Andrew Kreisberg, co-creator of Arrow and co-creator and showrunner for The Flash and Supergirl, was suspended by The CW after 15 women and four men stepped forward to accuse him of sexual harassment.
The harassment detailed by accusers includes unwanted kissing, asking for massages, sexualized comments about women, and generally creating a “toxic” work environment. None of the victims accusing Kreisberg have been named, requesting secrecy out of fear of retaliation.
When these stories break, there is, without fail, a litany of pervasive victim-blaming questions. “Why are you only coming forward now?” “Why didn’t you do anything before?” “How do we know all of these people are telling the truth? Seems like some of them are just bandwagoning.”
The allegations against Kreisberg and the stories behind them answer all those questions and more. These victims’ stories paint a picture of what happens when power is unchecked, when jobs depend upon one person, when silence and any semblance of professional comfort are mutually exclusive. The empire Kreisberg built on the backs—and fronts—of his staff and performers is a sadly, horrifyingly familiar one, and an equally sad and horrifying reminder that there are more of these stories, across all industries. That they are, in fact, the norm for many.
But in the wake of these allegations, we’ve seen a swath of solidarity and support among women in the DC/CW universe. Women who’ve seen all this, experienced it themselves and won’t be silenced any longer, and are using their platforms to stand with those behind the scenes whose voices aren’t as loud.
Because, as you can imagine, this information is likely not a shock to Greg Berlanti and Berlanti Productions. According to Sarah Nicole Jones, a former writer and producer on Legends of Tomorrow, there are two likely possibilities.
And, for some, their experience is with the latter. According to Variety, a “high-level female producer” told a senior executive everything. And was met with crickets. “There was zero response. Nothing happened. Nothing changed.”
And this woman was a producer. Imagine how trapped lower-level employees felt.
“As an assistant in this industry, there’s nowhere for me to go,” recalls one woman who ended up quitting. “So I just took it."
For other writers, like Carina Adly Mackenzie, now of The Originals but who worked briefly on The Flash, her respect for Berlanti remains steadfast, but she too saw the issues with Kreisberg, saying in two now-deleted tweets, "When I left The Flash I told my agents I would rather live in a cardboard box under a bridge than work with AK again. I was at that show for a few short weeks and was disturbed by the way he spoke about women, the way he treated assistants, and — to be honest — even the way fictional females were discussed."
In the midst of a tidal wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations hitting Hollywood, the word "complicit" has come up a lot. Fairly and unfairly. For those equal in power to these predators, to do nothing is to have enabled these actions. But for those without equivalent power, especially marginalized people, speaking up may not be an option. In an industry so saturated, the danger of being replaced is very real, and the possibility you might, as the saying goes, never work in this town again is an impossible risk.
But as the least replaceable individuals involved, the shows’ stars are using whatever power they have to stand firm. And if they’re afraid they too will suffer the consequences, they’re not letting it stop them.
Stars like Emily Bett Rickards, who plays Felicity Smoak across the DCTV-verse, who not-so-subtly called out her own boss, Marc Guggenheim, showrunner of Arrow, who made the inexplicable choice to respond to Conan O’Brien’s tweet about an “all-female reboot of America” in the white guyiest way imaginable. Supergirl herself, Melissa Benoist, wrote a thoughtful note about accountablity and a need for change in the power structures that have allowed, enabled, and even encouraged this kind of behavior. This morning, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow star Caity Lotz shared her own message of support to those who came forward. SHETHORITY, the community created by many of the women in the DCTV universe, has been retweeting the stars’ messages. Even something as small as an RT, something we do often mindlessly, speaks to the level of solidarity among the women involved here. In a toxic male-driven work environment of any kind, not to mention the general male-driven toxicity of everyday life, the coming together of women to amplify each others’ voices, to believe the stories of other women, is a wholly necessary means of coping and surviving.
And it's not limited to DC's televised universe. Gal Gadot has made her feelings regarding alleged serial predator Brett Ratner quite known. First, she backed out of a dinner honoring the director, whose production company helped produce Wonder Woman. Then she dropped the real hammer (mixed universe metaphor, I know) by allegedly refusing to sign on for Wonder Woman 2 unless Ratner is removed entirely. Both times, the studio has taken the no-big-deal stance: The former was due to scheduling issues, the latter totally fake news. But in the wake of everything else, it's easy to trust that our Themiscyran hero is making a stand for women.
The outdated notion of female cattiness, particularly among women striving to be successful and thus plagued with this societal perception of women as rivals, is something each of us has to trudge through daily, like mud. We are socialized at young ages to be small and accommodating. To be nice, but to know that "nice" means quiet and amenable. To not speak up, lest you be cast off as difficult. And the "difficult" label can be a career-destroyer for women. In a world with such stringent rules and so few roles that we are even allowed access to, roles only even available to very certain (read: white, able-bodied, cis and so on) women, two things are ingrained inside of us from a young age: to seek power is unbecoming of a lady, and a woman who chooses to chase that power must do so at the expense of other women. As such, the powerful woman is more commonly known by another name: bitch.
So when women come together to fight this kind of horrific abuse of power, risking reputation, hireability, their future in the industry, it matters. To be a woman brings with it risk; to stand with other women, equally so. But when it works on these rare, wonderful occasions, that's how change is made. That's revolution. There is safety in numbers; there is power in solidarity.
When powerful women come together, amplifying the voices around them and inspiring everyone else, we are all made powerful.
Because it starts with us. If no one else will look out for us, we must look out for each other. As long as powerful men use that power for terrible things, it is powerful women who will take them down.