The Martini Shot: #MeToo in SA film production
by Bobby Amm. The #MeToo movement has come to South Africa and, in particular, the South African film production sector where, some local advocacy groups claim, sexual harassment is rife and under-reported.
The international movement began following allegations against several high-profile individuals in the US film industry and went viral in 2017 in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. The personal testimonies and support of many of Hollywood’s leading stars has ensured the success and longevity of the campaign.
SA’s advertising sector has recently been asked to step up efforts to ensure that women working in advertising (and its production) are adequately protected and that the proverbial casting couch no longer presents the threat it once did. It’s been agreed that a code of conduct should be drawn up for the industry, and that more should be done to effectively educate people about this issue and encourage those who are adversely affected to come forward to make complaints or, if necessary, press criminal charges against the perpetrators. The overall objective is to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace, set down procedures to deal effectively with the problem and ensure the creation of workplaces that are secure and safeguard the dignity of woman.
So, what exactly is sexual harassment? The Code of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) defines it as follows:
- Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. The unwanted nature of sexual harassment distinguishes it from behaviour that is welcome and mutual.
- Sexual attention becomes sexual harassment if:
- The behaviour is persisted in, although a single incident of harassment can constitute sexual harassment; and/or
- The recipient has made it clear that the behaviour is considered offensive; and/or
- The perpetrator should have known that the behaviour is regarded as unacceptable.
In addition to the basic definition, the CCMA has defined several forms of sexual harassment:
- Sexual harassment may include unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct, but is not limited to the examples listed as follows:
- Physical conduct of a sexual nature includes all unwanted physical contact, ranging from touching to sexual assault and rape, and includes a strip search by or in the presence of the opposite sex.
- Verbal forms of sexual harassment include unwelcome innuendoes, suggestions and hints, sexual advances, comments with sexual overtones, sex-related jokes or insults or unwelcome graphic comments about a person’s body made in their presence or directed toward them, unwelcome and inappropriate enquiries about a person’s sex life, and unwelcome whistling directed at a person or group of persons.
- Non-verbal forms of sexual harassment include unwelcome gestures, indecent exposure, and the unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects.
- Quid pro quo harassment occurs where an owner, employer, supervisor, member of management or co-employee, undertakes or attempts to influence the process of employment, promotion, training, discipline, dismissal, salary increment or other benefit of an employee or job applicant, in exchange for sexual favours.
- Sexual favouritism exists where a person who is in a position of authority rewards only those who respond to his/her sexual advances, while other deserving employees who do not submit themselves to any sexual advances are denied promotions, merit rating or salary increases.
The CCMA’s code goes on to specify that it is the responsibility of employers or companies’ co-ordinating projects which involve groups of people to “create and maintain a working environment in which the dignity of all is respected”. Furthermore, “a climate in the workplace should also be created and maintained in which victims of sexual harassment will not feel that their grievances are ignored or trivialised or fear reprisals” and recommends a series of guidelines that can assist in achieving these ends.
Every company should adopt an individualised policy that can be widely distributed and followed and which sets out clearly what actions should be taken if sexual harassment or abuse does occur. Appropriate action must then be taken, and emphasis must be placed on confidentiality and resolving the issues with due care and sensitivity.
This will undoubtedly become a bigger issue in time and the CPA encourages every company to give it the attention it deserves to preserve the integrity and reputation of our wonderful industry.
Bobby Amm is chief executive of the Commercial Producers Association of South Africa (CPA), the trade association of production companies that produce television, cinema and internet commercials for the local and international market. After a brief stint in journalism, she began her career in the industry at the Consultative Committee for the Entertainment Industry in the early 1990s. She first joined the CPA in 1997 but left three years later to join a production company. After finding that she missed the big-picture perspective of the CPA and the interesting issues which continuously perplex the production industry, Bobby returned to the CPA in 2003. She contributes “The Martini Shot” column monthly, covering developments, trends and insights into the commercial production and film services industries in South Africa, to MarkLives.