview with The Hollywood Reporter in which she discussed what transpired after the initial bombshell, as well as her justified disappointment in Shane Black and her fellow cast members. What’s important to note here is that no matter how shocking and uncomfortable this news was for the entire production staff, Munn immediately emphasized that “It’s been most tough on the Jane Doe that was in the story because the victim is the victim. Whatever she’s gone through the subsequent years is most important to me.”

    When asked about how difficult it’s been to deal with this incident with the rest of the cast and Shane Black, Munn does not mince her words, saying, “I don’t know why this has to be such a hard fight. I do feel like I’ve been treated by some people that I’m the one who went to jail or I’m the one that put this guy on set… I don’t know how to pretend, I don’t know how to skirt around the issue. I just know how to be honest about it. It’s a very lonely feeling to be sitting here by myself when I should be sitting here with the rest of the cast.” She added that while she appreciates Black’s apology, she would have preferred to receive it directly as opposed to reading it on the internet.

    After the Hollywood Reporter interview was published, Munn's Predator costar Sterling K. Brown gave a statement supporting her on Twitter, and Keegan-Michael Key's representative gave a statement to the Hollywood Reporter saying Key had reached out to Munn privately to support her the week before. Predator cast members Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, and Thomas Jane have not commented. 

    In response to questions regarding a more structured hiring system to prevent such things, Munn specifies that the industry’s top executives cannot be relied on to make changes as “they are the people who created this disparity in the first place.” She credits people on the internet for keeping the outrage and the conversations alive. “If the fans and public keep expressing that they won’t go support people who are abusers or organizations or companies that support that, then that will make them change.” 

    Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America

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  • Hitchcock Hedren Marnie publicity photo 1964 5c4ce

    “Blondes make the best victims,” Alfred Hitchcock said in 1977. “They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.”

    In Hitchcock’s 1963 film The Birds, protagonist Melanie Daniels screams as crows, gulls, and ravens scratch at her until she bleeds. Leading lady Tippi Hedren’s horror was real: filming the scene had a traumatic effect on her, and Hitchcock was well aware of it. Like his iconic thrillers, which are chilling through both violence and psychological torment, the story of Hitchcock and Hedren is, in some ways, a matter of life imitating art.

    It all started in 1961, when Hitchcock spotted Hedren in a non-speaking role in a TV commercial for a diet drink. Hedren was 31 at the time, with a four-year-old daughter, Melanie (Griffith, whose own daughter is fellow actor Dakota Johnson). According to Vanity Fair, Hitchcock told his studio executives to “find the girl,” and she was paid the then-unheard-of sum of $25,000 for a screen test, even though she had never acted in a film before. A few days later, the director signed Hedren to a seven-year contract which, in effect, took control of her career and locked in her fate.

    Prior to filming The Birds—Hedren’s first movie role ever—Hitchcock warned cast members not to “touch the girl,” per The New York Post. Whenever he saw her talking to another man, he would fix her with an icy stare. The director’s obsession with Hedren escalated fast, and before long, he was asking her to “touch him.” In her 2016 memoir, Tippi, Hedren recalled an incident in the back of a limousine, where Hitchcock flung himself on top of her and tried to kiss her. “It was an awful, awful moment I’ll always wish I could erase from my memory,” she wrote. Still, she kept quiet because “sexual harassment and stalking were terms that didn’t exist” at the time. She asked herself, “Which one of us was more valuable to the studio, him or me?” After that, her attitude toward him “chilled to a polite, professional distance.”

    Hitchcock responded with revenge. While the birds used in the scene with the schoolchildren were comically obvious puppets on strings, Hitchcock insisted on using live birds in Hedren’s solo scenes after lying to her about using mechanical ones, according to Hedren. The actor wrote in her memoir that her experience shooting that scene was “brutal and ugly and relentless” (via USA Today). The shoot took seven days, which she deemed “the worst week of [her] life” (via The Virginian-Pilot).

    In keeping with his aesthetic tastes as a director, Hitchcock reportedly had a morbid sense of humor. He presented Hedren’s daughter Melanie with a doll made to look like her mother, lying in a miniature coffin, which, of course, terrified Melanie. He gradually started seeking full control over his starlet, not only forbidding her from socializing with co-stars, but also choosing which clothes she wore in public.

    Things simmered to a boil on the set of their second film together, Marnie (1964). According to Hedren, Hitchcock installed a secret door that joined his office to her dressing room, and he had the movie’s makeup team construct a mask of her face for his own personal ownership. He continued to ask her to touch him, confessed his love to her, and told her of his fantasies and dreams which involved her promising her eternal devotion to him. One day on set, Hitchcock “grabbed [Hedren] and put his hands on [her].” “It was sexual, it was perverse, and it was ugly, and I couldn’t have been more shocked or repulsed,” she wrote in Tippi. “The harder I fought him, the more aggressive he became. Then he started adding threats, as if he could do anything to me that was worse than what he was trying to do at that moment.” 

    When Hedren fought him off, Hitchcock reportedly said, “I’ll ruin your career.”

    “When he told me that he would ruin me, I just told him [to] do what he had to do,” Hedren said in a 2017 interview with Variety. “I went out of the door and slammed it so hard that I looked back to see if it was still on its hinges.” The two never spoke directly to each other again, and Hitchcock made good on his promise by keeping her tied to her seven-year contract while refusing to cast her in major movie projects. 

    "Hitchcock was responsible for both starting my career and ending it," Hedren said in 2013. "After The Birds and Marnie, I was what they call 'hot' in Hollywood. Offers came from every studio. I did not want to work with him again, and I told him so. He told me he would ruin my career, and he did. He had me under a seven-year contract and simply informed the other studios that 'she is not available.'"

    Once her contract with Hitchcock expired three years later, the now-38-year-old Hedren was finally cast in another film: Charlie Chaplin’s final feature, A Countess from Hong Kong(1967), alongside Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren. The film was a flop, and Hedren never again landed a role as substantial as the ones she had played in the two Hitchcock features. As Hitchcock had intended, Hedren’s acting career never recovered.

    Though Hedren discussed the harassment from Hitchcock with colleagues in private after it happened, with the director’s biographer Donald Spoto in the early eighties, and in more detail in her memoir, the news drew backlash from Hitchcock historians. When asked for her response to their skepticism in an interview for Variety, Hedren said, “They weren’t there. How about that? I was the one living that life. They weren’t. How can they possibly have anything to say about it?”

    So what motivated Hedren to speak about her experience so openly in 2016? “I wanted to let women, especially young women, know never to allow that kind of approach and to be forceful in telling people you’re not interested in having that kind of a relationship,” she said at the time. “It’s not a bad thing to say no.”

    This particular horror story is all too familiar: A man propelled by the power of a major movie studio uses that power as leverage to demand sexual attention from an inexperienced actress, threatening to end her acting career if she does not comply. “I’m watching all the coverage on [Harvey] Weinstein,” Hedren wrote in a message she posted on Twitter in 2017. “This is nothing new, nor is it limited to the entertainment industry… It has taken 50 years, but it is about time that women started standing up for themselves as they appear to be doing in the Weinstein case. Good for them!”

    Though Hedren has shifted her focus from acting, her post-Hollywood life has been remarkable. Today, the 91-year-old Hedren lives on her 80-acre Shambala Preserve in California’s Mojave Desert, where she has spent 50-plus years caring for endangered big cats rescued after being discarded by circuses, private owners, and zoos. As of 2013, Hedren was “den mother” to 42 cats who were “living out their lives in safety and comfort,” including African lions, Bengal and Siberian tigers, bobcats, leopards, and mountain lions. She has since joked that, while these cats were predators like Hitchcock, the director was “[not] as handsome as a lion or a tiger, for sure!”

    “I’ve made it my mission ever since to see to it that while Hitchcock may have ruined my career,” Hedren wrote in her memoir, “I never gave him the power to ruin my life.”

    Header Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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  • US Congress 10d70

    In the aftermath of the 1991 testimony by Anita Hill—in which she alleged sexual harassment by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas—a landmark piece of legislation was passed: The Violence Against Women Act. 

    Now, during the painfully familiar testimony of Christine Ford Blasley against Brett Kavanaugh, that same legislation faces peril. 

    The VAWA is slated to expire in December, and without bipartisan action, thousands of victims face limited social services, slashed funding, and loss of protections for vulnerable LGBQT folks and women of color.

    In 1994, the law was authored by then-Sen. Joe Biden and enacted and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It was a pioneering piece of federal legislation: the first to combat domestic violence as a serious crime. Its original iteration funded social agencies that support survivors of assault and domestic violence. Two decades have seen significant expansion: it now funds rape crisis centers and legal-assistance centers, provides grants for specialized law enforcement training and college-assault prevention services. 

    The VAWA is directly responsible for the creation of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. If expired, not only will those programs be effected, but victims living in public housing will lose protections against abusers. Currently, domestic violence victims are granted penalty-free transfer between apartments. Law enforcement is currently permitted to remove firearms from domestic abusers who are not legally allowed to own them.

    The stakes are impossibly high: In the U.S., 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted every year. 1 in 4 women are the victims of domestic abuse. A woman is killed by a domestic partner with a gun every 16 hours.

    The era of #MeToo provides a tragic backdrop for the situation. Is there a greater declaration of indifference to the plight of surviors than letting VAWA expire? As of September 25th, zero Republican lawmaker have signed their support to reauthorize the legislation. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has not called for a vote on a complete reauthorization of VAWA—despite reports that 46 members of his own party requested it.

    VAWA was originally intended to expire at the end of September, but Congress submitted a short-term extension of the current legislation into a must-pass continuing resolution that kept the government funded until December the 7th. The 2018 proposal would include increased funding for a both Rape Prevention & Education Program and a youth-based prevention education for boys to teach about healthy relationships. 

    "We're really hoping Congress takes seriously the importance of reauthorizing it with some key enhancements that we're collectively asking for and a three-month extension does not get that work done," Terri Poore, policy director of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, told the Washington Post.

    As the GOP rushes to confirm Kavanaugh, this non-action is indicative of a malignant mentality: sexual assault and domestic abuse are survivors are not a priority.   

    Top photo: Wikimedia Commons

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  • Tanushree Dutta at Femina Miss India Finalists 23 bc7c4

    Tarana Burke founded the Me Too movement in 2006, in order to aide victims and survivors of sexual abuse, specifically for women of colour and those in areas of lower-income. It wasn't until 2017, however, that the hashtag went viral on Twitter. Women in the entertainment industry, particularly Hollywood, began to speak out. Often, multiple women would accuse the same person. Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., James Franco and other once-beloved figures were called out on their behaviour; their careers being jeopardised in a matter of Tweets and articles.

    Until recently, and even now, women, and a few men are discredited as “liars” and “over-reactors” when sharing their trauma around sexual abuse. Re-visiting a distressing moment is jarring enough, but having others discredit that can sometimes be the sole reason many victims are afraid to talk about what happened and take action against the perpetrator. And while the movement in Hollywood was mostly successful (Aziz Ansari still has his show as well as a recently released standup on Netflix), in Bollywood things played out a little differently.

    In 2018 #MeToo hit Bollywood. Actress Tanushree Dutta initiated the movement when she accused actor Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her over ten years ago on the set of “Horn 'OK' Pleasss”. At the time, she was 24; he was 57. Other notable figures in India, such as singer Sona Mohapatra, also spoke out about their experiences of sexual misconduct in the industry. The public, and the reactions from others in Bollywood would not mirror the support and “cancelling” seen in Hollywood.

    “I lost friends, I lost work, I went through periods of depression. When your work is taken away from you, you feel like you have no reason to wake up sometimes,” said Dutta regarding the aftermath in an interview for We The Women. At first, it seemed as though Patekar was being reprimanded after being cut from a film he was starring in, until June of this year when the police concluded a lack of evidence and closed the case. He is now back at work.

    Mohapatra was similarly “marked as a troublemaker”by her peers and asked to leave the judging panel of a television singing contest once she spoke out against composer Anu Malik (he, then 40, asked her, then 15, for a kiss with the promise of work). For a brief time Malik lost his role on Indian Idol, but got it back, only to be fired again after viewers criticised the show’s decision. Unfortunately the trend doesn't stop there, either. Director Vikas Bahl had his name removed from the credits of a movie but was re-added when an internal investigation found him innocent. Lengthy processes in the legal system, that can take years, were in favour of filmmaker Subhash Kapoor whose production was nearly halted after an accusation, yet continued.

    Despite evidence and testimonies, the Me Too movement in India is setting out to be a repetition of many women's fears by their accounts being deemed untrue or no repercussions being felt. Not to mention that it's happening to wealthy and powerful women who, like the women of Hollywood, inspired many non-famous women to come forward with their stories. Instead of encouraging other Indian women around the country, many must be thinking, if such backlash can happen to them, what would happen to me?

    On the other hand, it’s important to consider how different the U.S.A is to India in terms of equality and social differences. The crime rates speak for themselves, as the National Crime Records Bureau states that in India, around 100 rapes are reported every day and in 2016 there were nearly 39,000 recorded attacks.

    Still, overlooking the bravery of the women coming out, in spite of losing their careers, because of the little to no actions taken against the men is missing the point. There is a discussion starting. There are well-known women showing that sexual misconduct and assault, especially in the workplace, is not okay. And there have been changes, albeit small.

    According to a report by Reuters, women are being given free transportation on buses throughout the country to encourage travel and job prospects. Earlier this year, women formed a 385 mile “wall” to protest gender equality after a menstruating woman wasn’t allowed to visit a sacred temple; reports from the Bombay Stock Exchange saw an increase in sexual harassment complaints by 14% from last year at their listed companies.

    Revolutions and changes in equality don’t happen in a singular swoop or moment. They are gradual and mostly begin on a smaller scale, which in the midst of the seemingly unchangeable norms in Indian society, hints at something of hope.

     

    Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia

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  • 14 09 HarlemH 077 idling AL crop tagged

    In the past several months, we’ve seen the #TimesUp movement challenge a romanticized idea of Hollywood and reveal just how much work the film industry has to do with the way it treats women. But the hope is that the exposure of this raw reality leads to progress. Cinema Libre Studio, based in LA, claims they’ve noticed a “subtle but important shift in the industry,” marked by the release of films about women who shaped history, directed by women. This year, the studio is telling the story of Mabel Stark, a female circus performer who performed stunts no man would at the time, and Lou Andreas-Salmome, the first female psychoanalyst. These women broke ground in their professions and eras, but their stories aren’t well known. The directors of these films are hoping to change that. We spoke with Leslie Zemeckis, creator of the documentary Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer, about what drove her to explore Stark’s history.

    14 09 HarlemH 077 idling AL crop taggedMabel working with one of her tigers.

    You make documentaries about female performers. What inspires you to tell these stories?

    I am drawn to women that were hugely famous in their day, but have since been forgotten. Their stories have never been explored, we just know the headlines of their lives. Mabel’s, for example: “World’s First Female Tiger Trainer Mauled.”  We don’t know why she ever walked into the cage for the first time, or how hard was it for a woman—back when women did not even have the vote—to break into a male-dominated arena. I am always seeking the “why” and searching for inspiring voices that women today can look up to. It was so difficult on many levels in the early 1900s for women to succeed at any endeavor, be it burlesque or the circus (both which were a bit frowned upon), or really any other career. I like to look to the past to inspire the future and all that we, as women, can do.

    14 09 HarlemH 077 idling AL crop taggedMabel Stark, the world’s first female tiger trainer.

    What kind of influence do you think telling these stories have on our world?

    I think if we show women what other women went through, they will prevail. It wasn’t that long ago that a woman had to marry who she was told, her husband was in charge of her finances and property, and women weren’t allowed to enter certain careers. But Mabel Stark did not let being a female or an older female prevent her from pursuing what she loved. She trained tigers into her 70s!

    What happens when more stories about strong women are told?

    We become stronger. 

    14 09 HarlemH 077 idling AL crop taggedMabel Stark at the dining table with her tigers.

    Why is it so important that women work behind the scenes on films?

    Because we have important stories to tell that others might not pursue. When I decided to do my first movie about the history of burlesque, Behind the Burly Q, no one (producers and financiers) was interested. Why do you want to do that? I wanted to because no one had. And the movie is hugely popular, bought by Showtime, and that led to my next subject, Siamese vaudeville stars, and now Mabel. All subjects no one had explored before. Women have to take a leap of faith that what might interest them will interest others.

    14 09 HarlemH 077 idling AL crop taggedMabel worked as a stunt double for Mae West in “I’m No Angel” in 1933

    If you could go back in time to any era, which would you choose?

    I’d love to pop into the 1930s and 1940s! I’d see all the shows and would love to experience a big original authentic circus.

    Top photo: Mabel was in the ring with more tigers than anyone could possibly fight off her.

     All photos © Cinema Libre Studio

    More from BUST

     

  • maxresdefault 453b6

    Last year, Hollywood saw many women come forward about sexual harassment and unfair treatment on and off set. But don’t expect Megan Fox to speak up again now: the actress has been trying to share her own #MeToo stories for almost a decade.

    “I don’t want to say this about myself, but let’s say that I was ahead of my time and so people weren’t able to understand,” Fox told The New York Times in an interview published Friday. “Instead, I was rejected because of qualities that are now being praised in other women coming forward. And because of my experience, I feel it’s likely that I will always be just out of the collective understanding. I don’t know if there will ever be a time where I’m considered normal or relatable or likable.”

    For those who don’t know, back in 2009, Fox—then 23 years old—told Wonderland Magazine about Transformers director Michael Bay’s horrific treatment towards her, which included directions that didn't elaborate beyond “be hot…just be sexy,” and general objectification dating back to their first collaboration, when Fox had a small extra role in Bay’s Bad Boys II at age 15. In response to her comments, Bay wrote an open letter signed from the Transformers crew, calling Fox “a thankless, classless, graceless, and shall we say unfriendly bitch,” The Daily Beast reported. Fox was then fired from the franchise.

    Since then, Fox has had some roles here and there—most notably, she starred in the 2009 cult classic Jennifer’s Body, and ultimately worked with Bay again on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 2014. But many have argued that her career has been permanently marred by both Bay’s comments and his over-the-top sexualization of her Transformers character. (Princess Weekes—also a BUST contributor—wrote a particularly excellent analysis last year for The Mary Sue.) Even Bay’s ultimate apology was determined to promote a certain narrative: “That’s just Megan. Megan loves to get a response. And she does it in kind of the wrong way,” Bay told GQ in 2011. “I’m sorry, Megan. I’m sorry I made you work twelve hours. I’m sorry that I’m making you show up on time. Movies are not always warm and fuzzy.”

    Now, to the Times, Fox said, “Even with the #MeToo movement, and everyone coming out with stories—and one could assume that I probably have quite a few stories, and I do—I didn’t speak out for many reasons. I just didn’t think based on how I’d been received by people, and by feminists, that I would be a sympathetic victim.”

    This is an observation, actually, that Fox has made before. In a 2009 interview with the New York Times, while promoting Jennifer's Body, she noted that her team had been worried about her "public image," which she feared made her seem unlikable to women—and come off as nothing more than a sex object to men. "All women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols," she said. "You're sold, and it's based on sex."

    Fox’s words are heartbreaking, and point to one of the few snags in the #MeToo surge: the exclusion of the many women who have been speaking out about harassment, misogyny, and sexual assault long before the trending hashtags and Harvey Weinstein takedown. Another actress who comes to mind is Bring It On star Gabrielle Union, who has speaking and writing about her rape and PTSD for pretty much the entirety of her career. "For 20 years now, I've been trying to tell my story as honestly as possible," she said last year on Good Morning America, right when #MeToo first started trending on Twitter. Several months later, she was one of the first to publicly critique the whitewashing of the movement, telling the New York Times that "the floodgates have opened for white women."

    "I don't think it's a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable," Union said.

    Dylan Farrow, too, has shared her frustrations about the movement failing her, even though she’d been telling her story for years, calling it a "selective" revolution. “The system worked for Harvey Weinstein for decades,” she wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. “It works for Woody Allen still.” It isn’t shocking that, after trying to talk about her experiences and facing constant dismissal and judgement, Fox has been less than eager to share her stories just because it’s become more commonplace to support women fighting against powerful, terrible men.

    And on that note? For some women—since men like Louis C.K. are already planning their professional “comebacks”—it might feel like now is too late to come forward, too.

    The year of the silence breakers was an amazing one for women, and for chipping away at the patriarchal walls that have been long standing in Hollywood. But there shouldn’t be a “right” time to come forward, and there shouldn’t be an "unsympathetic victim." For #MeToo to truly empower all women, we need to continue to acknowledge, listen to, and believe the women that we failed years ago.

    Top photo via DreamWorks Pictures / Transformers

    Published December 11, 2018

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  • woody allen2 41773

    Sunday evening, New York magazine published an interview (though we use the term "interview" loosely) with Soon-Yi Previn, Woody Allen’s wife of 20 years and the adoptive daughter of Allen's ex-girlfriend Mia Farrow. Throughout the piece, Soon-Yi accuses Mia Farrow of child neglect and abuse:

    Soon-Yi also says she and her adopted sisters were used as "domestics," while Farrow kept busy rearranging the furniture, ordering from catalogues, working on her scrapbooks, and talking to her friends on the phone.

    The abuses listed are relentless: Farrow purportedly hit Soon-Yi with a hairbrush and a porcelain rabbit, repeatedly called her a “moron,” and refused to teach her basic feminine hygiene, such as how to use a tampon. It’s a disturbing read. Most disturbing, though, is Previn’s description of her “romance” with Woody Allen, the then-boyfriend of Mia Farrow. The affair supposedly began Previn’s freshman year of college:

    Both of them are vague on how and when their friendship turned sexual — “It was 25 years ago,” she says — beyond the fact that it was a gradual process. “I think Woody went after me because at that first basketball game I turned out to be more interesting and amusing than he thought I’d be,” Soon-Yi offers. “Mia was always pounding into him what a loser I was.”

    That troubling power dynamic is framed by the writer in sympathetic terms. The writer, Daphne Merkin, is a long-time friend of Allen’s and skeptic of the #MeToo movement. In a January 2018 New York Times op-ed, she argued that the #MeToo movement invited “a victimology paradigm for young women.” Her skepticism serves the New York magazine article: in it, Allen is framed as the victim of Farrow’s malicious lies.

    Since publication, the article has been widely-criticized for bias. In a tweet, Ronan Farrow called it a "shameful" and a “hit job." It is undeniable: Previn has a right to tell her story. But this article was not just a profile of Previn. Her charges of abuse against Mia Farrow work, in part, to validate the piece’s assertion that Mia Farrow coached then-seven-year-old Dylan Farrow—Mia Farrow and Woody Allen's adopted child, and Soon-Yi's younger sister—into accusing Allen of sexual assault. Merkin did not acknowledge the facts that two babysitters and one tutor testified in court to Allen’s disturbing sexual behavior and that a judge ruled that “we will probably never know what occurred on August 4, 1992...[but] Mr. Allen’s behavior toward Dylan was grossly inappropriate and... measures must be taken to protect her.” Instead, she presented Soon-Yi's assertion that "[Mia] has taken advantage of the #MeToo movement and paraded Dylan as a victim" unchallenged. 

    Dylan Farrow responded in a statementon Twitter, writing, “Woody Allen molested me when I was seven years old, part of a documented pattern of inappropriate, abusive touching that led a judge to say there was no evidence I was coached and that it was unsafe for me to be in Woody Allen’s presence. The idea of letting a friend of an alleged predator write a one-sided piece attacking the credibility of his victim is disgusting. [...] No one is ‘parading me around as a victim.’ I continue to be an adult woman making a credible allegation unchanged for two decades, backed up by evidence."

    Earlier that same day, another story about sexual assault made headlines: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward to identify herself to the Washington Post as the previously anonymous woman who wrote a letter testifying that she had been sexually assaulted by Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, when they were in high school. 

    Last Thursday, Senate Democrats revealed that they had referred the complaint to the F.B.I.; Kavanaugh flatly denied the claims. On Sunday, Blasey For came forward with a clear message: Kavanaugh assaulted her, and is unfit to sit on the Supreme Court.

    Now, both sides have expressed willingness to testify before a Senate Judiciary committee; now, a public hearing has been scheduled for next Monday, reports CNN

    The story first detailed in a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California by Blasey Ford is all too familiar: According to the Post, Kavanaugh and his friend, “both stumbling drunk,” corralled Ford into a bedroom at the party in Montgomery County, Md. After forcing her onto the bed, he began removing her clothing, covering her mouth as she attempted to scream. In the struggle, she managed to escape.

    Republicans accused her report as a ploy to torpedo Kavanaugh’s career. That’s a familiar sentiment deployed against victims accusing powerful men of assault, but Ford made it known that Kavanaugh’s imminent confirmation is exactly why she came forward ow: "Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation," Ford told the Washington Post.

    Last week, Judiciary Committee Republicans released a letter from 65 women who said they knew Kavanaugh in high school. Vouching for his character, they said he always treated women with ”decency and respect.”

    As of Monday, more than 200 women who went to Blasey Ford’s high school have signed a letter to show support for her. “We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,” says a draft letter from alumnae of Holton-Arms, a private girls school in Bethesda, Maryland. “It demands a thorough and independent investigation before the Senate can reasonably vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court.”

    Their support is heartening, especially as Blasey Ford prepares for inevitable attacks on her personal and professional life. All the power to her in these next few days.

    Photo Credit: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

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