Actress and scriptwriter Brit Marling has written a powerful letter addressing the “economics of consent” following the tide of sexual assault and harassment allegations in the wake of the ongoing Harvey Weinstein story.
Ruminating on a female actor’s search for financial security in an industry like Hollywood in a piece for The Atlantic, Marling wrote how abusers with a position of power use their omnipotence to keep women in “artistic and financial exile”.
In her essay, Marling also writes about her own harrowing alleged encounter with the director, an experience she says left her with “terror in the pit of her stomach”.
The full letter can be read here.
“I studied economics in college and went to New York to become an investment banker,” writes Marling of wanting financial independence.
But having been interested in acting and filmmaking in college, Marling says she decided she wanted a career change, and that acting “felt like a noble pursuit”.
However, when she began auditioning for roles, she soon came to realise that women were far from equal players in the film industry.
Marling decided the best way to keep her agency would be to “become a storyteller herself.”
She goes on to describe a meeting with Weinstein years later, in 2014, in which she says they were intended to meet in a hotel bar. However, upon arrival, she says an assistant told her the meeting would now be in his suite upstairs.
Marling says the producer suggested that they shower together, and writes that she “felt terror in the pit of her stomach” as she was left alone in the room with him.
“It was clear that there was only one direction he wanted this encounter to go in, and that was sex or some version of an erotic exchange,” she writes.
“I was able to gather myself together – a bundle of firing nerves, hands trembling, voice lost in my throat – and leave the room.
“I later sat in my hotel room alone and wept. I wept because I had gone up the elevator when I knew better. I wept because I had let him touch my shoulders. I wept because at other times in my life, under other circumstances, I had not been able to leave.”
“Weinstein was a gatekeeper who could give actresses a career that would sustain their lives and the livelihood of their families,” the Sound Of My Voice filmmaker writes.
“He could also give them fame, which is one of few ways for women to gain some semblance of power and voice inside a patriarchal world. They knew it. He knew it. Weinstein could also ensure that these women would never work again if they humiliated him.”
“That’s not just artistic or emotional exile – that’s also economic exile,” she adds.
It is due to the systematic exclusion of women in the industry, Marling says, that Weinstein was able to continue his alleged activities in Hollywood.
In spite of women making up 50% of the world, they only make up only 23% of the Directors Guild of America.
Additionally, only 11% are people of colour.
In order to fight the endemic sexism of an industry seemingly only motivated by money, Marling has one message for cinemagoers: carefully select the films you see.
“If you don’t want to be part of an industry where sexual abuse and harassment are rampant, don’t buy a ticket to a film that promotes it,” she writes.
“It’s time to imagine that films that don’t use the exploitation of female bodies or violence against female bodies as their selling points. Films with a gender balance and racial balance better reflect the world that we live in.”
To date, 54 women have come forward and accused Weinstein of sexual assault.
He reportedly spent a week in a “sexual addiction clinic” and has previously denied any non-consensual sexual encounters. He is being investigated by police in the US and the UK.
Images: Rex Features