One of the big problems with U.S. sexual harassment law is that it depends on feelings. The “victim” must feel offended in order for sexual harassment to occur. That means there are no bright lines (other than criminal ones) that determine what is sexual harassment.
While this is definitely a problem with the law, Netflix‘s solution is even worse. Like, junior high level worse. It’s not clear to me if this policy just applies to U.K. film crews or is more widely applicable, but nevertheless, it’s a bad policy.
Employees, according to the Daily Mail, can ask one another out on a date one time. If the person says no, the asker must then avoid that person.
Can we be any more immature?
Steve: “Jane, would you like to go to a movie?”
Jane: “No, thanks!”
Now Steve can never talk to Jane again.
How is that not going to cause rifts in the workplace? How is that treating employees as adults? It’s seriously like how we kids of the ’80s used to get our friends to pass notes to members of the opposite sex asking, for example, “Do you like Suzanne? Circle one. Yes/No.” If the answer was yes, a new romance was born. If the answer was no, we never spoke to that boy again.
If you stare at someone for more than five seconds, it’s creepy and inappropriate. Reportedly, this has caused joking on the set, as it should, because really? And what if I’m speaking with you and you speak for more than five seconds, do I need to look away every 4.5 seconds so as to not be creepy? What if I’m staring into space and you think I’m looking at you? How do you prove I was? How do I prove I wasn’t? No asking co-workers for their phone numbers. I’m concerned that people who work for Netflix don’t communicate. Sure, no one calls anymore, but we use phone numbers to text and WhatsApp. Maybe everyone has to communicate via Slack? Maybe there’s no asking for home phone numbers? As if we have those anymore. And what’s the difference between sending a WhatsApp message and a Slack message? Is the former inherently romantic? Shout “Stop! Don’t do that again!” if you feel harassed. I can kind of get behind this one. If someone pinches your behind or drops his pants, then shouting and causing a scene is the right thing to do. But if someone asks you for your phone number? Hmmm, that’s taking it to a ridiculous level.
Look, Netflix got burned in #MeToo. Kevin Spacey, the star of House of Cards, fell early. That’s unpleasant. The movie business, in general, has been shown to have a lot of rot in it. Netflix is wise to set some good standards. But better standards would be to not treat everyone like they are 13.
In fact, if a group of girls sent one of those notes to a boy and he said no, and then we all had refused to work together on a group project, our teachers would have (figuratively) slapped us upside the head and told us to grow up. Maybe we need to send seventh-grade math teachers over to Netflix to talk about being polite, even if someone doesn’t want to be your new significant other.
I reached out to Netflix but haven’t heard back. The company refused to confirm or deny this policy to The Independent, but did give a statement that said, “We’re proud of the anti-harassment training we offer to our productions. We want every Netflix production to be a safe and respectful working environment. We believe the resources we offer empower people on our sets to speak up, and shouldn’t be trivialised.”
I will update if they respond to me.