It’s been an interesting evolution of the demise of Hollywood producer and studio head, Harvey Weinstein. In case you’ve been living under a rock, an explosive New York Times report, outlining allegations of decades of sexual harassment while he was at the helm of movie studios Miramax and The Weinstein Company, has resulted in the movie mogul being fired by the members of the board from his own company on Sunday. A true Hollywood story if there ever was one.
Is anyone really surprised that a powerful man in the film industry has been accused of doing this? This is Hollywood – the land of Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, and Roman Polanski. Despite allegations and in one case, a conviction of unlawful sexual intercourse, they continue, as powerful men, to have hugely successful careers and the accompanying accolades that go with that.
What happened to their alleged victims? Just the continual fight to have their story heard, and not be completely shamed and discredited in the process. Reading Ronan Farrow’s account of his sister’s alleged abuse by father Woody is enough to make you want to throw things across the room in deep frustration at how the PR machines of Hollywood A-listers operate.
So why do the recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein resonate with me? It’s not so much the narrative of the pathetic typical power play of a much older, successful and connected man using these same attributes to disempower young, vulnerable women. Don’t get me wrong. It disgusts me, but sadly, it’s a story as old as time.
What bothers me more is that in 2017, the silence surrounding his case is deafening. There may be other people who might have succumbed to Weinstein’s alleged advances to climb the slippery ladder of Hollywood, and there were likely many others who knew about what was going on but who have chosen to stay silent, and therefore complicit, in his alleged behaviour.
And this is what men like Weinstein want.
I’ve been the victim of many, many instances of sexual harassment in the media industry. And so have many of my female counterparts. Get a few of us around a table and there would be a looooong list of various examples of male power plays that we have been subjected to because, well, we have breasts and vaginas. It goes with the territory.
When you have had media executives ask you outright what bra size you are because your ‘tits are so fucking incredible’, or when you have an advertising executive standing next to your desk rubbing his crotch vigorously as he discusses a cute co-worker, or when you have to rescue the young female intern from the very unwanted advances of the director at a wrap party, these stories are the everyday reality of working in the media. And they are definitely not the worst examples I could share. Villainesse editor Lizzie Marvelly has shared her stories of numerous experiences of sexual harassment in the music industry. There are many, many other women in the creative industries who have similar tales.
But by not naming and shaming the men who have been guilty of sexual harassment, are my colleagues, and myself, guilty of perpetuating the very same complicit silence that people around Weinstein have demonstrated? Absolutely. But I can also completely understand their reticence in coming forward with their own stories.
Because, despite Beyoncè’s declaration, us girls DON’T (currently) run the world.
Standing up to the status quo, becoming a ‘whistle-blower’, and outing the men that we have experienced harassment from, has, until now at least, had only one real outcome. And we all know it. So we stay silent, support each other quietly from the sidelines or within our own professional circles, and hope that one day the power balance shifts to a more equal footing.
We work hard to find the male champions in our working worlds who have our backs, and who will stand up for us when needed. We avoid the men who play power games, who abuse and harass, and embrace the ones who don’t.
We create women-friendly workspaces that provide encouragement, support and community, and hope that the change will come from this, rather than hoping the old-school regime will change its ways.
These ‘old dinosaurs’, as Weinstein’s former legal advisor, Lisa Bloom, so charmingly referred to him, rely on the fact that women are reluctant to risk career suicide to keep quiet.
Harvey Weinstein is only just learning what women have known forever: the truth hurts.Support Villainesse