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Gayborhood Weinsteins

Commentary: Politically Aware

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The revelations about Harvey Weinstein have spurred discussion about harassment and assault in the workplace. While it can happen anywhere, there are some common threads among the worst industries. The victims are often seeking employment with some level of “desperation”, either for a job at all or for a break toward advancement. This is in part because the evaluation of talent is subjective rather than based on merit, resume or prior performance. There is often a lack of structure to facilitate reporting bad behavior, or even structure to make it harder.

Those criteria aren’t exclusive to Hollywood, and in fact fairly accurately describe parts of the LGBT entertainment industry. It should come as no surprise that the gayborhood generates its own anthology of “me, too” experiences. Having lived in three cities with large LGBT populations (Atlanta, San Francisco and San Diego), I’ve heard many, and they trouble me more these days.

A night of LGBT entertainment often starts in the bars, so consider the staff, notably the bar-backs. Many are younger guys (and women) who recently moved to town, came out, or both, and need a job to pay the rent. Even if getting the job didn’t require proof of talents beyond lifting and stocking, the swats and grabs from other employees would constitute harassment in many workplaces. Somehow a bartender or manager dating a bar-back doesn’t seem to come with the same taboo as a professor dating a student or subordinate, but is the power dynamic really that different?

Then there are the Go-Go dancers. I once asked a friend why he stayed away from a certain venue. His answer: “I didn’t want to blow [the manager].” To whom should he report that?

Don’t forget “The industry”, aka pornography. You can’t believe everything in an adult video, but many “Introducing _____” films seem to involve fun with the producer or camera-person. Maybe they sign a contract for just that, but again, we need to think about what their options really are, and what other jobs allow. I doubt even Weinstein would have gotten away with telling women their second movie would be a blockbuster if their first involved a sex scene with him.

The standards aren’t always what you might think. Universities don’t always ban professor/student relationships, allegedly because they are too common to stop. I don’t claim to know what the standards should be in gay entertainment, but I’m certain we should be thinking more about them. There are good and bad players in every industry, and two sides to every story. Those are reasons for careful action, but not inaction. We may not be able to take definitive action on every story we hear, but we can at least make sure the victim is clear that harassment and working your way up are not the same thing, and log the information. That way, the second time we hear it, we can facilitate stronger people taking more action, until the critical mass breaks the silence.



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Posted by on Oct 26, 2017. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Politically Aware. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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