One of the criticisms of the movement as a whole is that it’s tended to focus on wealthy white women, especially figures in the media. One of the great strengths of Silent No More is that we meet people from all walks of life: a mine site, a post office, a suburban real estate agent. On the one hand, it’s depressing that the problem is so widespread but we do get a really good cross section of the Australian workforce.
It’s passionate, but it scrupulously avoids being accusatory. Men and their experiences are a big part of the story. And Spicer and her team are very alive to the complexity and nuance of the situation, making an effort to explore how confusion can arise over what is and isn’t appropriate, how difficult it can be for companies – large and small – to effectively police interpersonal behaviour, and how unclear it can be at times where the lines of responsibility lie.
That said, there are frequently no shades of grey. We get some truly shocking stories of despicable behaviour by both individuals and corporations. And thanks to the courage and frankness of the people who’ve come forward, the series is able to vividly illuminate how difficult it can be for victims to negotiate bad behaviour in the workplace, and the myriad obstacles that lie in the path of someone wanting – or needing – to call out sexually aggressive behaviour.
The series isn’t without flaws. Vox pops add absolutely nothing to the conversation. And – at least in the preview version this review is based on – Spicer certainly puts herself at the centre of the story, filtering everything through her own experience. But in fairness, she’s not the only contemporary documentary maker to do so. And it would be a crying shame if the bad press that preceded the broadcast of Silent No More turned people off watching it. Because the issues it raises, and the way in which it raises them, make this both a powerful but accessible conversation-starter, and potentially a catalyst for change.