Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sexual Harassment in the Art World

This is only of tangential relationship to what I usually write about, but it's a topic I feel strongly about.

Anyone who has not been living under a rock has heard rumblings of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and then against an apparently endless list of others. I neither know nor particularly care whether this allegation or that is true, false, exaggerated, or underplayed. People who seek power do so because they wish to gratify their desires as much as for any other reason. What do men desire? Yep, that.

Some men in positions of power rape, others simply arrange situations in which they may converse politely with young, beautiful, people. There's a spectrum. It is no surprise that some powerful men, lots of them, have used their position to coerce sex. It's not even a question, is it?

I write here and now specifically because the people I pay attention to, artists, writers, editors, and so on are wringing their hands on social media, loudly and vigorously. They re-tweet the shocking news stories. They make vague demands, and ask "what shall we do about this terrible situation?" Everyone agrees that Terry Richardson is really just business as usual, and censuring him is mainly a bit of theater. Apparently "Artforum" is at present under fire for some allegations. This pervades society, including the worlds of Art and Photography. Some photographer named Anthony Turano is accused today.

Like the weather everyone talks about it but nobody does anything about it.

I ask those busy re-tweeters and reporters of stories: what are you going to do about it?

You have a platform. I have a platform. We all have platforms. Some of them are large, some are very small.

I occasionally write for online publications. My choice is to talk to my editors, to make suggestions, to apply pressure. I could refuse to write for a publication without an anti-harassment policy that has teeth. I could request that my editors decline advertisements from companies that don't have a good record of anti-harassment. I can, and I do, make my opinions heard, I offer my help, I apply pressure using my small leverage. I do all these things, in one variation here, another there.

If I submit this to you consider it another letter from me, asking you to act. You know who you are. And you're one of the good guys, you want to to the right thing.

Nobody's going full-on politically correct here. I'm not demanding that everyone police their language (although you could, if you like). I'm only asking that those people and organizations do these things:
  • Implement for themselves a modern approach to equality and fairness.
  • To reach out the next level up and out, to apply the same pressure to whomever and whatever they influence. Ask your advertisers, your boss, your contractors, your friends, your models, your MUAs, your accountant, what I am asking you.

The reaction, I will note, is always positive. This is the 21st century, nobody wants to be some weird 19th century operation. Everyone I speak to agrees, they say "thank you" and sometimes they ask me to help, or tell me how I can help.

Don't wring your hands and say "how awful," and don't wring your hands and say "awww, it's just political correctness." It's just the modern world, knocking on the door, and asking you what you're gonna do to make things better.

Stop re-tweeting and start acting.

What are you going to do, today, now? What change are you going to make, what demand, what request, what polite reminder, are you going to make and to whom. Right now.


  1. +1. To let evil wins, you just have to do nothing.

  2. I keep typing huge screeds here and then deleting them (wisely, I think)... I have to say, I'm trying to think up something cool and positive for me to do (cuz I think that is useful and a good goal, and we must create our change) and then read through The Screed and realize I've typed horrific sentences like...
    "well, maybe tell young girls to become scientists because the assault and harassment that I experienced seems generally much less virulent than in other fields such as acting"
    "they're mostly dead or drooling, and I'm still alive & laughing so I WIN"
    OMG again
    "I was never scared, just contemptuous and figuring out how to fuck their shit up for them, which I did, so I WIN"
    Holy crap. That is not very positive. I am clearly lagging (like, decades of lagging here) in my processing through to positive action, but now at least I'm aware of that. (But those sentences DO give a little spy-hole back into what a different era it was, that acceptance of the behaviour as the norm, no response imaginable but my personal indignation and my own slow, patient, personal vengefulness...)

    I guess the one thing that IS positive, is that, yes, I remember and can picture EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of them, and you know what, they were a minuscule minority. The vast, VAST, and absolutely gigantic majority of the men I've encountered in my life have been good, decent, and honourable people, and I am encouraged by that overwhelming percentage of goodness out there. Keep on being good, peeps.