Category Archives: NoMore

Sexual Values In The Industry

Growing up a daughter of a screenwriter, I had no words to describe my intense discomfort with the entertainment industry. Years would pass before I found language to describe the pressure on girls and women to starve themselves, the relentless rating of physical attractiveness, the hype around sex and sexuality, the assumption that anyone would do anything to be tapped into the club. As a kid, I could have explained none of this. All I knew was that I’d never fit in, and I wished my father had chosen a different profession.

Many aspects of the industry feed directly and indirectly into a culture of rape. The sanctioned, artificial, forced sexuality woven into the fabric of the entertainment industry intensifies the problem, normalizing the sexualization of all interactions. I remember attending a party, and a man approached. He was in his mid 40s and when he leaned down to kiss my lips, I ducked my head and instead offered my hand. He took my hand in both of his and smirked. I still remember his words: “Sweetheart, you’ll never make it in the industry if you don’t change that attitude.” I knew that I didn’t belong in the industry, that the idea of being his sweetheart made me queasy, that whether I allowed him to kiss my lips was entirely my choice. Still, it was a gut-shot to be told that I was pathetically uncool. I was eleven.

Something creepy and dangerous lurked in the shadows, and I grew up on guard, waiting for it to pounce. This type of incident was a part of my ongoing experience in the industry and like most children, I didn’t question the values that my environment considered “normal.” And I was extremely lucky — when I said no, people backed off.

Today, I’m sick at heart as so many reveal how badly they’ve been hurt. I support and respect those who are stepping forward, calling out sexual predators in the industry. They’re showing courage on a level that awes me, and I hope that every survivor of every gender will speak out and be given the support they deserve. I also hope every person who ever used a sexual act as a power-weapon will be held accountable for the damage they’ve inflicted. Beyond the individuals, I hope the industry as a whole owns its role in enabling a sub-culture of sexual abuse.

As a child of the industry, I heard over and over that a good director understands how and when to begin and end a production. If the beginning isn’t compelling from the opening moments, the audience disconnects. If the performance stretches even one minute too long, the audience checks out. We need a new beginning, starting now, paving the way for a future of new endings. So cue the lights, fade to black, and stop. Just stop.

3 Comments

Filed under Film Industry Values, Harvey Weinstein Scandal, NoMore, sexual equality, Uncategorized

Mika, Joe, Lady Gaga

I can’t keep up with The White House.

As I work on this post about President Trump’s twitter attack on Mika Brzezinski, the next barrage of banner headlines is underway: Russian interference, Islamophobia, first-children crashing international meetings, more Russian interference. Each day, as I open my laptop to write, I wonder what calamity the next 24 hours will bring.

But as I scramble to keep up, I don’t want to lose track of Mika Brzezinski, because if those tweets were her “punishment,” I feel compelled to define her “crime.” First (and bad), she expressed an opinion different from President Trump’s. Second (and worse), she was critical. Third (and apparently worst of all), she’s a she. Tossing ideas around my head, deciding how to approach this post, my thoughts turned in a direction that surprised me: The Academy Awards.

In the aftermath of every night-at-the-Oscars, people revel in unbridled criticism. The tabloids trash outfits and hairstyles. Speeches are lauded and vilified. Subjects I find important (racism and gender equality) and those I find ridiculous (unflattering ball gowns) are reported as “Breaking News.” Usually, I find myself annoyed by the Oscar-aftermath, and I quickly move on. But I’ll never forget the 88th Academy Awards, when Lady Gaga and Joe Biden raised a collective voice against sexual assault.

Sexual assault is non-partisan. It can happen to anyone regardless of age, racial heritage, gender, political affiliation. The after for survivors is often private and hidden, and if they choose to come forward, many don’t find the support they deserve. While I respect Mika  Brzezinski’s public reaction to President’s Trump’s tweets, I hope she’s doing okay in private as well, because our Commander-In-Chief’s words were assaultive.

As a novelist, I can’t keep up. Even if I wrote from dawn to dusk for the next century, I couldn’t cover the broad scope. This topic is loaded and layered, individual and complex, unique and universal. Possibly most damaging — it’s often forbidden. The gag order imposed on survivors, the code of silence among potential supporters, can be as emotionally damaging as the assault itself.

We don’t have to speak the same dialect, or identify as the same gender, or be in the same age group, or share partisan political beliefs, or worship in the same way, or look the least bit alike to form a strong team – case in point: Lady Gaga and Joe Biden. I’ll never run for political office, and I can’t dredge up even a micro-fantasy about a blow-your-mind mic drop. Still, I’m joining the Lady-Gaga-and-Joe-Biden team.

You can join, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under He For She, Joe Biden, Lady Gaga, Mika Brzezinski, NoMore, Uncategorized

Self-Defense And Family

I had never kicked a man in the face, or kneed him in the groin. I had never even raised my voice in public. Until I was 32 years old.

I had given birth to my first child a month previously. He was slumbering in my arms — a swaddled bundle of peace and trust. I was in monumental need of a nap, with the desperate exhaustion of a new parent. But I loved cradling my baby, and wanted to hold him a bit longer. I’d been entirely oblivious to the world outside my newborn for four weeks, so I settled on the couch in our family room and reached for the TV remote.

As the screen came to life, I zapped to attention. The news anchor was describing a kidnapping. A mother was loading groceries into her car — broad daylight, crowded parking lot, upscale neighborhood. A man approached, showed his weapon, and took her baby. When my husband came home that evening, he found me hyper-alert, napless, clutching our firstborn. I told him I wanted to learn self-defense.

The class was hands-on, with a coach guiding us through every fight. Our “assailant” dressed head to toe in protective gear, so we could fight without injuring him. I learned to break an attacker’s hold, to shout to scare him off, to fight when needed, to knock him cold if necessary. But self-defense is about protecting from harm, not about causing mayhem. So I was also taught techniques to de-escalate a dangerous situation, to fight only as a last resort. I learned to recognize the difference between an empty threat and an impending assault. If the assailant crossed that line, I was ready. The empowerment that grew within me, the commitment to protecting my self, was about strength and safety. The experience was life-changing.

Six years passed, and I was walking home in San Francisco after a day at work. Suddenly, a man grabbed my arm. In an instant, my self-defense class was at my fingertips. I gauged his stance, his build, his level of aggression. I shrugged off my natural impulse to pull away, and instead stepped toward him. I hurled my briefcase to the ground, 100% ready to fight, and yelled in his face, “BACK OFF!” The entire street froze. The man let go, retreated several steps, shot me a terrified look, and ran away.

I felt invincible for one stellar moment. Then I felt something even better – solid, down-to-earth empowerment. I picked up my briefcase and walked home. By then, my first born was an older brother, and I held my children. Tender and strong.

Self-defense and family. That’s what it’s about.

Leave a comment

Filed under feminism, girl power, NoMore