Sean Penn spoke out against the #metoo movement on the Today Show, saying it's dividing men and women, it's not nuanced enough, it's salacious, not intellectual, and that it's not even really a movement...just people making accusations. I somewhat agree.
But first, let me tell you my Sean Penn story.
About 10 years ago, My friend (and co-worker) Leticia and I had dinner at Shutters on the Beach, one of my favorite places, in Santa Monica. After dinner, we had our notebooks out and were brainstorming ideas for TV shows. At some point, I excused myself to go to the ladies' room. On the way, I see Sean Penn, and he smiles at me, while also looking me up and down.
When I went back to my friend, I tell her what just happened, and so she goes to the ladies' room. She came back and said he did the exact same thing to her! While we both start giggling like school girls, a man approaches our table with Sean Penn behind him. He asks if he could borrow a chair from our table. When we say yes, he and Sean Penn sit down at the table next to us.
Seeing our notebooks and papers, the friend asks if we were students. I pause, but without missing a beat, Leticia says, "No, we're producers!!!"
As those words and the exclamations that follow hung in the air between us, I felt my face get hot, and I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear. I looked over at Sean Penn, and in my mind, he had a look on his face that was like...oh isn't that cute! These girls think they're producers! Of course, I have no idea what he was really thinking, but in my mind, I felt like an imposter, especially compared to Academy Award winner Sean Penn!
My friend wanted to stay, have drinks with Sean Penn and become his best friend. I told her that we needed to leave immediately because there's no way Sean Penn wanted to be friends with us, and that he either wanted nothing to do with us or he wanted to sleep with us.
Having heard his statement on #metoo, could I have been too black and white? Was there a middle ground I was missing? Perhaps, we could've had an "intellectual" conversation about producing, gotten tips that would've helped us in our careers and left with a very different memory of that night. We will never know because I saw him as someone more powerful than I am, and therefore I didn't feel as worthy. #metoo isn't about sex, so I don't agree with Sean Penn that it's salacious. #metoo is about power. Fame and money are seen as powerful.
As I mentioned in a previous post about #metoo, I believe that pay equity should be at the start of this conversation. When Sean Penn helms a project, is he paying the women the same as the men? Is his co-star, Natascha McElhone, in the new Hulu show The First getting paid the same as him?
What I do agree with Sean Penn is that the conversation is too black and white. There are men who aren't being brought into the conversation, and in order for this issue to get better, men need to participate more and not be blasted, as soon as they open their mouths. It's time to get educated, but it's also time to hear each other out. Nothing will change, if we are just blaming the other side or not including them in the conversation. Only through compassion, will we be closer to understanding, and through understanding, we may start to see an effort towards equal pay for equal work. Once we see more equality in pay, then the power will shift to a more even playing field.
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