It seems barely a week can go by without an unpleasant tale of sexual harassment in the workplace surfacing. The #MeToo movement continues to grow and now entertainment company Netflix has implemented work rules to combat harassment on set.
When House of Cards star Kevin Spacey was accused of historic inappropriate behaviour last year, Netflix, the show’s distributor, acted quickly. They sacked Spacey from the show, a move that showed a zero tolerance policy for any sort of inappropriate behaviour.
No surprise then that the company, which also distributes shows like Jessica Jones and The Crown, is at the front line in addressing the problem. Staff are undergoing anti-harassment training and on set rules have been implemented. There can be no lingering hugs or stares on set. Staff are not allowed to ask for colleagues’ phone numbers unless requested to and if they see any inappropriate behaviour it is to be reported immediately.
The #MeToo conversation
The #MeToo movement has become a phenomenon as women, and men, share stories of unwanted advances and unfair behaviour at work. From abuse at the hands of the likes of Harvey Weinstein to inequality in pay packets. It has expanded beyond Hollywood too and has become a main topic of conversation for many.
Irish actress, and July Irish Tatler cover star, Caitriona Balfe has seen this side of key industries, as an actress and as a model when she was younger. Looking back, with a little amazement now, on her life as model she says:
“It’s just incredible when I look back now at how I navigated all of that because you literally are just sent off on your own, traipsing around strange cities where you don’t know the language. You are just expected to fend for yourself. It was the wild west and you were lucky if you had a job. There was a discrepancy of power – the agency was really supposed to be there protecting you, but it was almost like you needed to please them to get the jobs.”
The industry took a toll on the young Caitriona. Although she credits it with giving her a certain toughness she also has to recover, in a way.
“When I left the business, I moved to LA and I am so grateful that I was able to take a year…a lot of that was just dismantling a lot of the mental issues I had taken from the business because your confidence and your self-esteem is in the toilet after you’ve been in that business for so long.”
Now the start of Outlander, a wildly successful TV show and with an upcoming film on the way, Caitriona is in the heart of Hollywood – where a culture of inequality and harassment thrived.
“A lot of the names that have come forward, it’s strange because you kind of go ‘Oh yeah, that’s not surprising.’ She says. “With someone like Morgan Freeman; I grew up watching him and he’s been that voice that calms everyone. But I had previously heard rumours. Nobody is above the law and what I do hope is that all of these things go through a process because I think the worst thing is that we get into this situation where there is like a mob mentality and we start being judge, jury and executioner on social media because that’s never the right way of doing things.”
Change is coming
Caitriona does stress however that it’s not a male/female divide in this situation. Men are also among those trying to change thing for the better and are often stronger allies than women.
“We’ve had male directors or male producers who are so much more sensitive and supportive than sometimes the females can be. I don’t necessarily think that it’s a split line down the middle about sex; it’s not all women supporting women because that’s not my experience. I think it’s really about people.”
As big names continue to be felled by their unacceptable behavior, and a light is shone on inequality, changes does seem on the way. “I think there has been a real shift,: Catriona notes, “and I think people aren’t going to put up with shitty behaviour anymore. And they shouldn’t.”