In Greek mythology, Philomela was a Princess of Athens who was raped by her sister’s husband, King Tereus. He wanted her silenced, so he threatened her. When she wouldn’t stay quiet about what he had done, he cut out her tongue. Then he hid her away.
Today, monster moguls — whether in Hollywood, business or the media — have a new tongue-cutting method. They call in the lawyers. Gag orders and confidentiality clauses are the rich man’s “get out of jail” card. Pay-offs are used to tape over women’s mouths.
With Harvey Weinstein, who stands accused of sexual harassment and assault by an ever-lengthening list of women, money appears to have acted as a mute button. The New York Times has revealed that Weinstein made at least eight settlements, including one with Rose McGowan. Meanwhile, Weinstein’s staff had non-disclosure agreements woven into their contracts. They could be sued. Pay-offs can be the carrot to the hard stick of legal threats.
Weinstein, who denies any non-consensual sex, isn’t alone. One imagines LA law firms’ phones have been ringing incessantly this week, as others checked how watertight confidentiality clauses really are. This isn’t the only manifestation of misogyny that they enable either. A recent report by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show found that the extent of workplace maternity discrimination in Britain is masked because many women settle out of court. They then sign agreements that bar them from talking about their experiences.
Sometimes a woman may want to sign. She may think it’s worth the money. Want a clean break. Perhaps she can’t face going to court. But in both instances — assault or pregnancy discrimination — these are women who’ve already faced an ordeal. Signing isn’t a truly free choice, even if the word “agreement” implies both sides were content. It also prevents women from realising they aren’t alone, from finding others like them.
The privilege of powerful men is so great, they can steal and rewrite women’s stories. Until, perhaps, the truth comes out.
Stevenson takes flight on stage
Where is the happiest place in the world? The bar of a theatre during the second act of a terrible play you’ve fled at the interval. Wings, currently at the Young Vic, removes this possibility: it’s 70 minutes straight through. Lucky, then, that it’s also good.
Juliet Stevenson plays a former pilot whose mind has been shattered by a stroke. I never doubted Stevenson’s talent — I loved her in Richard Bean’s The Heretic, and she was glorious in Schiller’s Mary Stuart last year — but this performance is also a feat of endurance.
For most of the 70 minutes, Stevenson is strapped into a harness, performing somersaults and swinging across the stage like a discombobulated Tinker Bell. She’s 60. Hand her every award going.
Gucci — where the fur finally flies (out of the window)
Gucci is currently selling a candy floss-coloured fox-fur coat. It’s £10,350 — almost half the UK median wage. Don’t all rush at once! But our vulpine friends died especially in vain for this coat, because it looks like an expensive fake; if I had seen it without a brand attached, I might have guessed it was by the faux-fur label Shrimps.
This coat is among the last of a line of Gucci pelt garments, because the label has this week made the commendable decision to go fur-free in 2018. What’s interesting is that Gucci’s chief executive, Marco Bizzarri, stressed that this was a business decision as well as an ethical one.
“I don’t think it’s still modern [to use fur] and that’s the reason why we decided not to do that,” he told the Business of Fashion website. “Fashion has always been about… anticipating the wishes and desires of consumers.”
The fashion house has younger customers than most labels (who are these twentysomethings who can drip with Gucci and still make rent?). It seems the much-mocked millennials actually do put their money where their “snowflake” mouths are, helping precipitate Gucci’s move. Perhaps Peta could adapt its slogan to: “I’d rather go woke than wear fur.”
Token folk miss the last laugh
The TV producer John Lloyd has said the reason there aren’t more women on panel shows is that they’re asked but say “no”. So why do they refuse?
It doesn’t really feel like progress to be the “token” woman in an otherwise bromantic atmosphere. A female comedian once told me she is routinely advised to rein herself in; another that she gets repeatedly interrupted by the male guests.
And then there’s the fear you’ll get the unfunny woman edit, where your best material lands on the cutting room floor.