DEAR BLACK SHEEP: HARVEY WEINSTEIN WAS MY FIRST BOSS.

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Earlier this month, I hosted a panel discussion on the progress and pitfalls of the #MeToo movement. As I sat down with screenwriter, producer and former Weinstein employee Lucy Shuttleworth and co-founder and CEO of Truth Media Agency Mary-Keane Dawson. Not surprisingly, I found there’s still a lot of work to be done, especially in Adland, writes Sofia Bodger, Strategist at BBH London in this new, returning feature; Dear Black Sheep.

In the wake of Weinstein, the #MeToo movement has created a sea of change for victims of sexual harassment. The status-quo has finally been challenged and perpetrators are being called upon to account for their actions – but what’s changed for the rest of us?  

My observation? Harvey Weinstein worked hard, but his culture of complicity worked harder…and continues to do so.

Weinstein relied on powerful industry relationships and a shit ton of money to silence his victims. As Lucy Shuttleworth experienced firsthand:

“Everybody knew what was happening at Weinstein’s, but the environment we worked in, specifically the gender and power dynamics within the office didn’t allow us to speak out, it was all behind closed doors”.

Clearly, unequal gender and power dynamics ensured silence was a condition of employment not just for Weinstein’s victims but for anyone working within his inner circle…basically a whole industry complicit in perpetuating a culture that devalues women.

My observation is that although in Hollywood, #MeToo has undoubtedly shifted power dynamics. The same structures which allowed for Weinstein’s systematic abuse of power, have not been overthrown in other industries, specifically our very own. This hierarchy, or as Mary called it “the boys club” impacts everyday gender roles and relations. From semantics, office dynamics and ‘top 5 emails’ to the bigger sexual harassment scandals.

Think about advertising, which let’s face it, has its own problem with sexual harassment. Why did we wait for Hollywood’s green light to end our own silence? It’s only in the last year that this type of behaviour has started to be documented. And as more names from our industry are added to the list, it begs the question: How far has the rallying cry been converted into real-world progress?

Clearly, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Yet what I find surprising is that women have never been in a more powerful position to change, shape and lead the advertising landscape. But when you look at our very own ‘creative’ industry, just 12% of creative directors are women.

Why is that? It’s that bloody culture of complicity again that we all need to break out of. How can we do this? By challenging the traditional gender stereotypes and attitudes which continue to be commonplace, we need to object the everyday sexist slurs. Take Mary’s advice, “successful women are not all ball-busting bitches”

Language such as ‘man up’ and ‘grow some balls’ is detrimental to both men and women. A male dominated workplace alienates both genders. It is designed for a particular type of man, culture and set of values that do not adhere to the next generation. Gender and power office dynamics may prove  problematic in trying to challenge the use of sexist language but we need to do this not solely for women to thrive, but also for men.

Don’t get me wrong, the #MeToo and #TimesUp initiatives are an incredible start in driving new policies and changing the conversation. But without shifting the hierarchy, longstanding change is harder to reach and toxic cultures of complicity will continue to thrive.

In summary

Our most important takeaway is that in putting on events like these, we’re casting the net wider to find diverse opinions and to broaden our discussions.. We’re attempting to cull the culture of complicity by bringing the discussion of provocative subjects to the forefront of our industry.

Tune into our next talk on the 15th of November, at BBH London where we tackle men’s mental health and drug abuse.

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