Harvey Weinstein’s exposed behavior is — excuse the expression — a mere tip of the iceberg of perverts in many industries, not just show biz.
Here’s a personal experience, one of the reasons why I teach women’s self-defense.
It’s the late 1980s:
“Hi, Jim,” I say to my supervising producer when he answers the phone. “I haven’t been scheduled to direct for a few weeks. Anything wrong?”
Silence. Jim clears his throat. “You’d better come into the office,” he says. In his office, he closes his door; I settle into my chair. “So what’s up?” I say.
Jim looks profoundly uncomfortable. “One of the suits upstairs,” he stammers, “doesn’t like you.”
“I haven’t met any of them,” I reply. “Why doesn’t the suit like me?”
“He doesn’t really know … other than you never get any jiggle,” Jim sighs.
“What? I don’t even know what you’re talking about. What’s ‘jiggle’? You mean like a Jell-O commercial?”
Let’s take a quick time-out for some context. As one of the first female TV directors, I had the great pleasure of directing hidden camera segments for a FOX Television show, “Totally Hidden Video.” I was in my element! At the time, female directors in TV, film and theater were as rare as female CEOs in the Fortune 500, which is to say practically nonexistent. We had to be twice as good as the men to be considered half as good.
And I had good cred: I was a freelancer so FOX could dodge Director Guild rates. I was well-liked by the crews I worked with, the actors, and especially the host of the show. I was exceptionally qualified, as I not only directed theater but was one of the on-camera stars of another short-lived hidden camera show called “Anything For Money.” I’d spent many hours on the streets of LA and DC setting up “marks,” teasing out absurd scenarios and capturing unsuspecting people in their spontaneous reactions.
Back to the “jiggle.”
“You know, jiggle, for the interstitials,” Jim says.
“I know what interstitials are, the quick videos between main segments,” I say. “But I must say that ‘jiggle’ stumps me.”
“You know, getting women’s tits and ass as they walk by the camera blind…” he says as if talking to a small child.
“What?” I say. “The other directors do that?”
“Yep,” says Jim.
“It would never occur to me to surreptitiously get video of women’s butts and breasts. I’m speechless here. Do you tell the other directors to do that?” (I just noticed that “tit” is embedded in the word “surreptitious.”)
More silence, then … “We don’t have to tell them. They just do it.”
As the only woman in the director’s roster, I was never invited to have a beer or go golfing or do any of the things with the “guys,” and even if I’d gotten the Jiggle Memo, I would have never done it. My tendency would be getting interstitial footage of cute dogs!
“Jim, I’m just not going to shoot random women’s bodies,” I sputtered, wishing I could be clever when my heart was simultaneously sinking and breaking.
“Ellen, you were great to work with. And it’s not personal, you know,” Jim replies. And just like that, I was out of a job.
Actually, Jim, it was extremely personal. I was caught between the veritable rock and a hard place — as in I was supposed to get tape of women so this “suit” could get his rocks off during dailies. Or we could pander as a program to men getting off on seeing an unknowing woman’s “orchestra and balcony” to steal from “A Chorus Line.” As far as I was concerned, this hidden camera prank was in the same realm as planting cameras in locker rooms.
I spun into a depression. I also faced the classic, “Who’s going to believe me?” conundrum. I didn’t carry a recorder, and it would have boiled down to a he said, she said situation, with women rarely being believed. Could I afford a lawsuit? No.
I was not only heartbroken but economically broken. It’s no accident that women often earn much less than men. It’s economic bullying and harassment. My anti-jiggle stance was costly.
But wait, there’s more! During a dinner party at my home, I was groped by a male producer while his wife was in the other room. A dear friend, a VP at a very important bank, stood in her supervisor’s office that overlooked LA skyscrapers as he masturbated while saying “If you tell anyone, I’ll have you blacklisted throughout the banking community.” (She left banking.) Another dear friend was coerced into fellatio by her nerdy tax guy, who threatened to “trump” up false numbers and turn her into the IRS if she said no.
While many men give other men a “hand up” via mentoring, too many women get a hand up … their skirt! And then, threats of blacklisting if they resist.
So jiggling or jerking, is it any wonder I turned into an empowerment self-defense advocate, now promoting what I do as a “Weinstein Vaccine?”
Don’t send the women and girls you love out into the world without training for the possibility of Weinsteins who lurk in ALL industries … please!
Ellen Snortland is the author and filmmaker of “Beauty Bites Beast.” Visit beautybitesbeast.com.