Imagine this: You are one of the wealthiest and most bankable actresses in the world. You and your film star husband both enjoy status as icons. You head up a production company, eventually producing your own prestige television shows. You’ve been decorated with awards and lucrative endorsement deals.
A male coworker begins behaving inappropriately toward you. What do you do?
But Parker is one of the most famous women in the world. Surely, she didn’t stand for this. Right?
“No matter what my role was on set — I didn’t feel as powerful as the man who was behaving inappropriately,” Parker said. And even as Parker experienced massive fame and success, she said, it didn’t make a difference. “There were plenty of occasions where it was happening and I was in a different position and I was as powerful,” she told Gross. “I mean, I had every right to say, ‘This is inappropriate.’ I could have felt safe in going to a superior.”
But she didn’t. It’s odd to hear Parker, a powerhouse performer who has enjoyed decades of stardom, reflect, “To be honest, I don’t know why I either wasn’t courageous or more destroyed by some of the things that I was privy to, that I was on the receiving end of.” Even the woman who played Carrie Bradshaw feels inexplicable guilt about experiencing workplace harassment.
The extremes of Parker’s experience illustrate the immeasurable difficulty women — and all people — encounter when experiencing sexual harassment at work or elsewhere. If a world-famous multi-millionaire didn’t feel comfortable reporting harassment, how could a regular office worker? Or a soldier? Or a janitor?
“It really wasn’t, I would say, until about six or eight months ago that I started recognizing countless experiences of men behaving poorly, inappropriately,” she said.
There was one situation, Parker says, on a film set, when the situation became so egregious that she complained. She says she called her agent, who contacted the filmmakers and said, “If this continues, I have sent her a ticket, a one-way ticket out of this city…and she will not be returning.” Everything on set changed, Parker said, as a result of that call. Only by threatening to pull out of filming — which would likely have shut down production and caused the loss of millions of dollars — was Parker able to protect her rights.
“I felt I was no longer able to convey how uncomfortable this was making me, how inappropriate it was,” she said.
If Sarah Jessica Parker can’t enforce safety in her workplace without the help of a threat — and a man — what hope is there for the rest of us?
Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny