Let’s keep hold­ing sex­ual preda­tors ac­count­able: Ju­dith Tim­son,

How many other pro­duc­ers, in­clud­ing in Canada, are on the “preda­tor spec­trum”?

Toronto Star - - NEWS - Ju­dith Tim­son Ju­dith Tim­son writes weekly about cul­tural, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal is­sues. You can reach her at ju­dith.tim­son@sym­pa­tico.ca and fol­low her on Twit­ter @ju­dith­tim­son

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.

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