A PSA released Wednesday by Women in Motion Pictures, a feminist collective of female filmmakers and actors, explores the scope of sexual harassment and its devastating effects on women and girls—in Hollywood and beyond.
The PSA showcases women and girls across age, race, ethnicity and orientation being preyed on by men in positions of power—teachers, bosses and even groups of teenage boys. Each vignette was directed by a different woman, many of whom were telling stories familiar to themselves as survivors.
The PSA “firmly demonstrates that sexual harassment affects women of all colors, body types and cultures,” its creators, who are notably women and survivors of industry abuse, told Ms. According to Women in Motion Pictures, the video is also meant to be a demonstration of the importance of media representation, and empowering those with direct experiences and stakes in an issue to speak for themselves.
“As female filmmakers and survivors of sexual assault and harassment, we feel that there is no one better qualified to use film to make a statement about how we’ve been treated,” Summera Howell, the PSA’s head producer and a filmmaker and actor, told Ms. Additionally, Howell thinks that as the brain child of female filmmakers and product of their labor, the PSA reflects how #MeToo is about women reclaiming their narrative. “Many women have been victims of sexual harassment in the industry,” she said, “and this is really about taking their power back through art.”
Last year, a slew of sexual harassment and abuse allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein reinvigorated conversations about sexual harassment and rape culture nationwide. The testimonies of women in Hollywood and all over the country which poured forth afterward, shared under the hashtag #MeToo, exposed an epidemic of men abusing their power and started a national conversation around sexual abuse, exploitation and coercion.
Although wealth and status don’t preclude women from experiencing misogyny—the list of Weinstein’s many famous and affluent victims, as well as the staggering pay gap in Hollywood, all evidence this—harassment and abuse disproportionately affect women in low-wage fields, particularly immigrants and women of color. (25 percent of sexual harassment charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the last decade came from industries with service-sector workers.) Women in Motion Pictures’ does an excellent job of acknowledging this reality—and the women behind it did so with purpose.
Kayden Phoenix, a director of the PSA, said she got involved with the project to empower others. “I volunteered for this campaign because it’s imperative to stand united,” Phoenix said. “We have a voice and maybe me doing this will help the future and the past sexually harassed victims find theirs.” In a quick reference to a new star-studded campaign against sexual harassment, she added: “Time’s up.”
Puppett, another director working with Women in Motion Pictures, also views #MeToo as the end of silence, complicity and consequence-free oppression. “Harassment and misogyny thrive on secrecy and whispers,” she said. “#MeToo is a scream, slicing through the shadows.” And just as women united and empowered made #MeToo possible, Puppett believes the solution is “inclusion and empathy, hiring diversely and setting a tone of mutual respect.”
Rachel Fleischer, another director who worked on the PSA, thinks real reform is what #MeToo—and specifically, this video—is all about. “The ways in which we as women are effected by these experiences are profound, layered and complex,” she told Ms. “They can only be fully revealed over time. Making work like this is part of uncovering those layers in the hopes that we can not only heal, but bring about real change.”