I’d love to say I was surprised. I wish I was shocked. I want to believe the best in people all the time, sometimes to my own detriment. So when the news about Harvey Weinstein came out, I wish I could say that I never would have suspected. But that would be a lie.
No, I don’t know him. No, I never met him or had any dealings of any kind with him. But I remember the first time I saw his face. It was on an Oscars telecast years ago. Probably in the last 90s or early 2000s. I couldn’t figure out why the cameras kept cutting to this creepy looking, unshaven guy. Like he was important, but he sure didn’t look like he was. I found out later that he was Harvey Weinstein and he was possibly the most important man in Hollywood. And I knew at that moment that this guy was a predator who had a well & often used casting couch in his office and had no problems with trading choice film roles for “something in return.”
But I didn’t know just how disgusting, creepy, duplicitous, foul, and just plain nasty he is. We’ve all heard stories about the Hollywood Casting Couch and how so many powerful men have built actresses’ careers by expecting a little “something” in return. “Do this for me and I’ll put you in my film.” We’ve all heard it both from actresses’ mouths and as tawdry legend over the almost 100 years of Hollywood. There are those who would play along to get ahead and those who wouldn’t and whatever decision that particular person decided to make is THEIR business. But what Harvey played at is a different level of repulsive.
Subterfuge as a way of getting women in a position where they are fearful not just for their careers (which is bad enough), but for their safety. Of being assaulted, manipulated, physically harmed in some way. Of being raped. And, now we know, of having every single person who came in contact with her – from the hotel staff to his assistants to anyone who saw her in his company during the entire evening – believing that she was “Weinsteined.” Lured to a secluded location where she probably willingly gave it up in order to advance her career. BECAUSE EVERYONE KNEW WHAT HE DID. So she can’t even claim that she didn’t do anything, because everyone everywhere knew what he did, how he did it, and what that meant for the girl. So now she knows that everybody is talking about her in terms of “another in a long list of girls Harvey has ‘had’.”
Now, the woodwork is vibrating with the movement of different celebrities coming out of it – claiming they, too, were assaulted, claiming they had no idea and how horrifying and if they’d known, they’d have done thus & so. Before I say what I’m going to say, I’ll preface it with this: I don’t know anyone in Hollywood. I know no one in the system and certainly have no connections or knowledge of famous people and what they have or haven’t done.
But I honestly don’t believe for a second that so many of these recognizable celebrities didn’t know. Not for a second. I think that every single one of them either knew, had heard about it, had heard rumors or jokes about it, or knew someone who had gone through it. Something like that does NOT become a joke at the Oscars without everyone knowing. This many celebrities coming out and saying that it either happened to them or it almost happened to them did not go unnoticed by their friends & acquaintances. You don’t wear Marchesa to that many award shows without being under some obligation to her husband. YOU KNEW. YOU SUSPECTED. YOU HEARD THE RUMORS. And you said nothing.
And this is what makes me sick. So many very powerful, very famous female celebrities knew about this. And they did nothing to stop him. They said nothing to bring attention to it. They let their SISTERS drown. I’m sure there was the occasional warning or pointed conversation about “maybe you shouldn’t go meet him in his room because that might end badly……”, but none of them came forward and demanded a spotlight be shone on it. So woman after woman after woman, ad nauseum, suffered.
I don’t expect the women who experienced it – as they were experiencing it – to say anything. They were young and raw and inexperienced and hoping for a career boost. They weren’t expecting a naked old fat dude to prance out of his bedroom and demand a massage. They weren’t expecting to be broadsided like that. They weren’t expecting to be raped. So for them to speak up after the fact….well, we all know how well that goes for the woman. (See Affleck, Casey, Allen, Woody, Cosby, Bill, Polanski, Roman, Schwarzenegger, Arnold)
And the men. :sigh: The Hollywood men who DEFINITELY, ABSOLUTELY KNEW. LIKE HIS BROTHER, BOB. The Brad Pitts, the George Clooneys, the Denzel Washingtons, the Matt Damons, the Tom Cruises, the Will Smiths, those men in the top tier most powerful positions as actors. They. Knew. And they did nothing – except tell Harvey to keep his mitts off their women. Where were they for their sisters in the movie arts? They couldn’t defend themselves against the most powerful man in Hollywood, but none of you did anything to help them. And, honestly, do you think that if George Clooney, Brad Pitt, et al, came forward to tell what Harvey was doing that THEY WOULDN’T BE BELIEVED?? Christ, all y’all had to say was that he was doing these horrible things and you weren’t going to stand for it and everyone would have believed you. But you didn’t. You wouldn’t have lost your careers – you’re Brad Pitt & George Clooney. Step up.
So, I’m disgusted. I’m disgusted by the fake “OMG, I had no idea, this is awful” crap. I’m disgusted by people not being willing to step up and use their celebrity privilege to protect each other. I’m disgusted by the pervasive, toxic masculinity that convinces itself and those around it that this behavior is acceptable. I’m SO disgusted by the response of so many men & women of “why did they wait so long to say something.” (And, no, I’m not even going to dignify that ignorant bullshit with a response) And I’m beyond disgusted by the men who respond to this and shit like it with their caveman mentality of “shut up, you bitch, you deserve that because you’re a woman.” I think the correlation between the rise of that ignorant, misogynistic assmunchery and the troglodyte running our country is impenetrable.
Something else that grabbed me, of course, is the number of women coming forward with their own stories of assault, harassment, unwanted attention, and other encounters like this. This is something men don’t and can’t understand. And since they can’t understand it, often they insist it doesn’t exist. But it does. It doesn’t matter if you’re pretty or hot or sexy or dressed in a white doctor’s coat or a construction hat or a garbage collector’s jumpsuit. It happens to everyone.
It’s amazing what thinking about this does to me. See, I honestly cannot recall a single incident where I was harassed or assaulted either in the workplace or just in general. There were incidents in college at parties or while drinking, but not the kind of thing I’m hearing other women talk about – an eye doctor pretends to drop a contact down her blouse and has to “get it,” while copping a feel at the same time. Getting your ass smacked at work. Having creepy or unsettling comments made at you by professionals or others in the workplace. That kind of thing. I honestly cannot think of a single incident. But you want to know what’s truly fucked up about that? My first thought wasn’t, “Well, good! I’m glad I was surrounded by men who weren’t the kind to do that kind of thing.” No. My first thought?
“What was wrong with me that no one ever did that?”
You see, THIS SHIT is such an ingrained part of our world that I assumed that since it hadn’t happened to me, I’M THE ONE WHO’S LACKING. That I should have had it happen to me, since it happens to almost every woman everywhere. I must be too ugly even to be harassed. I didn’t go to a positive place, but a self-deprecating one. We women have come to believe that it SHOULD and WILL happen to us. That having it NOT happen to us is so far from the norm, it’s grossly abnormal. I mean, I know why we women have accepted it for so long. (And if you don’t, scroll up and see my references above) It can be unbelievably daunting to step out and speak up against the treatment we learn to accept as the price we pay for having a vagina – or even looking like we might. But why do the men in the world allow it? Why don’t they speak out? Why don’t powerful men and powerful women call it out when they see it more, bringing it to the spotlight and MAKING everyone look at it. Yes, it’s ugly and greasy and covered in festering sores – but hiding it from view isn’t going to change a damn thing. Telling women to “make sure you take a man with you when to go to that meeting” might protect her for that moment, but it doesn’t change anything and it puts the impetus of what happens on HER, not the perp.
If you’re a man reading this, do me a favor. Talk to the women in your life – your mother, your sister, your wife or girlfriend, your grandmother. Ask them about this and if it’s ever happened to them. THEN LISTEN. Don’t talk at them or over them. LISTEN TO THEIR STORY. Very often, older women will shrug it off as what they had to endure at that time. Doesn’t mean it didn’t affect them. I think you’ll be very surprised by the number of women in your life who have THIS in their table of contents.
And if you have sons. TEACH. My God, teach them. Teach them that women are not possessions to be acquired, nor property to be taken. Teach them that no matter how powerful they are, they have the responsibility to act like a human being. That no one – EVER – owes them access to their body. And that asking for it in return for a favor is DISGUSTING. Teach them to watch and listen for this kind of shit happening around them. Teach them to risk themselves to step in to protect another person from something like this. Teach them to LISTEN to what other people’s experiences are and to accept that, even though it isn’t THEIR experience, it’s still valid. And most of all, teach them that kindness, self-control, and respect for others are of the utmost importance. Please. We need far more men like that in the world.