Black and white, left and right, rich and richer — they all count on women stay­ing silent

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Melinda Hen­neberger Love Melinda Hen­neberger, a mem­ber of USA TO­DAY’s Board of Con­trib­u­tors, is an edi­to­rial writer and a colum­nist for The Kansas City Star.

That women as suc­cess­ful as Gwyneth Pal­trow and An­gelina Jolie stayed quiet for decades be­fore fi­nally dar­ing to ac­cuse Har­vey We­in­stein of sexually ha­rass­ing them un­der­lines why so few women with no Os­cars and far less power and pres­tige ever come for­ward.

(And also with less Brad Pitt. Long be­fore he mar­ried Jolie, he was see­ing 22-year-old Pal­trow when the pro­ducer al­legedly groped her dur­ing a meet­ing in his ho­tel room. Pitt warned We­in­stein never to go near her again, and We­in­stein warned Pal­trow not to tell any­one else.)

Go­ing public about the abuse of power is al­ways dif­fi­cult and of­ten di­min­ish­ing. And that, of course, is what abusers count on and love about it.


Maybe, as Meryl Streep says, not ev­ery­one who worked with We­in­stein knew about his decades of abuse, though they knew enough to laugh at a joke about it at the 2013 Os­car nom­i­na­tions. And maybe We­in­stein’s long­time friend and ben­e­fi­ciary Hil­lary Clin­ton re­ally is, as she be­lat­edly said, “shocked and ap­palled.”

But a lot of peo­ple in pro­gres­sive, pro-woman Los An­ge­les clearly did know, in­clud­ing the cur­rent or former em­ploy­ees of We­in­stein’s com­pa­nies, who told The New Yorker they had wit­nessed or oth­er­wise had di­rect knowl­edge of his pre­da­tions.

Just like a lot of peo­ple in not-pro­gres­sive Fox News knew about Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. And as not a few cen­trists in Bill Clin­ton’s cam­paign and White House knew that the Big Dog was one. No­body wanted to hear that Bill Cosby was no Cliff Huxtable. And only a year ago, no one who voted for Don­ald Trump found his boast about grab­bing women’s gen­i­tals dis­qual­i­fy­ing.

What does it mean that Billy Bush lost his job at NBC for hav­ing yukked it up with Trump over his yucky be­hav­ior, while the grab­ber him­self grabbed the ul­ti­mate job?

Or that Ailes and O’Reilly ul­ti­mately went down, but Bill Clin­ton, who was ac­cused of rape and as­sault, is still widely de­fended as some­one whose only lapse was lik­ing women too well?

Black and white, left and right, rich and richer — they all seem like one guy. A guy, that is, who got into trou­ble only when he was old and not funny any more, or older and not as in touch with the Os­car gods any more, or Bush — youngish but a harm­less To­day show host in­stead of a life­long lib­er­tine promis­ing to turn him­self into the ul­ti­mate pro-lifer.


Tina Brown runs the uber-fem­i­nist Women in the World Sum­mit, where “in­spi­ra­tional ac­tivists and po­lit­i­cal change-mak­ers from all over the world ... of­fer so­lu­tions to build­ing a bet­ter life for women and girls.” When it’s only now that she re­veals all the pay­offs she saw when she worked with We­in­stein, how much has changed?

Some­thing has, since we never used to speak of these things at all. Yet much has not. After mov­ing briefly and slightly to­ward rec­og­niz­ing these re­al­i­ties, we’ve lately taken three steps back. Trump with his check­ered his­tory on these is­sues is in the White House. And his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s em­pha­sis on due process for col­lege stu­dents ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault has un­for­tu­nately re­fu­eled old at­ti­tudes about false ac­cu­sa­tions and vic­tim blam­ing.

On or off cam­pus, due process is cru­cial, but that in no way ob­vi­ates the need to keep the fo­cus on the grave sys­temic prob­lems un­der­scored by just last year’s worth of high-pro­file scan­dals.

My former col­league David McLe­more, a writer in San An­to­nio, said the truest thing I’ve heard about We­in­stein et al: “If we think sex­ual pre­da­tion is a Hol­ly­wood thing, or a lib­eral/ con­ser­va­tive thing, or a rich per­son thing, we prob­a­bly need to talk to more women” about ha­rass­ment or as­sault, be­cause “ev­ery woman I know has dealt with it at some time. Ev­ery one.”

Me, too, David. So will we ever get to the tip­ping point some of us have been wait­ing for so long?

Like karma, some tip­ping points show up aw­fully late.


Har­vey We­in­stein and Gwyneth Pal­trow after Shake­speare In wins an Os­car in 1999.

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