Let’s keep holding sexual predators accountable: Judith Timson,
How many other producers, including in Canada, are on the “predator spectrum”?
Let’s dispense with some conventional responses to the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
First, no one is “shocked,” despite what they say.
In the past week, explosive investigative pieces in both the New York Times and the New Yorker have uncovered three decades of sexually predatory behaviour toward young aspiring actresses by the powerful 65-year-old “progressive” movie producer responsible for such Oscar-winning hits as Shakespeare in Love and Good Will Hunting. Many women, both unknown and famous, — most heroically Ashley Judd, who first went on the record and was then backed up by Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie — have come forward to say Weinstein sexually harassed them when they were young.
The details are disgusting and reveal Weinstein allegedly had a systematic approach to luring, sexually preying upon, then silencing his victims. “I was expected to keep the secret,” Paltrow told the New York Times.
His system, enabled by his own staff, hushed up by settlements and legal teams, public relations agents and the media itself, included inviting women to hotel suites for a “business meeting” and variously pressuring them to give him a massage, putting on a bathrobe and/or suddenly appearing stark naked, masturbating in front of them, begging to touch their breasts, offering work for sex and, according to some allegations, outright sexual assault.
This is Hollywood and the movie business, remember, in which not only dreams come true — we’re gonna make you a star — but so do clichés.
Is there anything more clichéd than the casting-couch motif in which an older powerful man insists a younger, talented and ambitious woman have sex with him to further her career?
As a friend on the periphery of the movie business said, how many other producers, including in Canada, are on the “predator spectrum”? Plenty, and look out, guys — your own indecent exposure in the media may fast be approaching.
Second conventional response: a big guy with or without a bathrobe carrying a bottle of lotion, leering and asking for a massage is just an awful moment, but not a life-changing one, if the young woman stands her ground and leaves the room physically untouched.
Nope. I refer you to the wrenching interview on the New York Times podcast The Daily in which actress Katherine Kendall, who teaches dance to children in West Hollywood, according to her online biog- raphy, recounts how Weinstein preyed upon her more than 20 years ago. She still shakes if she sees him.
“You are the one who feels the shame,” says Kendall, who describes “a feeling of dirtiness” but decided against reporting him “because he didn’t actually touch me.”
I refer you to actress/producer Jessica Barth, who told CNN about a more recent similar encounter with Weinstein in which she refused his sexual opportuning yet “walked out of there humiliated.” Touchingly, Barth confessed how thrilling that “business” meeting first seemed: “My mother was excited for me.”
Third convention: an entire “system” must be blamed. A system of sexism and harassment certainly exists, but right now this one man is to blame. This ogre has promised to get “deep counselling” and come back a better man.
Here’s a better idea, Harvey. Don’t come back at all.
Weinstein has been fired by his board and condemned by public figures including Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Not only must this condemnation continue, he should be prosecuted if there’s enough evidence of a sex crime.
In an audiotape released by the New Yorker, in which a young Italian model wore a wire after going to the police to say Weinstein had groped her, there is chilling evidence that he knew he had done wrong as he commanded her to “come in the room NOW,” and promised “I won’t do it again.” Are we sure about that? Blame the men, one perpetrator at a time. When Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, preceded by his boss the late Roger Ailes, got turfed for harassment, many people thought it was a turning point. “Twilight of the creeps,” they called it.
It still is. Don’t lose heart. These dinosaurs are dying. But it’s more cautionary to would-be predators to take down these men publicly than to invoke rules about sexual harassment. They don’t care about rules, they care about power, intimidation and their own twisted needs. As a seasoned woman who has been writing about sexual harassment for decades, I am so tired of the dehumanizing of women.
During my first paid internship at the Hamilton Spectator, one of my bosses, in my first performance assessment, told me, “You’ve got all the men wondering what you’d be like in bed” and followed it up with, “I thought you’d be a good reporter but you’re mediocre.”
See what he did? He mortified me sexually and then undermined me professionally. I cried and at first told no one.
Well screw you, once-powerful editor.
I persisted. I prevailed. I succeeded. Any woman who does so in the face of this crap should feel proud.
The rage I feel remembering those tiny humiliating minutes at the start of my career is only energized by the Weinstein mess.
We must not stop with public education. But getting these guys one by one and making them publicly accountable is how you change a culture. Transfer the shame. Do it now.
Harvey Weinstein faces allegations of sexual assault and harassment from some of Hollywood’s biggest names.