At last night’s ELLE Women in Hollywood event in Beverly Hills, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Lawrence did what actresses and women working in Hollywood have been doing ever since the Harvey Weinstein stories broke. They got real about their own personal experiences with sexual harassment and really awful behavior.
Reese Witherspoon has been known to take zero shit from people (see: this), but that doesn’t mean she’s immune from people’s trash actions on set. Last night, Reese admitted that when she was 16, she was assaulted on set by a director. The first of several harassment and assault experiences.
“This has been a really hard week for women in Hollywood, for women all over the world, and a lot of situations and a lot of industries are forced to remember and relive a lot of ugly truths. I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly and I find it really hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate a lot of the feelings that I’ve been having about anxiety, honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier.
[I feel] true disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment. And I wish that I could tell you that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly it wasn’t. I’ve had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault and I don’t speak about them very often.”
Reese adds that she decided to finally speak up because she has felt “less alone” this week than she has through her entire career.
Reese was 16 in 1992 and a little bit of 1993. She worked on quite a few projects between 1992 and 1993, so I’m not even going to begin to speculate on who the director could be. Although I’m sure she’d love to go back in time and do the bend-and-snap with the back of her hand against that director’s face. And what Reese said about agents and producers implying silence was part of the Hollywood actress deal kind of puts that whole “I no longer want to be likable” comment from a few years back into perspective. I’m starting to think “likable” in Hollywood might be shorthand for “We’d like it if you were able to keep your mouth shut.”
So on to Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer’s story isn’t about Harvey Weinstein. (She’s already put out a statement about that.) It’s about when she first got to Hollywood. People says that Jennifer told a story about participating in some kind of gross nearly-naked meat market situation.
“When I was much younger and starting out, I was told by producers of a film to lose 15 pounds in two weeks. During this time a female producer had me do a nude line-up with about five women who were much, much, thinner than me. We are stood side-by-side with only tape on covering our privates. After that degrading and humiliating line-up, the female producer told me I should use the naked photos of myself as inspiration for my diet.”
When Jennifer reported the situation to another producer, she says he responded by wondering why everyone thought she was fat, adding that he thought she was “perfectly fuckable.” She says the experience left her feeling “trapped” in an industry she really wanted to be a part of.
“I let myself be treated a certain way because I felt I had to for my career. I’m still learning that I don’t have to smile when a man makes me uncomfortable. Every human being should have the power to be treated with respect because they’re human.”
Imagine being a out-of-work actress thinking you were going to an audition, and you get there and they hand you a roll of masking tape to cover your bits? “Oh fuck me, I’m totally being used as a prop to pressure some poor girl to lose weight again, aren’t I. Damn it, this is the third time this month, Brenda.”
Here’s more of JLaw (with Nina Garcia) and Reese (with her lookalike daughter) at the ELLE Women in Hollywood event last night.