Movie Reviews Movies Pop Culture

What Pixar got wrong about bro culture in their new short “Purl”

Being hailed as a must watch for every workplace for finally tackling bro culture, Purl, Pixar’s short film directed by Kristen Lester supports the ridiculous idea that women alone can end sexism.

Pixar had a real opportunity to inspire millions of eager viewers to take actions that really solve issues surrounding gender, work, and inclusion. Instead, they created a video about this complex and sensitive topic without thinking through the facts. In this era of “diversity and inclusion fatigue” from misinformation that doesn’t produce change, Pixar has added to the fray and is sending us spinning their wheels on the wrong solutions.

The film shows a working woman, Purl, magically transforming her office’s bro culture into a welcoming, happy workplace simply by including a new female colleague. Under the film’s logic, a woman, who is already under obvious pressure, can simply end all workplace gender issues by being nice to another lady.

(It’s also just as troubling to imagine the parallel scenario: that solving workplace racial diversity is as simple as having the one African-American employee welcome the new African-American employee.)

If women supporting women was the solution to workplace sexism (or any sexism for that matter), it would have happened already. Individual trailblazers and corporate women’s groups have been elevating women for decades; research shows women are still not breaking that glass ceiling (or even getting equal pay at entry level jobs). Also, it’s not actually women elevating women that works best: men (who make up more of the leadership positions and hold more of the power) must usher in women’s inclusion and advancement.

Pixar peddles the offensive idea that women who want to earn respect at work in a male-majority environment should merely conform. This just isn’t true. Women who dress the part, lean in, carry the right briefcase, communicate dominantly, and put the proper objects on their desk from day one are still rejected, underpaid, under-promoted, and under-respected. Pixar’s premise is insulting to women who have done everything “right” but still haven’t been given respect or equal opportunities.

Pixar’s video also hinges on the idea that the problem is that women need improving, not the workplace. As a corporate gender strategist, I am in constant conversation with leaders who admit they would be more comfortable sending their women to a leadership seminar, than (doing the real work of) fixing organizational, policy, and cultural issues.

The first problem with fixing women but not the company is this: boosting women’s skills and confidence is a waste if we don’t also fix companies. Imagine sending confident, talented women into a company that asks them to do the calendaring, coffee-making, and handling the low-risk clients while their male peers are told to run with the most visible initiatives. Straight up, coaching women to “lean in” to companies that aren’t doing the work is a set up for failure.

Second, the latest data (by McKinsey & Co. and show that women are already “leaning in,” striving for top roles, negotiating for the pay they deserve, etc.… Companies just overlook and underutilize these capable women.

Creating a fair workplace for women requires a consistent, company-wide effort primarily focused on leaders, Human Resources, and middle managers. Companies must crunch their data to see where they are losing, create new policies, and train up managers to eliminate bias, especially in recruiting and promotions. To really do it right, businesses need leaders that actively endorse women and equity and that won’t stand for a “bro culture.” To really do equity well, companies need flexible/remote work programs, strong parental policies, a focus on retaining talented women, pay equity, and co-ed mentoring programs.

I certainly understand why the (female) writer/director of Purl would want to draw attention to the degrading experiences she and so many other women have in the workplace. The bias and disrespect faced by women in so many workplaces and male-majority teams is totally unacceptable. I don’t blame the writer for not knowing how to fix this complicated issue: a single employee shouldn’t have to be an expert in fixing the complex and pervasive business problem of gender equity that she’s faced.

But, I do blame Pixar. A company that so many of us love, follow, and look up to as an important modern voice on our culture has irresponsibly pumped out a video meant to teach us all about “bro culture” – without researching the facts that could have really helped begin to dismantle it.

Instead, Pixar only did enough to seem like they care, but not enough to really fix the issue they supposedly care about.

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What do Ted Bundy, R. Kelly, and Jay Asher have in common?

By the last episode of the new Netflix documentary Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer, I found myself unsatisfied and disappointed.

For me, true crime is a genre where the best narratives focus on condemning violence against women. However, this documentary fluffed up Bundy’s childhood and school career, while splicing his victims’ pictures with provocative pin-ups.

It was just as disappointing when I read that Thirteen Reasons Why author, Jay Asher, was suing the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for defamation. Asher’s suit came as a result of SCBWI removing him for violating the SCBWI code of conduct in regards to sexual harassment. An act he feels ruined his career.

Before then, singer R. Kelly admitted creating the Facebook page, Surviving Lies, a riff of the recent docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. His plan was to gather support for a documentary of his own to counter the recent criminal investigation and allegations of abuse he faces due to the Lifetime documentary.

And while these men might seem unrelated, they do have a very important element in common: all of them have been given a chance to explain themselves in light of their accusations. A service that is rarely given to the victims.

It doesn’t matter how vicious their alleged crimes were or whose lives they ruined, the mic is extended in their direction in the form of documentaries, book deals, and other media platforms as if to suggest that society still values what they have to say.

In comparison, victims find it harder to speak up against their abusers.

Asher’s lawsuit is receiving coverage from notable publications, while his alleged victims struggle to find a mic for their stories.

At one point, a comments section filled up with anonymous stories and confessions of experiences with Asher and other male authors including Matt de la Pena, Daniel Handler, and Sherman Alexie. These were the spaces survivors found to speak.

Some victims put names and faces to their stories. Others never went public. Many talented authors often quit because of the abusive men threatening their careers. How much talent are we sacrificing while serial harassers are celebrated and supported?

It doesn’t help that men brought to justice often return, due in part to allegations not being believed, or the statute of limitations running out. Money often talks louder than victims can hope to. This is why so many movements are starting with a pseudonym.

So while the Surviving R. Kelly documentary was a platform for R. Kelly’s survivors to speak up against him, it’s important to note that it was the result of years of silencing and discrediting black women. He was able to produce music and tour for years despite credible accusations made against him because he was given a platform to profit without accountability, thus burying his crimes.

Unlike men, women cannot get away with claiming poor memory. They are questioned on their motives in coming forward.

This is why so few actually report.

According to RAINN, only 230 out of 1,000 sexual assaults get reported to the police. Any cases that trickle into the justice system have already faced a gauntlet of doubt from authorities, fear of retaliation, and the victim’s own concern that the incident wasn’t “big enough” for anyone else to find credible.

And if the accusation is made against a celebrity it runs the risk of public scrutiny and conjecture.

Hashtags such as #YesAllWomen, #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #NotAllMen trend on social media, often times at the cost of their creators and survivors personal safety or erasure. Creating a safe space often means these activists are losing their own.

This is an experience that strikes very close to home for me.

As a vocal feminist and activist online, I am familiar with my mentions and feeds turning from something comfortable and intimate into a channeling of anonymous hate. These brigades often lead to my locking down and anxious over the reminder that it isn’t always safe to speak up against violence towards women.

One of the tensest moments in the Bundy documentary is survivor Carol daRonch testifying in court. She seems aware of Bundy’s eyes on her. In contrast, he is visibly angry at her speaking out.

“A professional witness,” Bundy sneers.

 Again, this is his platform. He gets his chance at condemning her, even after victimizing her.

While daRonch’s account has a half-hour of footage, Bundy is given hours to ramble about his life. He glorifies his childhood while ignoring the agonizing details of his crimes.

Without those details, he avoids being a monster. Instead, he becomes a man who made a mistake.

The deaths of all his victims were mistakes that should be forgiven because of his supposed good looks and talent.

These men are not victims, regardless of their claims.

Asher may have lost his publisher and agent, but Netflix continues to air their adaptation of his book. Meanwhile, Bundy’s story will reappear in a new movie, played by Zac Efron. This film is planned in “celebration” of the anniversary of his execution, despite survivors thinking it’s not in good taste.

And despite being removed from his record label and the canceling of his U.S. shows, R. Kelly’s music saw a major leap at the release of the Lifetime documentary and is currently scheduled to do an international tour.

While these stories are worth telling, they need to be told from a different perspective. It is time to consider who these men hurt. If we are speaking of abusers, we should be honest in why they are not heroes.

Other voices should be uplifted now. Their victims who bravely speak in the comments of articles, in hashtags and interviews should be offered the mic.

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Best of The Tempest 2018: 9 Stories from Pop Culture

It’s been a peculiar year in the realm of entertainment. We’ve had such big, progressive victories and such big setbacks and anachronisms in terms of representation, transparency, and inclusivity. Many LGBTQ+ artists thrived, and 2018 was dubbed 20GAYTEEN by singer Hayley Kiyoko. It was the year of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, and yet big name studios are still out there producing films that are imbued with racism, sexism, homophobia, and fatphobia as well as often promoting rape and hate.

We’re still light years away from consuming the egalitarian entertainment we deserve. I knew that very well when I became Pop Culture Editor at The Tempest. I understood that I would have to look closely at many media products that would make me mad, which I would rather ignore and avoid at all costs, but I gladly accepted the challenge. I believe our mission is to shed light on everything that is going on, and that includes denouncing the many injustices that occur in the entertainment industry. We can’t possibly stay silent about the things we deem wrong, because silence is complicity.

But we also don’t like to only see the glass half empty, and we love to admit that there are many things to praise and to celebrate. Without further ado, I present to you 9 of my favorite Pop Culture stories we published in 2018, a mix of the good and the bad.

1. Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Despite the good representation that television and the music industry gifted us with this year, blockbusters are still actively promoting the erasure of female queerness as well as employing queer bait. This is a trend that needs to stay in 2018.

2. What time is it, Hollywood?

What time is it, Hollywood?

What about what happens behind the camera? This article explores some trends of the entertainment industry from the inside out, because actresses are not the only people we need to protect. Let’s say #TimesUp to all kinds of discrimination.

3. Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

There is a big misconception in fiction and in critique: that a female character who dares be different and dislikable is automatically a great feminist heroine. She’s not, and that’s okay.

4. Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

We are tired of people giving J.K. Rowling a free pass for everything just because she wrote a beautiful book series 20 years ago. For a while now, she has been twisting things to appear “woke” instead of honestly admitting that as the times progressed, she also wants to be more inclusive. There is no need to say that she was planning plot twists all along when in reality the implications of that make her way more problematic. Read why in this piece!

5. Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

If you don’t know what an item number is, you need to read this piece. If you do know, you need to read this piece. It’s eye-opening and I will never look at a Bollywood film the same way again.

6. This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

Contrary to what some haters will have you believe about feminists, we do celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of men, when they deserve it. This article is a clap on the back of an Oscar-winning director for an amazing film that contributed to making 2018 better.

7. Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think

Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think 

You may or may not know this show, which was a true revelation for its honest representation of working (and woke!) millennial women. However, the show has been accused of portraying a utopistic world of equality (but it really doesn’t, the protagonists deal with misogyny, racism and homophobia every day). This article cleverly responds to that claim, contextualizing it particularly within the journalism world (where the main characters spend most of their time) that we know too well.

8. Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Abusers deserve to be held accountable for their actions. After the tidal wave that was the #MeToo movement, it’s good to see that celebrities are still being taken down after abusive behavior.

9. My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

A constant struggle in the transition to adulthood is that we are burdened with too many responsibilities and we have too little time to do the things we actually want to do out of sheer pleasure, like reading. It does not help that books have gained a very strong competitor for our time and attention, the “monster” that are streaming services.

We’re ready to kiss 2018 goodbye. In the hope that 2019 will be a more satisfying year for women, people of color, and all oppressed minorities, happy new year from the staff of The Tempest!

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I’m afraid to tell the police what happened – because he follows me everywhere

If I were a different person, maybe he would be in jail right now, instead of in my grocery store when I’m trying to buy cheese.

I was raped a decade ago. When I was in college I would flee the common area once I spotted him. At my first job, he walked in, asked me about nail polish and said we should be friends again. At a Denny’s on Halloween, I excused myself, went to the bathroom, and vomited after seeing him enter with his friends.

There are a million reasons why people don’t report sexual assault. Mine is: he’s everywhere.

By the time I was nineteen, I was already very familiar with the concept of fear. Most are. But with an untreated anxiety disorder and a history of sexual abuse by a former partner, fear and I were far better acquainted than I would have liked. I’d never dealt with it particularly well, especially not considering the many ways it had been used against me during that relationship. But I’d learned to ignore the knot in my throat – to swallow the nausea and remember to breathe. I counted slowly with deep inhales, and though it wasn’t a cure, it helped.

But how do you overcome that sort of fear when you’re faced with reliving your experiences? When the source of terror walks casually through a door and grins at you, almost as if nothing had ever happened? That’s the thing though. That calm collection that fills whichever room you’re in can also get into your head.

Looking back now, older and more educated, I have the resources I need to cope with what happened to me and pivot the need for accountability away from myself. But a younger and newly independent me couldn’t understand why he thought it was okay to look in my direction and show no remorse. He thought it was more than okay. He thought we could be friends. It was so much different in my head than his.

Fighting against his perception only fueled the endless pump of doubt that I had to somehow keep in check. How was I supposed to feel about my trauma when there was this nagging fear that maybe I was just overreacting? That feeling bled through all of my decisions, and like many people, I ended up sinking into it, trying not to be seen.

On those occasions when I would run into him, he would corner me and make small talk while I chewed on the inside of my cheeks and tried not to say anything. He said we should be friends. I gave nothing in return save for a polite smile – the kind that can barely be regarded as one.

“Don’t you think?” he pushed, as was his M.O.

I received a text from him three days later and blocked the number. I wanted it to be as easy as that. But every time I stepped out my door, I ran the risk of bumping into him. He went to my school. He lived four minutes from my house.

He showed up at my work, my social events, and even once came to my home unannounced, only leaving because my brother refused to let him in.

Even to this day, I’ll happen upon social media posts from himself and his family. They’re usually along the lines of shaming women and the victims of assault.

It’s no new story, only the ignorantly accepted norm of a white family from the south. I feel lucky because he hasn’t contacted me in years. Our last encounter was one I can’t even remember, as a friend informed me that he tried to get my attention on a drunken night out after we passed him on the street. It was my birthday. I’m sure he knew that. I’m sure he felt comfortable in approaching me with the cushion of that fact behind him.

But there is no comfort in knowing what I know. I’ve gained a sense of peace through my openness. When it came time to decide whether I would participate in the #MeToo movement, it wasn’t a question of whether I would admit I had been abused. It was about whether I felt safe enough to admit who the abuser was. And I didn’t. I don’t. I’m not sure I ever will.

Not with him lurking around the corner.

Maybe I’ll find my words once I’m far enough away to know he won’t come knocking at my door. Maybe I won’t. But he does know. And I’ll never forget.

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What time is it, Hollywood?

In secret chat rooms of Hollywood inclusion activists and women’s groups, chat rooms that have existed long before the #MeToo and #TimesUp hashtags, we have been discussing the long tradition of Hollywood smear campaigns against those who speak truth to power, or, as the public has now found out, those who refuse sexual advances of the powerful.

As filmmakers came forward and admitted they dropped actresses from consideration for their movies because Harvey Weinstein smeared them, many of us were left wondering why it was so easy for him to do that.

In a conversation with New Zealand website Stuff, director Peter Jackson said, “I recall Miramax telling us they [Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino] were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998. At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us – but in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing. I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women – and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list.”

I don’t want to beat up on Jackson after he admitted this, I’d rather address everybody in a hiring position in Hollywood who has ever dropped someone from consideration because of a rumor.

Why is that all it takes? When Weinstein said those things about women we now know rejected him, why didn’t anybody at least ask “a nightmare, how”?

When I brought this issue up in my inclusion group, where members are all people of color working in various departments in the entertainment industry, all of us, men and women, had endless stories of jobs lost due to someone smearing us. This isn’t what’s bothering us, we all knew before we started taking a stance on inclusion issues that speaking truth to power results in power punching back.

What isn’t as easy to swallow is how willingly good people believe these type of statements. Folks are out there accepting awards for being inclusion champions, but the minute an executive they knew from “way-back-when-in-the-mailroom” says something as vague as “life’s to short to deal with him” they delete a name off their list without hesitation.

Is this a professional way to conduct business? Let alone a legal one?

Sometimes bad references aren’t vague and instead are much more thought out and deliberate. An actor in our group who often has to object to casual racism on set is suddenly plagued by “he couldn’t pull off this scene” or “he never knows his lines” type of rumors. Those are very specific claims that, if true, can end an actor’s career, which is why anybody with professional integrity has a responsibility to investigate such claims further.

All of us in this group are plagued with similar damaging references.

An Assistant Director (AD) who suddenly has a habit of forgetting to call actors in at the correct time, a cinematographer who takes too much time lighting, a writer who (after she helped expose one of Hollywood’s serial sexual harassers) suddenly doesn’t deliver her scripts on time…these claims are all very specific codes for “do not hire”.

But these are also claims that can very easily be proven true or false.

There are call sheets, production reports, dailies you can watch, etc.  But if the people with hiring power refuse to properly investigate such claims we are doomed, because nobody tells us the identity of the person who’s making these claims, nor are we told on what production we supposedly failed in such a spectacular manner.

Those in saner industries will now question how this could possibly be legal. Hollywood is still the Wild West where people in power make their own rules. Beyond Twitter, nobody seems to know that #TimesUp, bad behavior, and unprofessional conduct are still on the clock as ever before.

The last time it happened to me,  I lost a job because some anonymous person said something bad about me to a showrunner who was checking my references. When that took place, I did get legal advice. Because I was part of the group of women directors who worked with the ACLU and the EEOC to investigate the discrimination of women directors in Hollywood, I contacted our point person at each organization and had a long talk with both women.

I got a tremendous amount of information and was told I definitely had a case, but there wasn’t really a solution. At least not one I could live with. The case I had was against the company who wanted to hire me but then decided against it after their showrunner heard something bad about me. The problem is, I like this company a lot. I’ve known them for a long time, they’re decent people and I get that they didn’t want to overrule one of their showrunners (which, frankly, would have resulted in a disaster, because there’s nothing worse than working for a person who, unbeknownst to you, didn’t want you there).

If the only recourse I have in a situation like this is to go after a company who are fans of mine and who approached me to direct their show in the first place, the system is broken.

Essentially this all comes down to decent people doing the right thing. There’s been such an outcry for due diligence since #MeToo, but the people crying out for it never grant members of marginalized groups that same privilege.

So I am appealing to those people in the industry who truly believe that #TimesUp, who truly want a more inclusive Hollywood and who understand that real inclusion can only be achieved by providing a safe working environment for women, members of marginalized groups and people from different cultural backgrounds:

1. If you are calling for a reference about a woman and the person on the other line replies with:

a) she’s crazy
b) she’s a nightmare to work with
c) she’s difficult

Then please hang up immediately and hire this woman.

2.  If you’re calling for a reference about anybody you want to hire and you receive the type of feedback that is very obvious “don’t hire” code (i.e. this actor can’t act, this director can’t direct, this DP lights forever, etc.), don’t just take this feedback at face value.

Even if it comes from your old mailroom buddy, even if it is said by a woman about another woman or by a person-of-color about another person-of-color (if you are confused by this, please read up on what “systemic” means in relation to “systemic discrimination”)

3. If you’re calling for a reference about someone and you get lukewarm feedback, dig deeper.

You owe it to yourself and the production you work for to find out if their negative experience may be a positive in your eyes. Great leaders/creators/producers like to hire people who are smarter and better than they are, so that their show/movie thrives, whereas bad leaders are intimidated by talent. If you ask, “How was Aliya as an AD?” and the reply is “too smart for her own good, always coming up with new ways to schedule things,” then it’s possible that Aliya didn’t respect the hierarchy on a movie set…but it is also possible that Aliya had better ideas than the much higher paid producers around her, who then resented her for it.

4. Understand why you’re not always getting the truth

In the case of Weinstein, we now know the reason dozens of filmmakers were told that certain actresses are a nightmare to work with was that he could hardly say out loud: “They wouldn’t let me fuck them.”

Want to know some other things people don’t say out loud in Hollywood?

a) He kept complaining about homophobic comments on set
b) She butted heads with our misogynistic cinematographer
c) She objected to a stuntwoman in blackface
d) She overheard inappropriate sexual comments about a fellow actress and confronted the director who made them

Nobody in Hollywood is ever going to admit out loud that this is what really bothered them about someone they worked with. Heard of ‘White Fragility’?

Multiply that by 100 and you get Hollywood Fragility.

Suggesting to a white Hollywood liberal, especially one with a little power, that they may have a social equality blindspot, is like poking a shark with a finger that’s bleeding from an open wound. Try and picture the following dialogue:

“I won 3 Emmys for a show that was all about racial justice, how dare you call me a racist?”

“I would never call you a racist, I’m just humbly suggesting you should reconsider the term exotic Latina in your script.”

To doubt this is happening, you have to either believe that Hollywood has magically eliminated all of its toxic habits overnight, or that they welcome anybody who objects to those habits, or that there aren’t any people who dare to object.

We aren’t many. But we do exist and our hope has always been that eventually, our ability to raise the flag about issues we know you’ll get dragged for in the press or on social media will make us an asset rather than persona non grata. To be clear, none of us walk into a production office or onto a set with a social equality report chart. We don’t want to point out your BS. At all. We just want to direct/act/shoot etc. Do you have any idea how uncomfortable it is when you’re going about your job and suddenly somebody does or says something racist or sexist and you’re the only one who understands how inappropriate it was (or you’re the only one unable to pretend you didn’t hear it)?

Also, understand that we ignore a good 90% of inappropriate things we hear or see on any job because we know how unpopular it is to make an issue out of it. By the time we raise the flag on something, trust that we have already endured hundreds of micro-aggressions in silence.

For example, I have never complained when someone calls me “love” “darling” “sweetie” etc. For one, because it honestly never bothered me personally and two, I realized that people google me before I arrive on a job and they think it’s funny to rile up the feminist director (the frustration on their faces when I refuse to react is priceless).  But while I refuse to react to inappropriate terms of endearment, I will definitely object to a stuntwoman in blackface or a cinematographer who rolls his eyes every time I suggest a shot.

We all have different parameters of what we can or can’t ignore, but we all completely agree that we would most prefer if all of this BS would cease to exist.

5. Understand how smear campaigns work

This frustrates me to no end. And it exists not only in my industry but on the global stage. It shouldn’t be so easy to make people believe lies and yet…look where we are. The funny thing is that many of my industry peers express great frustration at how the current administration manages to gaslight an entire nation, but they have no problem participating in a gaslight campaign against one of their own.

Even before the appalling list of Harvey Weinstein’s crimes against women was exposed, the man never had a reputation as a good or trusted guy. Men who worked with him referred to him as a bully and Harvey Scissorhands (for cutting up their movies). So how was it possible that filmmakers “didn’t have a reason to doubt him” when he smeared women they themselves had never met?

Power. That’s how.

Remember that Hollywood fragility I told you about? If someone tells you something bad about a person you’re considering for a job and you start digging deeper and demanding more information…the person who gave you the information will immediately be defensive and assume you’re calling them a liar.

So most people don’t even question a vague statement if it was made by someone they want to keep on their good side.

Even if you don’t ask the original source of the bad reference for more information and instead ask other people, who end up telling you the opposite…you’re still wondering if you can hire somebody this particular person has deemed unhirable because what would be the consequences if they found out?

Smear campaigns are no joke and the real agony is that they never stay confined to one group or company. If that were the case then the actresses who were smeared by Weinstein would have continued to have a great career at all the other studios in town, except Weinstein’s. But this is a small town and everybody hops from one studio/network to another constantly. So those filmmakers who didn’t have a reason to doubt Weinstein may actually find the name of one of those actresses on a list that another studio is presenting to them. Now it’s the filmmaker who tells the studio: “Oh no, she’s a nightmare to work with.” And this filmmaker is actually a nice guy, the studio has no reason not to believe him…and so it goes on and on and on….

Another thing you should know about smear campaigns is that those who originate them are exceptionally good at it and probably have years of practice. They know how to seize on some element of the target’s behavior (good or bad) which other people will easily recognize.

For example, if someone were to say about me, “oh God she fights about everything,” everybody who knows that I was a competitive fighter before I became a director will pause for a second. Because “Lexi and fighting”sound familiar to them and not much like a stretch. It takes several extra steps to walk this through logically and consider that just because someone was a competitive fighter (in a ring, wearing safety gear no less) doesn’t mean they are moronic enough to sabotage their career to win a pyrrhic victory.

On top of all that, people who become victims of smear campaigns don’t really help themselves. Understandably they often charge around wild-eyed and angry, screaming to the skies that whatever is being said about them is not true. They rightly fear losing their livelihood, they are frustrated by the sheer inability to defend themselves and the lack of official recourse.

Often this leads to victims behaving as irrational as the smear campaign tried to make them look in the first place.

We need transparency. We need blockchain, but for references. Want to make a charge about someone’s job performance? Go ahead, make it. But it has to be officially registered under your name on a platform that everybody else in this industry can access. These whisper campaigns where you can ruin someone’s career anonymously need to stop.

Transparency leads to truth.

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I wish I could say I was surprised about Aziz Ansari. He just proves that even your fave can be hella problematic.

If there’s one thing that 2018 has taught us so far, it’s that even the worst of predators can hide behind a #TimesUp pin. This week, Aziz Ansari has taken the spotlight of shame and I really wish that I could say I’m surprised.

All of these men are canceled in my book. And so is any other man who pretends to be an ally while still using their power to take advantage of women.

[bctt tweet=”Having too much to drink is not an excuse. Coercion IS sexual assault.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Repeat after me: You are not entitled to women’s bodies just because you are famous. Not every woman you have a friendly encounter with wants to interact with you sexually.

It is mind-boggling how these men have the audacity to hide behind a movement while secretly perpetuating the very thing that it’s fighting against.

It’s even worse to pretend that you don’t know what you’re doing when you’re called out on it. No, having too much to drink is not an excuse. Trying to get someone drunk so they’ll have sex with you is wrong. I don’t care how drunk you are.

Say it with me now: Coercion IS sexual assault.

Why do we still have to have this conversation? It seems like even the “good guys” can’t get it right for once.

One of the most disturbing elements about the Aziz Ansari allegations is the fact that over the years he has portrayed himself as a feminist, using humor to speak out about the wage gap and proclaiming his pro-woman stance in interviews. His Netflix sitcom, Master of None, is progressive and examines a number of issues revolving around dating, sex, relationships, the LGBTQ+ community, immigration, and race. He has cultivated an image of “allyship” with women, both in public and on screen. But as we’ve found out, his support of feminism is at best a façade, and at worst, an insidious act used to cloak his misogynistic and violent behavior.

[bctt tweet=”Nice guys who use feminism as insurance are predators.” username=”wearethetempest”]

This is problematic because sexual assault victims are often blamed, ridiculed, and harassed further when they stand up to their attackers. Men usually receive the benefit of the doubt from family, peers, and society as a whole.

But a “feminist” man who has done everything “right” makes himself nearly untouchable: the oppressive line, “She’s lying,” will be hurled at the victims with even more fury because many find it unfathomable that a man who has advocated so openly for women could use the same violence against them that he supposedly condemns.

“Nice guys” who use feminism as insurance against their own oppression of women are predators.

So where do we go from here? If anything, I think this is a wakeup call. Even your fave can be hella problematic.

I think that we need to have honest conversations with those around us. Men, you need to let other men know that this type of behavior is unacceptable. Hold each other accountable. Stop using your supposed devotion to women’s equality as a prop to get you laid. Instead, put in the actual work. Research intersectional feminism, reproductive justice, and the meaning of consent.

And to the brave women in Hollywood, keep naming names. Don’t be afraid to speak out. By speaking up, you really are reminding them that #TheirTimeIsUp.

Men, you can’t hide behind your fame anymore. You can’t shame women into keeping quiet. As women, we are all connected. We are extensions of one another. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. So when you hurt us, we will find you and we will expose you.

There is no middle ground.

We are respecting women and their boundaries in 2018 and if you are not aboard that train then you are getting left behind!