Accusations shed light on toxic nature of people in power
by Rachel Poe
On October 5th, The New York Times released a scathing article about Harvey Weinstein, an Oscar-winning film producer, that claimed Weinstein had been paying off women for decades to keep quiet about his sexual “misconduct.” The New Yorker also released their findings shortly after. Over the course of a ten-month investigation, another dozen actresses, models, and others within the entertainment industry had shared their stories. By October 18th, more than 40 women had come forward with similar accusations ranging from inappropriate conduct to rape. Some of the women include Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Cara Delevingne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and most recently Lupita Nyong’o.
The women shared tales of similar stories. Many of the accusations were moments of intimidation. One common incident seemed to be one on one meetings that were disguised as moments to discuss future career moves. Weinstein would invite these women to his home or hotel room, open the door in a robe, and suggest giving them a “massage.” Some women were able to escape or talk their way around it, others were not so lucky. Additionally, The New Yorker reported that at least three of the original woman who came forward with claims against Weinstein were forced into nonconsensual oral and/or vaginal sex. Weinstein was using his status as a well-known Hollywood Executive to trap these women into subordinate roles, threatening their careers if they didn’t compile.
Still, within days of The New York Times’ article, Weinstein was dropped from his company, publicly condemned by most of Hollywood, and ousted from the Oscar Academy after the vote was “well in excess of the two-thirds majority required.” Investigations led by police departments in New York, London, and Los Angeles also ensued.
This is an epidemic faced by women, and even some men, because their abusers bask in the power of it all.
Weinstein, of course, has denied any accusations of harassment and assault. Though, in a statement, Weinstein acknowledged that “the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.” His representatives have come forward saying that these incidents were consensual and not as widespread as they appear. Weinstein’s response continued to contradict itself as he said he was planning to seek help, yet threatened The New York Times with defamation. His lawyers are also planning a lawsuit against the company that dropped him, which would include “photos of several of the accusers in very friendly poses with Harvey after his alleged misconduct.” It is extremely debatable whether or not that will hold any weight, especially when one considers how many victims of domestic violence stay with their abusers out of fear. If these accusations are true, these women were threatened with their careers, putting on a brave face for the media might have been their only option.
While most of Hollywood is “in shock” and has come out and condemned Weinstein for his actions, hidden jokes over the years seem to suggest that it was one of the worst kept secrets in show business. Going back to as early as 2004, Courtney Love, when asked if she had any tips for women trying to break into the business, said “If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a party at the Four Seasons, don’t go.” The TV show 30 Rock even included jokes about holding off Weinstein’s sexual advances. And on October 19th, director Quentin Tarantino, in an Interview with The New York Times said, “I knew enough to do more than I did.”
One aspect that people can’t seem to let go of is Weinstein’s presentation as a “liberal lion” to the public. Weinstein marched in the Women’s March in January and has fundraised and donated to multiple Democratic campaigns including President Obama’s campaigns and Hillary Clinton’s campaign this past year. His company even distributed The Hunting Ground, a documentary about the cover up of sexual assaults across college campuses. Ironic, huh?
The conservative media has taken this as an opportunity to attack the left, calling them hypocrites and accusing them of covering up the scandal. This being despite the fact that Fox News has had two major sexual harassment scandals in the past few years with former CEO Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly. To me, what this shows is that sexual harassment and abuse is not just something perpetrated by people who could be considered “anti-women.” This is an epidemic faced by women and even some men because their abusers bask in the power of it all. Being a liberal does not automatically excuse someone from these allegations, especially ones this severe. Just look at Anthony Weiner.
The #MeToo campaign blew up on social media after the allegations dropped. The narrative being that every person that has experienced sexual assault or harassment, if they felt comfortable coming forward, would post “#MeToo” in order to show the gravity of the situation at hand. While Alyssa Milano is credited with the current resurgence of the hashtag, the actual “Me Too” campaign has been around since 2006. Founder Tarana Burke, who was also a victim of sexual assault, saw the power behind the phrase “Me Too” and created a movement in hopes to help women and girls- particularly those of color- who were too victims. Burke calls this “empowerment through empathy.” She tweeted that “It made my heart swell to see women using this idea- to not only show the world how widespread and pervasive sexual violence is, but also to let other survivors know they are not alone.”
But is anyone really surprised that these powerful men continue to abuse and exploit vulnerable women? Our President was on tape bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy” and still was able to win. It needs to be known that workplace harassment is an epidemic and we cannot allow perpetrators to continue to get away with it for decades. One thing is for sure, that the bravery of the women who have shared their stories with the world will always outweigh the cowardliness of men like Harvey Weinstein, who use their power to intimidate and take what they think is rightfully theirs.