The news coming out of Hollywood recently regarding harassment from several producers and an actor, has rocked the entire world. However, it most certainly isn’t new. Harassment of actresses (and young actors) has actually been a problem since the beginning of show business – i.e. forever.
For instance, I recently came across several stories from the Victorian press, which show that there were unscrupulous men in entertainment well over 100 years ago. Several stories had the same theme – an ‘agent’ set up in business purely to entice starlets through the door. Once they’d got them into the office, they then subjected them to various assaults and humiliation, safe in the knowledge that these women likely wouldn’t speak out about it. These predators would also charge the women to have their names on the books, and often stole money from them, too. Many of these so-called agents got away with their crimes, but occasionally a woman would gather enough evidence and guts to go to the police. The attackers were then dealt with, though they would often come back under a different name, as soon as their sentence was up.
Harassment by agents, producers, and studio executives in Hollywood was reported as early as the 1920s. The so-called Casting Couch was very much an issue, and actresses such as Thelma Todd were told they’d never work again because they refused advances of lecherous directors. In Thelma’s case, she did of course continue to work, and she also spoke out about the behaviour of these powerful men. I love the bravery that Thelma displayed in this and other aspects of her life, and that is why I was so determined to write my book, ‘The Ice Cream Blonde.’ It is also the reason why she has become one of my most beloved icons.
As you know, I’ve recently written a book entitled ‘The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist‘ (out May 2018). Of course this book deals mainly with Marilyn Monroe and her fight against repression, discrimination and harassment. It focuses on her bravery and fight to be recognised in a male-dominated world. However, as well as Marilyn’s story, there are also examples of others who went through – or witnessed – the same kind of treatment. I find the timing of my book with these current harassment claims, to be absolutely astonishing, and I hope that while reading it, people will get a better understanding of just what Marilyn and others went through and how long it has taken for women to be listened to and believed.
The fact that so many women are actually speaking out about today’s issues is fantastic. Over the past 200 years (and more), many actresses have kept stories of abuse and harassment private, because they suspect that they will not be believed. I imagine there are still many, many women out there (from all walks of life, not just Hollywood) who have yet to come forward out of fear and embarrassment. However, the amazing thing about the latest scandal is that finally – FINALLY! – women are being believed and the perpetrators suddenly don’t feel so powerful anymore. There is a long way to go, but already I can feel a shift. I’m watching with great interest, to see what will happen in the months to come.