Since women bravely started coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and rape against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, people from all over the globe have felt empowered to share their own experiences. Dozens of celebrities have spoken out against harassment and assault within the film and TV industries, and thousands of people have shared the hashtag #MeToo on their social media pages. Now, Martha Stewart is ready to open up about her own experience with sexual harassment that took place nearly 60 years ago.
The jarring experience, Stewart recalled to People, took place when she was modeling at 16 years old. Though she had been to auditions before, this particular "go-see" completely took her by surprise.
"I was asked to wear a bikini under my clothes. I thought, 'Oh, maybe we're doing a beach commercial or something,'" she said. "So I go into the room and there's a table with all men sitting around it and it's an advertisement agency, I can't remember which one it was. They said, 'Now you can take your clothes off,' and I said, 'Oh, is this where are we doing the commercial? Are we wearing bikinis in the commercial?' They said, 'No, but as long as you're here we might as well see what you look like.' I thought that was harassment of the first order."
Ultimately, Stewart said that she told the men "this is not what I'm here for" and "left the room."
Sadly, encounters like the one Stewart had aren't a thing of the past. Recently, actress Jessica Hynes alleged in a tweet that Weinstein asked her to "screen test" in a bikini for a role she'd already gotten when she was 19. When she refused his request, she lost the part.
But how can we ensure that these types of situations are eliminated from the entertainment industry? For Stewart, the answer is simple.
"I think women just have to understand that you can say no," she said. "You can walk out of a room. It might hurt your career so you'll find something better somewhere else."
Of course, taking that approach isn't always so easy for everyone. Aside from needing work to afford basic necessities, many women in the industry feel added pressure to please high-profile individuals because the industry is so competitive. One misstep and everything they've worked towards could be gone. This isn't just about one film credit; it's about livelihoods and survival.
Rather than place the responsibility to end sexual harassment on women, it's time we demand that professionals — in entertainment and elsewhere — treat others with decency and respect. Sexual harassers, not their victims, should be punished. Anything less is intolerable.