I am not proud to tell you I started watching Charmed earlier this year. It was just after Rose McGowan told us about Harvey Weinstein, but I had no idea she was on the show. At first, it seemed like a mix between Gilmore Girls and Buffy, which I was very excited about. But, it is not that. One thing I end up liking about it (I guess) is that it is extremely bland. I have no feelings whatsoever about most of the things that happen in the show, except every once in a while there is something so ridiculously sexist that I have to sit up and yell “Are you kidding me?!”
One example of that is Season 4, Episode 3, “Hell Hath No Fury.” Which, already with that title you can tell we’re going nowhere good.
So, Rose McGowan is the fresh innocent face on the show. (Although, I don’t want to be your mom, but how does the show manage to show her midriff in every single costume of hers? Is there an award for that? How creepy is the guy who hands out the award? I digress.) Anyway, she’s the new Charmed sister after Shannon Doherty leaves.
The central rule of magic in the show is that the sisters are not allowed to use magic for their own personal gain. This is truly problematic throughout the show. But, “Hell Hath No Fury” is the most outrageous example I’ve seen so far. I know, the fact that I say “so far” is crazy, but I’m still watching this show. I think I’m in season 7. I’m addicted to its blandness.
Anyway, Rose McGowan steals the sisters’ spellbook and she casts a spell to punish a guy at work who is sexually harassing her. Because she’s not allowed to use magic for personal gain, as punishment, her boobs grow to an enormous size.
It is so outrageous!
Let me take a step back. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against a woman for reporting sexual harassment. In light of Rose McGowan’s public stance against Harvey Weinstein for assaulting her, it was very troubling to watch an episode of television in which she is basically threatened with big boobs for standing up against sexual harassment.
Within the show’s structure, the universe itself is punishing her by making her even more of a sex object for standing up to a man. Wow. Bad form, universe.
And then I’m watching this show, and potentially little girls who are Harry Potter fans are watching this show, and we’re learning the message that if we stand up to sexual harassment, we’ll be punished by becoming an absurd sex object.
In Oregon, it is illegal for a “place of public accommodation” (a public business for example) to post a sign saying that it discriminates against anyone based on sex. Is this episode of TV a sign declaring a network’s intention to discriminate? Possibly.
At the same time, would I want it taken down? That’s a more difficult question. I like the idea of archiving these stories from history so that we never forget where we came from – so that we never forget what Rose McGowan has been through and fought against. Is it dishonoring her efforts if the show disappeared? I think so. The threats she has received, including the story of that show, demonstrate that she is stronger than all of those messages. We can be too.
What does this mean for you?
Often when I talk to new clients, they have put so much effort into toughing out uncomfortable situations that they have deliberately blocked out a lot of the harassment they are experiencing. What do you consider normal that you would like to question? Have you ever agreed with the message that you can’t use your magic for yourself and your sisters? Your sisters, all of us, need you.
It is easy to see celebrities standing up against sexual harassment as distant from ourselves. But, they are women doing their jobs and trying to find fulfilling careers the same as any of us. All of us are ready to be done with the threats and abuse. Not everything is appropriate for a lawsuit, but that doesn't mean it's okay. It just means there's a different way we need to correct it.
It is easy to say this episode is not that bad or that the boob threat is "just a joke." But, my view is that you know if something is a joke if I laugh at it and tell you it's hilarious. You know if something is a threat if I have to change my behavior in order to avoid punishment. It's a pretty simple test.
In my view, it is subtle messages like this that creep into what we expect for our lives. Has there ever been a time when you have held back from questioning a man in power because you were afraid of retaliation? Send me a message and let me know about it.
If you are curious about whether you are experiencing sexual harassment, download this free assessment, “Is this sexual harassment?” Along with the assessment, you get the bonus of a free copy of my new book, Career Defense 101 (due out on Kindle March 6).