Harassment Is Bigger Than Hollywood

by Ashley Roling

 

On Sunday October 8th, Harvey Weinstein was notified via email of his termination from The Weinstein Company, the championed multimedia production and distribution corporation, that he co-founded in 2005 alongside his brother. This New York Times investigative report chronicled victims of Weinstein’s actions channeling back over three decades. Their claims sparked criticisms of sexual misconduct, coercion, and extensive cover-ups in the entertainment industry.

Similar to many other stories expounding perpetrators of sexual crimes, articles stacked reasons why it doesn’t add up that Weinstein possesses the character to commit such actions. For instance, he has funded successful projects advocating for and extending leading roles to women -- “The Hunting Ground” and “The Iron Lady” to begin -- and gave hundreds of thousands in donations to Planned Parenthood and similar missions, while also attending the Women’s March at Sundance in January 2017 after denouncing Donald Trump’s treatment of women. Even more troubling is that despite the darker reputation seemingly following Weinstein’s name among those in the industry, women and men alike have extended him thanks in awards ceremony speeches more than God and just less than Steven Spielberg. In fact, his behavior was exploited at these same ceremonies. In 2013, as Seth MacFarlane announced Oscar nominees, he cracked, “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”

 

Survivors of sexual harassment at the hands of Weinstein cited this prominence and power as reasoning for keeping quiet over the years. A former worker of Weinstein’s detailed the intimidation of her boss: “I am a 28 year old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64 year old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.” Accounts of nondisclosure agreements, pay-outs, and bullying into submission have been associated with Weinstein and his company allies. But many beginning actors recognized the enormity of influence they were up against when challenging his abuse. Rose McGowan, Cara Delevingne, Angelina Jolie, and Gwyneth Paltrow have all come forward against Weinstein with personal stories, tracked to the beginning stages of their careers. It appears that Weinstein preyed after eager, young performers hoping their names would lack credibility next to his own if and when he acted inappropriately.

This casting-couch abuse has permeated beyond the film and entertainment industry. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a report detailing the nearly 30,000 complaints of harassment in the workplace in the last fiscal year and with nearly 51% of women stating their provoker was a supervisor. Terry Crews shared on Twitter his story of harassment from a higher executive and further explained that the power dynamic stopped him from coming forward sooner. He said, "I decided not to take it further because I didn't want to be ostracized -- par for the course when the predator has power and influence.” He acknowledged how his allegations or any retaliation against his attacker would be portrayed in the media coming from an African American man. Although predominantly white females have stepped forward against Weinstein, workplace and sexual violence extends even deeper into gender and race claims.

Stories like Weinstein’s remind us that being a predator and being successful in one’s career are not mutually exclusive features -- in fact, it can manifest into decades of “blind-eyes” and the toxic suppression of subordinates within an industry. But, what is actually being done to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and disable misuse of power? This cycle of fresh allegations against a serial attacker setting off a host of newly shocked and outraged friends, colleagues, and strangers -- which, inevitably, serves to recharge the conversation of how everyone should work towards ending sexual harassment and assault -- is accelerating at a frightening pace.

Ashley Roling