I was listening to NPR on the way home from the grocery store, and they were talking about how the Weinstein Co. is negotiating to receive equity from a private donor in order to continue. The CEO of the equity company (who was some kind of adviser to this president during his campaign. MASSIVE side eye for that) said something like he wanted to ensure that the quality of independent film-making continues.
The whole thing rubbed me the wrong way, and I’ll tell you why. Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predatory behavior did not exist in a vacuum. He’s been doing this since at least the eighties, which is thirty years. There is a harrowing account of an actress trying to leave the situation, asking the assistant if her car was there, only to be told no and to go into Harvey’s room. Think about that. It was such common knowledge, the assistant was in on it*. There is no way in hell the assistant knew and Bob (the brother) Weinstein and/or the members of the board didn’t. They might not have had concrete proof, but they knew. They heard the rumors. They saw the way he acted. They chose not to know so they wouldn’t have to do anything about it.
I don’t want Weinstein Co. to continue and flourish. I want it to be burned to the ground. It fostered the atmosphere in which Weinstein was able to traumatize countless women with no consequence except writing a check now and again. The numbers may seem significant, but for a man like Weinstein, writing a check for a hundred thou was nothing. He probably shit away more than that on a regular basis. It’s much easier for him to write a check than to have to go through sexual harassment/sexual assault trial, and it doesn’t put his reputation at risk, either. Sure, it was an open secret he was a predator, but that didn’t cost him anything in Hollywood. He was still a powerful man–it’s his victims and potential victims who had to adjust their behavior. Angelina Jolie said she warned others about him. Jessica Chastain said she was warned about him. Yet, not one single thing was done TO him.
Side note: Can we please stop with the ‘it hasn’t been proven in court’ derailments that always crop up when cases like this happen? Twitter is not The Law, and it’s perfectly fine to judge him in the court of public opinion. I am more than comfortable saying that Harvey Weinstein is a serial predator, and I don’t need a court to confirm the stories I’ve been reading about him. Of course he deserves his day in court (if it even comes to that, which I’m quite cynical about), but that doesn’t mean I have to pretend I haven’t already made up my mind.
I spent much of yesterday morning ranting about Harvey Weinstein on Twitter, and I still have Things To Say about it, so here goes. I said I would write this post, and I’m keeping my promise. More and more women are coming out and Weinstein assaulted them, too. Several famous women who come from Hollywood families. Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie are two of the top names, and while I don’t want to focus on them, the fact that they are included on the list indicate just how much of a systemic problem this is. They’re from Hollywood elite families. Steven Spielberg is Paltrow’s godfather, for fuck’s sake. And yet, Weinstein felt free to sexually harass them, probably thinking they’d know it was just part of the culture. I had an argument with a friend about the ‘this is just the way we did things in the seventies’ part of Weinstein’s statement. She maintained that it wasn’t OK at that time, either, even if it wasn’t talked about. I said in his industry, it was absolutely OK. It was tacitly condoned, and I would bet overtly in some cases. In other words, there’s a reason Weinsten thought it would be fine to harass Paltrow and Jolie, and it’s from being steeped in the culture.
I saw statements from more than one male star claiming they had no idea and were horrified. (To be fair, I also saw a few female stars, including Meryl Streep, make the same claim, but it was way more men.) It was after I saw the statement by Benedict Cumberbatch that I snapped. I hasten to add it’s not because of Cumberbatch, and I really appreciated that he added the part about zero tolerance going forward, but I have to say, really? Really you had no inkling? Because shit like this is an open secret. So much so, Seth MacFarlane made a joke about it at the 2013 Oscars and everyone laughed. So much so, Jessica Chastain tweeted about how she’d been warned about Weinstein when she first got into the industry. Glenn Close released a statement in which she admitted she’d heard the rumors but dismissed them. She was frank about how toxic the industry is and that she’s angry.
I wrote a series of tweets to Hollywood dudes who want to know what they can do, but I think it can be used by men in general when they want to know how they can help dismantle the mindset behind systemic sexual violence.
To my famous Hollywood dudes asking what they could do: Be the kind of man that women feel comfortable sharing this information with.
Newt Gingrich: You are fascinated with sex, and you don’t care about public policy.
Megyn Kelly: Me, really?
Newt Gingrich: That’s what I get out of watching you tonight.
Megyn Kelly: You know what, Mr. Speaker? I’m not fascinated by sex, but I am fascinated by the protection of women and understanding what we’re getting in the Oval Office, and I think the American people would like to know…”
There’s a clip going around of Megyn Kelly and Newt Gingrich sparring over the sexual harassment accusations levied at Donald Trump. I saw it retweeted on my timeline several times, but I was hesitant to watch it for several reasons. One, I have a hard time watching people defend sexual harassment, and I was sure Gingrich was going to attempt to do that. Two, it’s Fox. I don’t watch Fox if i can possibly help it. Three, I loathe Gingrich for many reasons, some of which I’ll delve into later. In short, I didn’t think I’d be able to watch it with equanimity. What changed my mind? Seeing several people marvel at how Megyn Kelly handled Gingrich. I decided to watch it.
It went about as I expected, at least on Newt Gingrich’s side. He was pompous and patronizing, interrupting Kelly several times. When he couldn’t interrupt her, he simply talked over her. It’s something very common to dudes–talking over women and interrupting them, I mean. Side note: I did a simple study for my Gender and Psychology class in college in which I sat in on four classes. One was a male-dominated class (math). Two were neutral classes (can’t remember what they were), and one was my own Gender and Psychology class. In these classes, I didn’t say anything. I simply observed who interrupted whom and made a tally. The results were startling and depressing. Men interrupted men; men interrupted women; women interrupted women, but women never interrupted men. Even when the teacher was a woman (such as my Gender and Psychology class), they didn’t interrupt their male students. I expected to find that women rarely interrupted men, but never? That was a sobering discovery. Obviously, it’s a really rough sample and a crude study, but I would bet it’s not far off the mark. There have been legitimate studies on this subject, and it’s clear that men interrupt women more than they interrupt men. Women also interrupt women more than they do men. The jury is out as to the reason (including geographical difference in speech patterns, a play for dominance, and establishment of intimacy); indeed, it may be different reasons in different situations.
I’ve never been a joiner, and I don’t particularly care for groups. I find that no matter how liberal the group, there is a core mentality to which you have to adhere in order to be embraced. Otherwise, you’re tolerated at best, coldly snubbed at worst. As anyone who has interacted with me knows, I’m not a follower. I have a hard time with authority for various reasons, but mostly because I’m wary of a concentrated amount of power, no matter how just it might seem. In addition, we are all tribal at heart, whether we want to admit it or not, so the temptation to skew to the group norm is great. It’s not always a conscious thing, which makes it harder to recognize in yourself.
I’ve talked before about being a contrarian in part as a defense against falling into herd mentality. It’s partly because I tend to see things as multifaceted rather than as one thing or the other, which makes arguing on social media an exercise in frustration and futility. What I haven’t talked much about is how lonely it makes me feel a lot of the time. Despite my rather brash persona online and my prolific use of cuss words, I have a rather pathological need to please people. Or rather, not to offend people I care about and/or respect. Even when I disagree, I strive to find a way not to make it obvious that I’m doing so. It goes past trying to find common ground; I simply cannot tell someone I think they’re wrong without feeling overwhelmingly guilty. I’ll point out discrepancies or edge around the issue, but very rarely can I say, “I don’t agree.” I think there’s value in being polite or trying to see the other person’s point of view, but there is a limit. My way of dealing with issues in which I have a firm opinion is to not talk about it. For example, I am about as leftist as you can get on the topic of abortion. I think it should be legal all the time without question. Since I know I have no budge to give on the topic, I don’t discuss it with anti-choicers because there’s no point. I won’t change their mind, and they certainly will not change mine. Yes, I used to write about it ad nauseam, but that was just me preaching to the choir.