This Hollywood story doesn’t stop with Harvey Weinstein
It’s not enough to point to him, or the industry, when the rot runs so deep
Of the many horrifying and shocking details in Tuesday’s The New Yorker report that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein allegedly raped, sexually assaulted and sexually harassed more than a dozen women, one that sticks out is a quote from French actress Emma de Caunes, who said Weinstein exposed himself to her in a hotel room in 2010.
“I know that everybody — I mean everybody — in Hollywood knows that it’s happening,” de Caunes said. “He’s not even really hiding. I mean, the way he does it, so many people are involved and see what’s happening. But everyone’s too scared to say anything.”
The magazine’s searing investigation into Weinstein’s alleged sexual predation comes only five days after The New York Times published a meticulous account of three decades of alleged sexual harassment and abuse. The Times published another report Tuesday in which Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie accused Weinstein of harassment.
It’s an indictment of Weinstein, who has since been fired from his own company and denounced by dozens of A-list stars and filmmakers who have worked with him. But it’s also an indictment of the Hollywood culture that allowed the abuse to continue for nearly 30 years. “Even in an industry in which sexual harassment has long persisted, Mr. Weinstein stands out,” The Times noted.
Sexual abuse isn’t isolated to Weinstein or the film industry. This happens in every industry, in social circles, in public spaces. Keeping track of just the famous male figures at the center of such allegations is exhausting.
Sexual abuse is systemic, not singular. Stopping it requires men to speak up and stand up to other men. It requires acknowledging
that there’s no such thing as “locker room talk.” It requires believing women so it doesn’t take 20 years for them to feel safe enough to share their experiences.
Much has been said in the past few days of the “whisper networks” by which women communicate to protect themselves, including the one that made at least part of Weinstein’s behavior common knowledge. Some have asked why no woman has spoken on the record about Weinstein’s behavior before now. That’s the wrong question. It’s not the whispers we should be focusing on but the deafening silence of bystanders and enablers. It’s the culture — within and beyond Hollywood — dominated by toxic masculinity that ignored Weinstein’s problematic behavior, that let rumor remain rumor, and that endangers women everywhere if it’s not curtailed.
The film industry is built on a system of sexism: Women made up just 7% of the directors of the 250 top-grossing films domestically in 2016, a lack of parity that’s being investigated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A 2016 study found that women made up only 27% of top film critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Hollywood has long ignored women as creative contributors or potential consumers for the movies it makes.
Films are often created to titillate male audiences, exploiting women in the process, from lurid shots of the female stars of the Transformers franchise to films such as Jurassic World that reduce female characters to shrill stereotypes to still others like Taken that subject women to violence to motivate the male hero. This male-centric viewpoint filters down to film fans raised on media that depict or even celebrate misogyny, some of whom gleefully harass women who dare voice opinions on films.
The list of men in Hollywood who have been accused of sexual misconduct, harassment or assault gets longer all the time. Woody Allen. Bill Cosby. Roman Polanski. Casey Affleck and Louis C.K. have been accused of misconduct.
We know Weinstein isn’t the only one, but how many predators are left that we don’t know about? Accusers risk their livelihoods and further harassment by speaking out. Some don’t understand what has happened. Others are told to get used to it, to “be cool” or “take a joke.”
The Onion captured the problem best with its headline “How Could Harvey Weinstein Get Away With This?’ Asks Man Currently Ignoring Sexual Misconduct Of 17 Separate Coworkers, Friends, Acquaintances.”
It’s not enough to point at Weinstein as a problem. The bigger challenge is changing this climate, calling out everyday harassment and sexism in Hollywood and the culture at large.
Ignorance is easy. Ignoring gossip, ignoring whispers, ignoring a troll yelling at a woman on Twitter for not liking Blade Runner 2049, that’s simple.
Looking inward is hard. Admitting the problem is bigger than you thought is hard. But if we don’t, we’ll just be in the same place when it’s the next man.
Hollywood is taking a painful look within after stunning allegations of a decades-long culture of sexual abuse by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.