Emma Cline is drawing back the curtain on the publishing industry’s devastating culture of sexual harassment under the false pretense of literary stardom.
In an essay entitled “The Price of Smiling for the Photos,” Cline details various encounters where she has also felt pressured to rise to the illicit expectations and favors of powerful men in her industry. From pesky photographers demanding uncomfortable poses to eager literary execs promising fame in exchange for personal information, the bestselling author behind last year’s smash, The Girls, reserves the right to remain silent is not an implicit move toward success but one that keeps many women further away from fear.
Read an excerpt of her essay, below:
I read the reports of the women assaulted by Harvey Weinstein with a thrum of anxiety in my stomach — or maybe it’s a feeling closer to fear. Fear is easier than anger. Anger demands action, some kind of aim, an expectation of justice. And I have not felt for a long time that my anger would find a resolution. This isn’t the first time I’ve written an essay about gendered violence. I wrote a whole novel about it. But here I am, again. And even as I write this, any anger I feel ebbs into weariness.
Why don’t women talk about this more, why does it take them years to come forward? There are too many reasons to keep quiet — men like Harvey Weinstein and his lawyers know this, and understand how to wield either direct or implied threat. It’s just as easy to weaponize a woman’s success as her failure. If you’re successful, you have more to lose by speaking out, if you’re starting your career, you’re just seeking attention. Your vulnerability is a weapon, your emotions are a weapon, as are whatever efforts you make to humanize the people who harm you — by continuing to try to work with them, by continuing, in some cases, to love them.
— from “The Price of Smiling for the Photos,” Emma Cline
Another surprising revelation of Cline’s essay encompasses the abuse she suffered in a relationship she held with a 36-year-old man during her early twenties. She remembers one incident of him choking her after discovering a flirtatious text sent to her by a male comrade and points to the sense of male fragility that often drives straight men to this sort of violence.
As someone who has never quite considered the possibilities of sexual violence within print and publishing, I thought Cline’s story was deeply moving and painfully informative. It’s hard enough to be taken seriously as a writer as it is, but it is even more difficult to land a publishing deal as a novice, so the fact that there are people in this enterprise taking advantage of writers just wanting to express themselves and tell their stories makes me upset.
I’m so glad that Cline has come forward with her essay; I would not have ever suspected her a victim of sexual harassment, which may speak to my ignorance or the bubble life I’ve unintentionally created for myself.
Even as someone who has never experienced sexual violence or harassment in the workplace or elsewhere, I hope more authors and writers come forward with their testimonies because I believe it might help remedy a larger generation, men and women alike, who could still be reckoning with the emotions of similar traumas.
You can read Emma Cline’s story in full at its source of original publication, The Cut.