The Weinstein World
Recently I was sent an article written by Michael McCaffrey for RT, and you could say that I had a fairly strong reaction to what he wrote. McCaffrey’s op-ed touches on the news that has come to light regarding Harvey Weinstein and the women who have come forward. After some persuasion (and proof reading) I’ve decided to share what I so passionately typed up and sent off. For reference click here for original article.
There are a couple of points that I agree with, but mostly I don’t really agree. I do agree with McCaffrey’s conclusion, this is not a Hollywood problem, it’s a national problem—though it may more accurately be described as a worldwide problem.
“It is difficult to admit, but if we mustered the courage to see ourselves as we truly are, we would recognize that Harvey Weinstein is America, and America is Harvey Weinstein. Both are bloated, entitled, corrupt, bombastic, blindly ambitious bullies, full of fear and loathing, that use their outsized power to exploit the defenseless to indulge their darker impulses and insatiable desires. The sooner we recognize that, the faster we can try to change it.”
Now to dive in and explain why I don’t agree with McCaffrey’s bigger points, first off, his judgement of the actresses that didn't speak out sooner. Name actresses are not above fear and all other human emotions, and they are certainly not exempt from reliving abuse. These are women who most likely worried about being dragged through the mud, women who were worried about not being taken seriously, of not being able to fulfill their dreams because someone might say that they “had it coming” or deem them “difficult” to work with. Before the Weinstein news broke, how many women spoke out and were blamed for what happened to them? As Donna Karan so promptly put it, "How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it?" Some people still believe that women who are “sexy" and experience sexual harassment or assault are asking for it. Ultimately we still place blame on the victim, but why isn’t the perpetrator scrutinized in that way?
In Hollywood, the Fear of not getting work, that's a real fear, particularly in an industry that has been ruled by men. An industry in which women have had to play by men's rules, some of these actresses spoke up but either received a settlement that then prohibited them from saying more, or perhaps didn't speak up because they felt alone or were scared into silence. According to a study that I found, 80% of women who are raped do not report the rape. The more important question to ask is why don't women speak out? This is a country that has a history of victim shaming, of letting perpetrators off easy. There's Brock Turner who only served 3 months of his 6 month sentence, the parent's went so far as to say that their son shouldn't be so severely punished for a 5 minute mistake. Then there's the Steubenville High School Rape case. In both cases mentioned, people came out and placed blame on the victims, girls who had been drugged and were unconscious.
As girls we are taught not to get raped, why do we teach that? Though I’d like to think it should go without saying, instead of teaching little girls not to get raped, shouldn’t we teach boys not to rape? My guy friends have never had to think twice about their outfit before going out, my girl friends and myself included all have. From the time I was a little girl I remember hearing what I should and shouldn’t wear, how to handle myself when walking late at night. When boys aren’t hearing these very things said to them, it does create a difference in how girls view themselves and how boys view them.
Now on to rape culture and it’s prominence in the media, I mean it’ regularly rears it’s head and we laugh it off. In it’s opening five minutes the show "White Famous" jokes about of how Bill Cosby did those women a favor by making sure they were knocked out, because who wants to remember that? A few days after the Weinstein news broke, James Corden joked, “it’s been weird this week hasn’t it? Watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water, ask any of the women who watched him take a bath.” Both “jokes” make sexual harassment and assault sound like little things that should simply be shrugged off because "silly women." Make no mistake about it, a great number of people still see these issues as things that should be shrugged off, some people still perceive these as issues over which women are being dramatic. At the end of the day, downplaying the seriousness of these issues instills fear. Who to turn to if the victim is the one who will be faulted? Of-course women (and men) don’t want to come forward.
I can’t jump to the conclusion that the A-list actresses mentioned weren't genuinely scared for one reason or another. I also can't jump and blame actresses like Meryl Streep and Judy Dench—being in a different age group from the women coming forward I don't think that it's entirely unfeasible that they didn't hear something firsthand, and horrible rumors pop up about celebrities that turn out not to be true all the time. The real issue that is rising to the surface is how as a country we view sexual harassment and assault. Yes, there are the individuals who falsely come forward, and those individuals are doing nothing but taking away from a very serious issue. However the percentage of people who falsely accuse other’s of these heinous crimes is low, albeit not by any means ok, it should not stop us from taking this issue very seriously.
Right now is an important time for women and men to speak up and share their stories, because they unfortunately are not rare. I think giving voice to our stories will help illuminate that we are not alone and how this is a much bigger issue than people want to admit. Last year I shared a story about a guy who made me feel so small, a guy who believed that because he felt an attraction that I should too. After I denied him, he became defensive, blamed me for his actions. I remember being so angry that when I finally got home I started to cry. I remember calling a friend to tell her what had happened and she said, “that’s just men being men.” I’m sorry, but I won’t accept that. I wish that I could say that it was the only such encounter that I’ve had, but that wouldn't be true. Human sexuality is normal, but imposing your desires on someone who doesn’t reciprocate them, that’s removing someone’s humanity for your own benefit.