The Big Sick star Zoe Kazan is making headlines with her shocking disclosure about the nature of the sexual harassment she has faced over the course of her career. Her accounts of situations on set that veered into uncomfortable territory make for a stomach-churning read. However, it's necessary that her words are heard if only because her account highlights how a woman can feel upset from the frequency of the sexual harassment she encounters, but she becomes afraid to speak for fear of repercussions.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Kazan opened up about the nature of the sexual harassment she's faced as an actor. "I had a producer ask me on set once if I spat or swallowed," [she] recalled. “At work. He’d say, 'Oh, it’s a joke ha ha.' But he was also paying my check and then watching me from the monitor as I made out with another actor — so when he tells me I look good, it feels different."
She went on to state just how commonplace — and normalized as a result — sexual harassment is on a Hollywood set. "There’s so much sexual harassment on set. And there’s no HR department, right? We don’t have a redress. We have our union, but no one ever resorts to that, because you don’t want to get a reputation for being difficult." It's disheartening to hear, especially knowing that Kazan may have felt silenced by the unspoken pressure to remain amiable despite being targeted by unsolicited sexual remarks. That need to be likable in the workplace is common for women, but at the expense of a woman's comfort and safety? It's a major problem.
Kazan also noted how it affects others closest to her. For her longtime boyfriend, actor Paul Dano, he's "never had to deal with that once," she says, but her friends? Her fellow female friends who are actors deal with this regularly. "I have a lot of girlfriends who are amazing actors, and many times we’ve talked about having to go into a room and give ‘blowjob eyes.' You know, be flirty with a director or a producer. It’s the sense that your sexuality is somehow baked into this situation. Or there’ll be auditions where they’ll say, ‘Wear something body-conscious’ and then you’re aware that they’re checking out your body. You leave the situation feeling not good about what just happened, but you don’t really have the language for why. You feel like, if you said something, it would reflect badly on you."
The nature of the harassment she's encountered and the frequency at which she has encountered said harassment is more than any woman should have to handle, let alone handle at her age. It may feel redundant to read stories like Kazan's constantly, but in fact, it's necessary to read these accounts so that they don't stay hidden. The more we know, the more a prevalent problem like this is highlighted, the better chance we have of fixing or ending it.
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