To attempt an understanding of what has happened recently in the movie business, let’s look over the past. Because today’s issues are always rooted in the past.
In Shakespeare’s day, in the flower of the greatness which was Elizabethan theatre, no women were allowed on the stage. They could attend the theatre, they could not act in it. Which means that the first actor to play one of our culture’s most iconic female roles, Juliet, was a young man.
Throughout the history of the performing arts, women have been rare. True, there were female troubadours, musicians, artists and poets, but throughout the Western world, they did not appear with regularity on the stage until the 17th century. Even then, though, acting and performing on stage, meaning, in front of the public, was not an activity that good girls aspired to.
Writers and poets were different. So too were fine artists. Perhaps because it did not require women to expose themselves publicly, it was considered an appropriate endeavor. Thinking is an internal activity. Painting a picture doesn’t require one to stand before an audience. In short, women could become doctors of the church, but not priests. By the same token, women could write plays, but not perform in them. Women, then, were, more or less, considered in the same light as traditional Islam and Judaism does today: they were to be covered, though not physically, but in their actions.
Yet this is not an Abrahamic tradition. From the beginning, with Greek theatre, women did not perform in the theatre. That is a male actor in that image portraying Clytemnestra being murdered by her son, Orestes.
Looking at the costumes for that period, it would not be easy for a female to perform as the costumes were huge, and cumbersome and nudity was required. The Romans did allow some female actors to perform, but alas, they are the exception, not the rule.
Theatre was, more or less, a lost art during the early Middle Ages. What people did have for entertainment was the troubadours. Among these in-house artists were some women. Usually, such women were either the daughters or wives of male troubadours. Women were not to be on their own. In an era that thought women were weak in character, the only safe way to live was to be in some sort of relationship, either with a family member or the church. However, that was true of all persons. Throughout all time, until the 20th century, no one lived alone unless one was a hermit.
When the change came during the 17th century, women actors were not considered the flowers of virtue. As among the troubadours, it was better if such women were in some sort of family relationship with another actor. Financially, that made sense, and morally, it made even better sense. A woman on her own could be considered a loose woman. Meaning, she would be hit on. Constantly. Since it would not be easy to earn a living in the theater, unless one was a star, women would take a lover who could afford to keep her. This was common also among dancers and singers when the ballet and opera came into being. The headliners made money. The chorus starved. Chorus girls took rich lovers.
The milieu, then, of the theater, was liberal. It had to be. Theater is a close contact sport. Love affairs are a regular thing among people of the performing arts. All you have to do is read any one of the current gossip magazines to understand that. You will also come to an understanding that performers don’t always make the best choice in their lover decisions. The key words there are choices and decisions.
Let’s fast forward to the current events. The movie business began during a time when women were still considered on the morally loose side if they chose to act. Or sing. Or dance. To become a star, they needed someone, a man, to help them. A young woman with a stage mother was helped by this protective person in her life, but do not delude yourself thinking she wouldn’t also push her daughter to sleep with an important man. The reality is, the majority of power in Hollywood lies with men. And these men tend to be liberal. Meaning, they don’t follow the strict guidelines of society or religion when it comes to sex outside of marriage, and sex for profit and gain, which is prostitution.
Our modernist approach, nonetheless, tells us a woman pursuing a career in the arts should not be harassed by some bonehead guy wanting to sleep with her. I need to add in here, that gay men have also been pursued by men of power and wealth. This goes all the way back to the Greeks. So the gay man has much more history in this than women performers do. During the Elizabethan age, this was a scary way of life as homosexual acts were punished, severely. A life in the theatre, then, offered some safety.
I think you now get it, that sex, danger and the theatre are old friends. The sexual revolution may have gotten rid of some of the notions about women and sex, but it also instituted a new fallacy, that women wanted sex whenever they could get it.
Men say they are confused by this. So let's send them a memo. Women do not think like you do, guys. And it is not okay to pursue them in the work place.
It is time to write a new narrative. It is time to mix the newer ideas, that women do enjoy sex, with old ideas, no, she does not think like a man. We women want emotions in our relationships, but not the emotion of fear. For I see no difference between an abusive husband and an abusive producer like Weinstein. And sex in the workplace is never a good idea.
To all my sisters in the performing arts, ladies, you do not have to tolerate boorish behavior for one nanosecond. We are professional women, and must command respect by using whatever means possible to put these creeps in their place. It is rare that an overstepping male will try a second time once you have made your attitude quite clear to him. So if you are confronted by such a villain, think like the Amazon women of old. Pick up your weapon of choice, and let him have it.