#metoo awakening:
Learnable moments in
a post-Weinstein world
By Ellie Harvie
Ellie Harvie
Vancouver-based actress, ACTRA National Councillor, UBCP/ACTRA Treasurer
While working on set the other day, I visited craft service to grab a muffin. Standing behind me were two crew members, a male and a female, who were also grabbing a muffin. The man remarked to the woman, “I like the tops” to which she replied, “yeah me too.” On the tip of my tongue was a harmless but off-colour joke. Do I say it? Do I stay silent? In the time it took for my brain to have this conversation – the moment passed and I opted to stay silent. Mere months ago, a joke like this would have been a no-brainer and likely would have been met with a few laughs. But I stopped myself. Instead, we just continued our pleasant conversation about work, Netflix and kids. 

The atmosphere has changed since the Harvey Weinstein allegation news broke in October 2017.  Even for the most innocuous of us. There is an awareness now that had never previously existed for some of us. An ever-present editor. How will this person receive my joke? I, like so many people, was blown away by the amount of #metoo’s I saw in my Twitter feed that fall. I was one of the lucky few who had no reason to post that hashtag. In my blissful ignorance, I was completely unaware of what so many had endured.
Rather than changing the audience and the world, I can only make a difference by changing my actions.
Last spring, I was called out for joking about an audience member when I was doing my comedy act on stage. My sensibilities still lie in the early 2000s even though today is a different day. My initial reaction was defensiveness, but clearly my actions impacted this person. Rather than changing the audience and the world, I can only make a difference by changing my actions. So, I take pause. I now think of the person on the receiving end of a joke; whether it is impromptu or well crafted. Is it worth the laugh to alienate people or make them feel uncomfortable? If it is a brilliantly smart joke then maybe, but if not, I can do better. 
We all need to take personal responsibility for not only what we say and do, but for what we see in the environment around us.
The initiatives in which ACTRA has taken part – the round tables, the town halls, the industry meetings, the news releases, policies and the Code of Conduct – all feel like a lot of words. But the result of those words is that we all know, in no uncertain terms, that there is a problem. We all need to take personal responsibility for not only what we say and do, but for what we see in the environment around us. 

The film industry has long been “unregulated,” as far as corporate or HR policies go. There has never been protocol around dating a co-worker, using foul language or making off-colour jokes. In traditional office settings, you don’t often see an employee get up at a meeting to go give a coworker or the CEO a shoulder massage. Yet on a film set, this happens all the time. 
While most of us are not Harvey Weinsteins, we have not been nurtured in a workplace with guidelines of respect that many other industries take for granted. A shoulder massage may be just that, but it may also be something that makes someone uncomfortable. The #metoo movement has widened, at least for me, to encompass how I treat and perceive everyone on set. While my little “joke” may have not intended any harm, I have no idea about the history or triggers of the person to whom I am speaking. I have no idea if they are a survivor or if my sense of humour would make them feel uncomfortable. They are not paying to see my act. They are at work.  
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