It’s Not Just Harvey Weinstein

Sexual harassment and assault are rampant in America.


Published:

via seeandsay.in

 

The exposé of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s years of sexual harassment and assault of women in Hollywood broke on the one-year anniversary of the reveal of the Access Hollywood tape in which Donald Trump described his own sexual exploitation of and assaults on women. Harvey Weinstein has been fired. Donald Trump is president.

 

 

The details of Weinstein’s behavior are lewd and grotesque. Some of the best-known actresses in Hollywood—Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie among them–have come forward with their stories. Dozens of women. That so many men in Hollywood were aware of that behavior and did nothing to stop it is a secondary crime against the women Weinstein harassed and assaulted. That those men have not come forward to at the very least apologize explains so much about why the culture of harassment, abuse, assaul, and rape continues to be endemic in America. If, as has been claimed by many, Weinstein’s behavior was the worst kept secret in Hollywood, why did so many men remain complicit?

 

 

Would Weinstein have been fired if the story hadn’t broken? Doubtful.

 

 

For much of the week since the story about Weinstein broke, mainstream media has been asking why Hillary Clinton didn’t speak out immediately about Weinstein, who was a donor to many Democratic political campaigns and causes, including Clinton’s, former President Obama’s, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others.

 

 

It was a way to both continue the ongoing misogynist anti-Hillary narrative many male pundits have been loathe to give up since the election ended and also to deflect attention from the real story: Weinstein’s years of abuse and the men—Hollywood producers, actors, writer as well as journalists—who knew about it and said nothing.

 

 

Or worse, actively tried to quell the story.

 

 

Why haven’t the heads of studios spoken out in defense of the women who work for and make money for them? Why haven’t fellow actors spoken out in defense of the women they have shared screen time with and who are their compatriots in the film business? The list of men whose films we have loved over the years is as long as their silence is deep.

 

 

 

On Oct. 12, a week after the Weinstein story first broke, actress Rose McGowan, who has asserted for years that Weinstein raped her and who was paid a settlement by him 20 years ago, sent out a flurry of angry tweets addressing Amazon head Jeff Bezos.

 

 

Harvey Weinstein’s empire—he was arguably the most important studio mogul in Hollywood since Louis B. Mayer and built many careers—is being dismantled. His career in the industry is over. October 12 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—the Oscars—was preparing to vote him out. No one has changed the face of the Oscars in the past 25 years the way Weinstein has, making the independent film a staple, turning small, intimate, emotional films into big box-office and even bigger Oscar wins. Even his book line is being dropped by Hatchette.

 

 

The Harvey Weinstein story is much bigger than Weinstein, however, just as the Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and yes, most especially perhaps, Donald Trump stories of sexual harassment and assault were bigger than those men. Few women have escaped sexual harassment and/or assault over their lifetimes. From the simple "come on, baby, smile" street harassment to the office manager who just happens to have to push past your breasts or buttocks every single time you’re at the copy machine or the editor who only finds time to meet with you before everyone else is in the office or after everyone else has left and needs you to come look at the computer right here, not closer, no closer to the boss of whatever business in whatever city who threatens you with firing unless you give him a hand job or a blow job or more.

 

 

These stories—your story, the stories of the women assaulted by Weinstein, Cosby, Ailes, O’Reilly, Trump—are a huge, endless volume of tales of what it is to be female at any given time in America (or anywhere). The statistics on sexual harassment and violence are daunting. Few of us will escape. Most of us will be victims of some form of sexual assault in our lifetimes. I have been. Almost every woman I know has been.

 

Dozens of women have come forward about Weinstein, but there could be dozens more.

 

In 2014 I wrote about how Oscar-nominated director Woody Allen was feted by Hollywood for Lifetime Achievement, despite the lingering reality of his having been accused by his daughter, Dylan, his son, Ronan, and their mother, actress Mia Farrow, of sexually assaulting her when she was a child.

 

Many of Hollywood’s most notable actors and actresses have supported both Allen and Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski. Polanski, then 42, was convicted in 1977, of raping and sodomizing Samantha Geimer, then 13. He fled the country rather than face prison and has lived abroad ever since, continuing to make films and won an Oscar for Best Director for The Pianist in 2002. In 2010 he won Best Director at the European Film Awards. His being a convicted child rapist who refused to serve time for his crime has never stopped anyone in Hollywood from supporting him, working with him and giving him awards.

 

Ben Affleck has been accused of sexually harassing women with whom he has worked. On Oct. 10 he tweeted a statement about Weinstein, with whom he’s worked for years.

 

 

The next day he tweeted an apology to one of the women who had accused him, with video evidence, of touching her inappropriately.

 

 

Casey Affleck, Ben’s younger brother, won the Best Actor Oscar in 2017. He was accused of sexually harassing and assaulting producer Amanda White and cinematographer Magdalena Gorka in 2010. Both women sued him, White for $2 million, Gorka for $2.5 million.

 

White asserted that Affleck had repeatedly forced unwanted sexual advances on her and had instructed guitarist Antony Langdon to shake his genitals in her face. Gorka said she awoke one night to find Affleck in her bed in her hotel room. Both women alleged other unwanted harassment and assault while working with Affleck on the film I’m Still Here. Affleck denied the allegations, but settled out of court with both women.

 

Nate Parker, actor, producer and director of Birth of a Nation, was charged with raping a fellow student in 1999 with his friend and wrestling team mate Jean McGianni Celestin while all three attended Penn State University. The woman said she was intoxicated and unconscious when both men raped her. Celestin, who shares writing credits with Parker on Birth of a Nation, was convicted in the sexual assault. Parker was acquitted. In 2012 the victim later committed suicide.

 

In September 2016 the victim’s sister wrote a column for Variety while Oscar nominations were being considered. She asserted the crime against her sister had been exploited by Parker.

 

"As her sister, the thing that pains me most of all is that in retelling the story of the Nat Turner slave revolt, they invented a rape scene. The rape of Turner’s wife is used as a reason to justify Turner’s rebellion. This is fiction. I find it creepy and perverse that Parker and Celestin would put a fictional rape at the center of their film, and that Parker would portray himself as a hero avenging that rape. Given what happened to my sister, and how no one was held accountable for it, I find this invention self-serving and sinister, and I take it as a cruel insult to my sister’s memory."

 

In August, lesbian comedian Tig Notaro, who has worked with comedian Louis CK, told the Daily Beast that he needed to "handle" sexual assault rumors which have been ongoing. Comedian Roseanne Barr had referenced the rumors that Louis CK gets women in a room and then forces them to watch him masturbate back in 2016, but said she had no personal knowledge of these alleged incidents.

 

Notaro has been much more direct about the issue and said there had been an "incident" which she declined to elaborateon while she was working on her series One Mississippi, on which Louis CK has been a producer. 

 

 

In a September interview with TIME magazine Notaro said, "Well, I think that if somebody is assaulting people, I feel that they need to get professional help. I think they also need to certainly acknowledge this to their victims. I think that’s a good place to start. If you’re struggling with any sort of problem as serious as assault, it’s helpful to talk to somebody and turn things around because the behavior needs to stop, and it seems like when things are unchecked, it doesn’t stop."

 

As she told Daily Beast,

 

"It’s serious to be harassed. It’s serious, it’s serious, it’s serious."

 

But just as few women in the Harvey Weinstein case had come forward prior to the onslaught of allegations in the New York Times investigation last week or this week’s in-depth piece by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker, few women feel able to come forward outside of Hollywood, either.

 

The majority of women do not report sexual assault to police and few report sexual harassment in the workplace. The vicious cycle of abuse continues because, as the Weinstein case details dramatically, women feel threatened and men feel invincible. What kind of power does a man have when he can corner a woman in a restaurant hallway and force her to watch him masturbate there, in a public place as Weinstein is accused by one woman of doing?

 

Sexual harassment is defined as harassment (typically of a woman as nearly 90 percent of cases involve women as victims) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.

 

Sexual assault is defined as a form of sexual violence, and it includes rape (such as forced vaginal, anal or oral penetration or drug facilitated sexual assault), groping, child sexual abuse, or the torture of the person in a sexual manner.

 

According to the United Nations, "between 40 and 50% of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace."

 

In the United States, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) records data on sexual harassment in the workplace. But that data does not include Harvey Weinstein or any of the other famous men accused of such behavior—exemplifying how the actual numbers continue to be higher than what’s recorded by the EEOC. Three-quarters of people experiencing harassment did not report it.

 

In 2015, the EEOC was asked to investigate 6,822 sexual harassment allegations. But in the intervening time myriad companies have made headlines for creating an atmosphere of harassment for female employees, notably Uber and Google. Ongoing issues with sexual harassment and assault continue to plague the U.S. military.

 

It’s possible that the Harvey Weinstein case will trigger a national conversation about sexual harassment and assault. Or not, as the laser-focus on Hillary Clinton’s response instead of Harvey Weinstein’s action as well as the lack of response from men in Hollywood suggests. Clinton was, after all, working as a senator and Secretary of State, not as a producer, director or actor in Hollywood—she only knew Weinstein tangentially from fundraisers for herself and other Democrats.

 

 

Women did not come forward to speak out about Harvey Weinstein because of the power he wielded over their careers and because he threatened to end those careers if they said anything. It was revealed Oct. 12 that his contract with The Weinstein Company covered accusations of sexual assault—women couldn't win even if they did come forward. 

 

In every industry from construction to the military to tech women fear reprisal if they speak out about harassment and assault. Until men come forward and call out their co-workers and bosses for the sexual harassment and assault women endure in every workplace, women will continue to be forced into silence and the Harvey Weinstein scandal will look more and more like an anomaly instead of the tip of a ginormous iceberg.

 

 

 

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