Don't expect to see Hilarie Burton at any upcoming EyeCon events. The actor tweeted on Tuesday that she won't be attending EyeCon's October One Tree Hill panel, writing that she feels "exploited by their 'girl power' angle." After her tweet started getting backlash, Sophia Bush defended Hilarie Burton amid the controversy. EyeCon has also issued its own response to Burton's tweet.
EyeCon holds One Tree Hill conventions, with the most recent one taking place earlier this month in Wilmington, N.C., where the series was filmed. Burton's original tweet came in response to a fan asking if she'd attend EyeCon's October events. Burton tweeted,
"I'm sorry Mary. I will not be attending any Eyecon events. Ever. I personally feel exploited by their "girl power" angle, which exists at the expense of some of us who went through a difficult time on that show. They're using our sisterhood as a sales gimmick. No thanks."
Burton's tweet comes after she, along with other cast and crew members from One Tree Hill, issued a statement last November accusing showrunner Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment. After the statement, Burton issued further allegations against Schwahn, including that he allegedly forcibly kissed her on two occasions.
For Schwahn's part, Universal Cable Productions and Lionsgate Television, which produces The Royals, issued the following statement to Variety in November: "We are monitoring the information carefully. E!, Universal Cable Productions and Lionsgate Television are committed to providing a safe working environment in which everyone is treated respectfully and professionally." The next month, Deadline reported that Schwahn had been fired from The Royals.
As Entertainment Weekly explains, EyeCon had apparently decided to hold a "women's empowerment" panel after the allegations against Schwahn were brought forward. The idea for the panel didn't sit well with Burton, prompting an official statement from EyeCon's Twitter account. EyeCon tweeted on Tuesday,
"We aren't taking advantage. We have our own personal reasons for wanting to do this convention. Bringing us all together in one place. We think that's beautiful. We see it different."
And Bush entered the conversation on Thursday, tweeting screenshots of a defense of Burton she'd written in the Notes app. In her defense of her costar, Bush called Burton her "sister." She also wrote that EyeCon didn't ask her and her One Tree Hill costars' for their permission or thoughts about the empowerment panel theme. Here's a portion of Bush's Twitter note:
"You want to throw a "women's empowerment" event but bash a woman who said that the way it's been handled doesn't feel good to her? A woman whose personal victimization took the world's stage this past fall? Whose sisterhood circled around her, and each other, to see to it that he be stopped from treating other women in such a way? How. Dare. You.
Want to know why Hil said she feels exploited by this "empowerment" con? Well add my name to that hat. Because so do I. We told our stories. As a united front. We refused to let it get tabloidy and gross. And then suddenly a convention publicly announced that they want to empower women? Now, that would have been FINE – lovely, even – IF THEY HAD SPOKEN TO US ABOUT THIS. Had they called our reps and said, "as fellow victims in our own individual ways, we want to make the next con all about women, and raise money for women's charities." They did not. Let me repeat. They. Did. NOT. They didn't ask a single one of us if we'd feel okay focusing a convention, which is dedicated to the show on which many of us were harassed or abused behind the scenes, around those very issues and thus offer an expectation to all fans and attendees that we would be discussing these past violations and focusing on issues that none of us want to be forced to relive in meet and greets and photo sessions. They made an announcement without thinking of any of the women of One Tree Hill for a second. And now they are defending themselves by saying that Mark took advantage of them too? That he ruined their ability to watch a show which felt like their safe space. Well it HAPPENED to us."
"Being a company made up of mostly women we have experiences of our own. She doesn't know us, and she doesn't know that some of our staff has had experiences too, it is unfair of her to judge our stories as unworthy before we can even tell them."
But Bush's response is a powerful reminder that survivors might handle things differently than one another, and it's not up to others to decide how Burton feels about everything. If other people respond positively to the EyeCon panel, that's not a bad thing — but it doesn't mean that the One Tree Hill stars have to embrace it, either.
On Thursday, EyeCon CEO Kenneth Smith issued a further statement, saying that "it may have been insensitive" to declare that abuse was a "theme" for the convention. Here's the full statement:
It's up to Burton, Bush, and the other One Tree Hill stars to decide how to respond to events like this one. What some EyeCon members or attendees find empowering, others might see in a negative light, and the sensitivity of the situation calls for respect on both sides. Still, though, Bush's fierce statements show that whatever the One Tree Hill cast has been through, they'll always have one another's backs.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.