This year has seen what we can only hope will prove to be a watershed moment for how sexual harassment and assault is handled across all industries. As actors, actresses, and many others have broken their silence about abuse, the world is taking the issue more seriously than ever.
In November, Olivia Munn was one of six women who accused director Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct in a story in the Los Angeles Times (Ratner disputes the claims). Now, Munn has written an essay for Entertainment Weekly about the pervasive problem facing Hollywood and other industries—and how to begin the long process of fixing it.
Munn began her essay powerfully, taking on statements made by Woody Allen following the allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein:
In an interview with the BBC [in the wake of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, which Weinstein denies], Woody Allen said he felt sad for Weinstein and warned of a "witch-hunt atmosphere…where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself." However, the possibility of an overcorrection is much less worrisome than all of the injustices that led us to this moment. Woody's gut instinct to fear what this might become would be better suited to a gut instinct to hold back an urge that could be wrong.
She also perfectly encapsulated the problem faced by many victims of assault and harassment:
In our world today—and it's not just Hollywood, it's the same for girls and women all over the world who have survived sexual abuse and/or harassment—abusers don't usually get in trouble unless the victim is broken first, because the violating act alone is not damaging enough to spark society's outrage. It's a marathon towards self-destruction in order to gain credibility and a vicious circle of victim-blaming.
Munn goes on to explain her own experiences as a woman in Hollywood and the challenges that women, people of color, and other marginalized communities often face when trying to get ahead in a system that's catered to the desires of white men.
"This is not a 'women's' issue, this is an abuse-of-power issue…and until we eradicate the diseased roots of our infrastructure and make foundational, systemic changes, nothing will change," Munn wrote, getting to the heart of the problem and calling on those at the top to be allies in making room for more diverse representation among executives, CEOs, and other leadership positions.
Munn's essay, which is full of smart points and spot-on analogies, is worth a read.