“I cannot tell you how many times I have had the experience of feeling pressure to sleep with somebody in order to get what I wanted or needed at that moment.”
The words are those of Anita Roberts, self-described as “a woman not in a famous industry.”
They are words that have been echoed in Facebook posts, Tweets and news reports countless times since early October, when the public allegations began to pile up against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and the hash tag “Me Too” became part of the cultural vernacular.
But while discussion of sexual harassment and sexual assault took centre stage in the bright pop culture spotlights of politics and entertainment, another message has become increasingly clear in quiet conversations between friends and public declarations on line.
In everyday workplaces from Nanaimo to Maple Ridge to Vernon, from coffee shops to construction sites to board rooms, people are using sex to assert their power over others.
And other people are feeling powerless.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
These are the words of the president of the United States in a taped 2005 conversation with Access Hollywood where he talked about grabbing women by their genitalia.
The words have been used by some to politically discredit Donald Trump and dismissed by others as nothing more than an attempt to do the same.
But for women like Roberts, the only politics these comments recall are the office politics of men in ordinary positions of power attempting to make them feel indentured, scared, weak, or small.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
The team at Black Press Media and the Vancouver Island Free Daily has talked to some of these women for Me Too At Work, an in-depth series that kicks off today with this introduction and the video above.
We speak to people who have dealt with anything from demeaning comments to full-blown workplace sexual assault. We speak to those who have been in positions of vulnerability and positions of power. We speak to experts who explain how the system works and how it doesn’t.
And we speak to some who feel that “Me Too” has marked the tipping point for drawing this issue out of the shadows and into a place where it can be addressed — not just for people in glamorous industries, but in regular B.C. workplaces from the Peace Arch to the Peace River.
— The Me Too At Work team