Following a “New York Times” exposé detailing his long history of sexual harassment and sexual assault, the board of The Weinstein Company fired co-founder and film producer Harvey Weinstein. He has also since been expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and the Producers Guild of America (PGA). Though rumors have circled around Weinstein for decades, prior to the “New York Times” report, Weinstein was a highly respected and revered Hollywood executive, responsible for the production of a number of financially successful and critically acclaimed films including “The King’s Speech,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction.” He remains one of the most thanked individuals in Academy Award history, having been thanked in 34 Oscar acceptance speeches since 1993, tied with God for second place behind Steven Spielberg’s 43 acknowledgements.
The film industry giant has reportedly been conducting this reprehensible behavior for over two decades, and many of the women who have recently spoken out about their encounters were in their early- to mid-20s at the time of the incidents.
In the past few weeks, many industry professionals have said that Weinstein’s behavior was an ‘open secret’ in Hollywood, though others, including Meryl Streep, insist that this is not entirely true. Regardless, many people, actors and film producers alike, were not surprised by the allegations of sexual misconduct.
Looking through old interviews with some of his recent accusers reveals that many victims publicly hinted at their uncomfortable encounters with the high-level film executive or had described them without naming the perpetrator to avoid retribution. For example, actress Ashley Judd recently named Weinstein as the anonymous film executive that she claimed sexually harassed her in an interview years prior to the break of the scandal.
One of the most outspoken victims of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct is American actress Rose McGowan. McGowan accused Weinstein of rape this past week and was temporarily suspended from Twitter on account of a tweet that “included a private phone number,” according to an official Twitter statement, inspiring a backlash against the company and their questionable and inconsistent handling of what qualifies as a bannable offense; McGowan’s account was soon reinstated. Prior to her suspension and since her reinstatement, McGowen has shared barrages of tweets stating that she made another film executive aware of Weinstein’s crude behavior. She also began a #WomenBoycottTwitter movement. While McGowan has been applauded for magnifying the voices of other women and actively calling upon major Hollywood hotshots to hold themselves accountable for their compliance, her #rosearmy movement has been criticized for a lack of intersectionality, including a racially tone-deaf tweet which McGowan later deleted.
After ardently denying the allegations, Weinstein proclaimed that he is working on his behavior. In the aforementioned exposé, Weinstein’s then-lawyer Lisa Bloom, an advisor on gender and power dynamics who has since resigned and now calls her involvement a “colossal mistake,” made a statement on Weinstein’s behalf directly after the story broke in which she claimed that he was an “old dinosaur learning new ways.”
The idea that Weinstein’s behavior stems from his age is an outrageous attempt to disregard and trivialize the ways in which he has allegedly violated and assaulted the space and bodies of upwards of 47 women. It also ignores the power dynamics of a film executive fully aware of his powerful connections exploiting the aspiring young women hoping to conduct a professional business meeting with him. Model Samantha Panagrosso claims that Weinstein was very arrogant and boastful about his previous conquests, name-dropping several A-list actresses in an attempt to pressure her into accepting his sexual advances. Overall, the stories shared by accusers, ranging from Cara Delevingne to Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd, demonstrate a similar pattern and strategy of Weinstein getting young women in the early stages of their careers alone under the pretense of business. He made unwanted advances and then resorted to threats in either an attempt to coerce them into giving in or to keep them from speaking out.
The lingo that Bloom used in her statement attempted to uphold the status quo of protecting the powerful who prey on women they work with. More specifically, it speaks to the unfortunate truth that some powerful men believe that women ought to be subject to their sexual advances simply because they are rich and famous. Not only do some act on these beliefs, but they are a part of a system that protects their sexual misconduct. Many of Weinstein’s accusers, including McGowan, noted they kept silent because others said there wasn’t enough evidence. She also thought that no one would believe their allegations because of who Weinstein was.
Just last year, prior to the election, audio footage of the current President of the United States emerged capturing his vulgar comments about women, many of which were a self-proclamation of sexual misconduct towards women that he worked with. The language between Trump and television personality Billy Bush was difficult to listen to. Unfortunately, only Bush received consequences for his profane comments about women.
In contrast, Weinstein has been shunned by Hollywood, family and friends and the American public. The Weinstein scandal further opens the door for discussions about sexual misconduct in the workforce and the examination of how these men manipulate those around them to remain silent. While many hope Weinstein’s fall from grace marks a turning point, some women who have accused other powerful men of sexual assault and harassment only to have these men remain largely untouched by any consequences, such as those who spoke out against Donald Trump, have admitted to feeling frustrated by the uneven progress our society appears to be making in how it treats allegations of sexual assault in the public sphere.
It is an unfortunate truth that power and money make it easier to exploit others and get away with it. The people who failed to speak up for the underlings and actresses that were vulnerable to Weinstein’s advances also play a role in the continued protection of a sexual predator. Instead of speaking out for those that had little to no authority to do so for themselves, many executives remained silent to protect their own careers and jobs. While Weinstein appears to have preyed exclusively on women, it is important to mention that this kind of sexual harassment and assault takes place against men, too. Following the Weinstein exposé, “Brooklyn Nine Nine” actor Terry Crews alleged in a series of tweets that he was sexually assaulted by a high-level Hollywood executive at an industry event last year and detailed that he “let it go” in order to avoid ostracization and other repercussions.
The outrage that has emerged out of this scandal will hopefully make people more willing to speak out against blatant sexual harassment and be more vigilant towards sexual predators that abuse their power.