#MeToo and the AV Industry

Like so many other people, I have read about the Harvey Weinstein scandal over the past several weeks with disgust. As the story grew and the #MeToo campaign went viral, I forced myself to listen to statements from women around the country and to read their messages. I say “forced” because it is not easy to read about these acts being committed on other people. But I realized that by not doing so, by taking the easy road, we only continue to perpetuate the problems that exist. I will readily admit that I did not realize how rampant the issue of sexual harassment is across the country. I am proud, that some in our industry, such as Leonard Suskin, have been raising such issues of sexism and harassment for years.

For me, hearing the stories of women who were pressured to act specific ways (e.g., attracted to the boss) or pressured to engage in any type of physical activity not only disgusted me, but angered me. While I use the word women, we also know that this happens with men as well. The simple truth is that no person has the right to make another person feel that way. Our jobs provide us with the security to feed and secure our families. They provide us with the ability to do things that excite and interest us. The thought of being forced to engage in any type of sexual activity in order to do those things is incomprehensible. People who perpetrate those acts are bullies.

Throughout the past month my mind has gone back to 2014 and the discussion of “booth-babes” and using sex appeal to sell at shows at InfoComm that was raised primarily by Leonard Suskin. At the time David Labuskes responded by saying “in the market environment that we live within, the voice of the industry influencers, the sound of your feet and weigh of your wallets carry far greater weight than the sound of my voice.”

With those thoughts in mind, I hope that we as an industry can continue to step up and put an end to the silent acceptance of the behavior. As a male dominated industry, I think we have a particular moral imperative to make sure all people are safe and respected in the industry. We can do this by practicing exactly what Labuskes suggested. We can respond with our behaviors, with our wallets and with our voices. Here are some steps that I think can turn the tables, and put the fear back where it belongs, on the backs of the perpetrators of such behavior. We do this by:

  1. Committing to NOT purchase equipment from companies that use any type of sexual innuendo or body image to sell products. While the use of “booth-babes” does seem to have declined since 2014, I still have witnessed companies using sex appeal to draw customers to their booth. This commitment would be a difficult one. Deciding to substitute a critical product is difficult and may cost you money. Whenever you doubt that decision, search the internet for #MeToo. Listen to a few of the stories and you will strengthen your resolve.
  2. Commit to NOT being quiet about it. When you see or hear of any type of sexism or harassment, speak out about it and BE LOUD. Our industry is very active on social media and companies react to it! Many from the entertainment industry have come forward to say they knew something about what Weinstein was doing. Let’s not let this happen in our industry. Snap a picture if you are at a trade show and feel a certain company is pushing sex appeal as a booth lure. Post that to social media and let others know.
  3. Commit to keeping your eyes open around your own company and workplace. Encourage the company to bring on women and treat them respectfully. If you see harassment, speak up about it. Make sure people know they can trust you and turn to you if they feel harassed.
  4. Push for training in your company on issues surrounding harassment and gender discrimination.
  5. Let others know (again, social media is great for this) if your company is doing great things on this front. After all, if we have committed to #1 above, we will be needing new suppliers of equipment!