In the world of Hollywood, where glitz and glamor often distract us from harsh truths, it is imperative that we cast a discerning eye on the power dynamics that enable sexual harm to persist within these spaces. The recent allegations of sexual misconduct against Lizzo, has forced us to confront a grim reality – that even stars that promote positive messaging and inclusivity can wield their influence to perpetuate sexual harm. The case of sexual harm in the entertainment industry goes beyond “bad actors.” It is systems of power that enable people to continue to perpetuate these harms.
In the case of Lizzo and others, it is important to recognize the culture that perpetuates sexual harm. This culture often enables toxic behaviors by either normalizing them or discrediting their impacts. This can perpetuate a culture of silence and secrecy which can make it difficult to recognize escalating violence when it is occurring. Hollywood’s celebrity worship and culture of silence further compounds the problem–shielding those in power from scrutiny and emboldens their sense of invincibility.
The entertainment industry isn’t the only place where these power dynamics thrive. Let’s talk about power dynamics and how to recognize them in your workplace.
One of the telltale signs of power dynamics is the uneven distribution of influence and decision-making. You might notice this when certain individuals consistently have the final say on workplace decisions while others’ opinions are sidelined or dismissed. You might also notice this when there are not many opportunities for open dialogue or when people feel afraid to speak up when they witness wrongdoing occurring.
Another aspect to consider is access to resources and opportunities. If specific employees are consistently given preferential treatment, access to exclusive projects, or career growth opportunities, it might signify an unequal distribution of power. Warning signs might also include when access to upward mobility is gate kept by one person, or one person’s actions or decisions consistently go unchecked, creating a sense of impunity. In some instances, promises of career advancement or threats of retaliation may be used to maintain control of others lower on the workplace hierarchy. This unequal distribution of power often leaves those affected feeling trapped and unable to report misconduct.
As members of society, it is important to hold industries accountable for the power dynamics they create. It is also important to recognize that without having meaningful discussions about power, these incidents will continue to happen. To advocate against power dynamics in your workplace, you may encourage training programs that focus on preventing sexual violence and harassment. These programs should not only educate employees on appropriate behavior but also emphasize the importance of bystander intervention. You might also advocate for established, confidential reporting mechanisms and ensuring that allegations of sexual harm and other abuses of power are taken seriously.You may also advocate for transparency in decision-making processes to diminish the perception of unchecked power. Finally, advocating for company policies that clearly outline procedures for reporting and addressing instances of sexual violence and a zero-tolerance policy to ensure that consequences are enforced regardless of the perpetrator’s position. By taking these comprehensive measures, organizations can confront power dynamics that contribute to sexual violence, creating a workplace that is respectful, safe, and free from harassment.
The case of Lizzo, whose talents have brought joy to millions, serves as a reminder that even the most celebrated figures can find themselves entangled in a web of power imbalances with devastating consequences. As we navigate this uncomfortable truth, it becomes evident that the allure of fame can sometimes shield us to the underlying issues that persist within hierarchical spaces.
By shedding light on the stories of survivors and acknowledging the role of power, we embark on a collective journey toward accountability, change, and healing. Workplaces in general must reckon with their own power structures to confront the normalization of abusive behavior, and ensure that every individual’s voice is heard, valued, and protected. Only then can we hope to create workplace environments that are held actively accountable for the harms that occur within them and are supportive for those who experience these harms.
For more information about Hollywood, power and a call for change, read Maureen Ryan’s Burn It Down.
Sexual abuse and harassment crosses many industries, not just entertainment. While there can be power in coming forward and sharing your story. You might not be ready today and that’s okay. If you experienced sexual harassment or abuse through your workplace, you are not alone. To share your story anonymously and learn from the stories of others, visit https://ourwave.org