This week’s 52INSIGHTS continues our exploration of #MeToo 2.0 - as the movement, over 3 years on, continues to pick up steam stories continue to unfold and shape popular culture and conversation. (If you missed it, you can read Part One here).
LESSONS LEARNED: HOW RECENT #METOO STORIES ARE SHAPING YOUTH CULTURE (& ENTERTAINMENT)
Continued from Part One…
The documentary format is still a hugely popular channel for #MeToo revelations - Paris Hilton’s This Is Paris documentary last year brought an unexpected story of her traumatic childhood abuse at the Provo Canyon school to the fore. Notably, Hilton also speaks about how how the narrative around a sex tape she made when she was 18 with a 31 year old boyfriend that he later releases to the public, would have been different today. Though still fresh in our pop culture memory, it’s difficult to imagine that happening without extreme controversy today. The explosion of the ‘Framing Britney Spears’ documentary unearthed further questionable narratives and harmful attitudes posed against young women over the last 20 years - a problem bigger than Britney. Media personalities and shows are being called out for taking a leading role in vilifying and trivialising young female celebrities - such as David Letterman clip questioning Lynsey Lohan about her next trip to rehab.
In some instances, with the depiction of these themes in popular culture entertainment, actors’ real life experiences and actions are being compared to characters in shows. Michaela Cohen for example speaks openly about how she based ‘I May Destroy You’ on personal experiences. For others this can play out quite differently. Comedian Chris D’elia is perhaps best known for playing what turned out to be an eerily similar version of himself on Netflix smash hit YOU (he plays a well known comedian that used his power and fame to seduce and victimise young girls). As the season aired women began to come forward sharing their experience of D’elia and the striking resemblance he bore to the sinister character of a famous abuser on YOU.
BOUNDARY SETTING & SURVIVAL: FROM WORDS TO ACTION
“These folks who tell us to “move on”, that it’s “not a big deal”... these are the same tactics of abusers. And I’m a survivor of sexual assault...when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, speaking in the aftermath of the US Capitol riots.
Another lesson this new wave of Me Too action is hitting home is centring the survivor’s boundaries and needs within the narrative. Critically acclaimed performer FKA twigs recently made headlines speaking out about her abusive relationship with actor Shia LeBeouf, who she is taking legal action against. In an interview about her experience Gayle King (almost reluctantly) asks her why she stayed with him so long. FKA twigs responds - “I’m not going to answer that question anymore because the question should really be to the abuser, ‘Why are you holding someone hostage?’”
In 2021 there’s also an increasing focus on looking beyond ‘cancel culture’ reactions to actually make things right and make sure there’s real change and efforts behind getting justice for survivors. This comes through in how stories are inspiring legal action - a culture that refuses to simply ‘move on’ until a wrong is righted in some tangible way. In the case of Weinsten, a settlement of $17million is to be split between 37 women (those who refused the settlement have entered into other legal processes). Another example of this - in 2019 - before revealing Manson was her abuser - Rachel Evan Wood campaigned for the successful publication of the Phoenix Act into US law. The act extends the statute of limitations for victims of domestic violence and abuse coming forward and reporting their abuser. She herself came forward too late to legally report her case, but now, thanks to the Phoenix Act those abused by their partners will have more time to step forward.
Social media, of course, is still a key channel where many accusations are being brought light and shared with the masses. It’s also a place where increasingly, accusers are being tried and investigated in the court of public opinion. One of the most shocking revelations of 2021 was a social media account that began sharing thousands of screenshots purported to be from former lover, Call Me By Your Name & Rebecca star, Armie Hammer. Since the social account went viral several other women (including Courtney Vucekovich and Paige Lorenze) have also come forward with their stories of his abusive behaviour.
#METOO, INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY + THE WORLD OF MARKETING & ADVERTISING
“Creativity has the power to change culture and the wider world in a deeply positive way.” Susie Walker, Head of Awards, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity
Did you know that in 2020 women earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by men? As #MeToo continues to challenge people’s perceptions of individuals, communities and society, it reflects the importance of the continued push for equality (in the everyday) around the world. As a ‘systemic’ issue to tackle collectively, it is increasingly relevant to the industries we all operate in - not least when it comes to our marketing and advertising work. As amplifiers and creators of culture, our attitudes and approaches to creative work have significant impact here - and have great potential to impact the world and culture in more positive ways. Recent research from Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, analysed Cannes Lions ads from 2006-2019 Liaison for bias and inclusion. In terms of gender, it found that:
- In 2019 ads, male characters outnumber female characters two-to-one, dropping from a high of 40.2% female characters in 2014 ads.
- Male characters also have twice the screen time and speaking time as female characters.
- Nearly twice as many male characters are shown working as female characters in ads (22.2% compared with 13.3%).
- Male characters are also more likely to be depicted as leaders and shown as possessing authority than female characters.
- More male characters are shown as funny than female characters (22.1% compared with 15.4%).
- When it comes to sexualization, female characters are four times more likely to be shown in revealing clothing than male characters (10.8% compared with 2.2%), and nearly twice as likely to be shown as partially nude.
“To sum up, women simply appear less often in Cannes Lions work, and when they do appear, they are often depicted as sex objects who lack humor and power.”
COVID-19 & GENDER INEQUALITY
It’s also important to note Covid-19 of course, has also had an impact on deepening some inequalities in new ways for women too. In the context of economics, for example, “Women make up a larger percentage of occupations in Community & Social Services, Education, Library & Training, Office & Administrative Support, and Personal Care & Services, which are more likely to be suspended, laid off, or forced to work reduced hours. Women are also more likely to have to take time off work, or even resign their positions, in order to care for children who are no longer in school as well as other family members.”
You can read more about how women in particular have been affected by Covid-19 in the below:
- McKinsey - Covid-19 and Gender Equality
- European Commission - International Women's Day 2021: COVID-19 pandemic is a major challenge for gender equality
- Concern - 7 reasons why Covid-19 is having a tougher impact on women and girls
Systemic change is still happening & needed across society in response to Me Too. While horrendous abuse and harassment is the focus of the Me Too movement, it’s important to recognise its links to gender bias and inequality more generally. As a consequence, gender equality is not something that you can be passive about in 2021- it takes proactive ambition to ensure you are answering the strengthening rallying cry for action and change.
In the context of creative work specifically, make sure the team you work with has diverse perspectives. The Geena Davis Institute report recommends specifically writing and casting more female characters, sexualising them less, showing them as funny and having authority. Make sure that you have systems and people in place to sense check your creative content so that it is culturally literate and competent in this context - considerate of those groups and people who have been harmfully misrepresented traditionally.
Working toward inclusive societies and workplaces also means thinking beyond your own four walls. THINKHOUSE’s Lynsey Paisley, Strategy Director at The Youth Lab is a member of the IAPI Diversity & Inclusion council - dedicated to helping the industry attract a diverse talent pool and create an environment of inclusion.