Underneath my yellow skin

The Unbearable Lightness of Believing Your Own Hype

This weekend, the news that movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, is a serial sexual harasser broke with more disturbing details being revealed on a seemingly minute-by-minute basis. As I was reading an article about it, I was caught by surprise when I read that he had hired Lisa Bloom as one of his attorneys. Lisa Bloom is a lawyer who rose to Twitter fame roughly around the time of the start of the BLM because of her wokeness* on the issue. I saw her being constantly retweeted, checked out her tweets, and followed her. She was a champion of feminist causes, including standing up for victims of sexual abuse, and I was ready to roar alongside her.

Fast-forward several months, and I noticed that she was beginning to believe her own hype. I don’t know how to explain it clearly, but the tone of her tweets changed. They became more about her and less about the people/causes she was championing. It’s hard to give a quantitative response as to how bad it was, but it was enough to cause me to unfollow. I stopped paying attention to her, but I still saw her RT’ed on occasion. In my mind, she was a feminist lawyer who cared passionately about racial discrimination and victims of sexual abuse. I was glad she was out there fighting the good fight, even if I no longer wanted to read about her exploits on Twitter.

You can imagine my surprise and dismay, then, when I read that Weinstein had retained her. I was disappointed because it gave him a shield for his behavior, but I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to think that maybe she actually believed he could learn and change, but statements about him being a dinosaur from a different age and minimizing his behavior (saying he didn’t know how his behavior could be seen as inappropriate if not intimidating) really disappointed me. In addition, her refusal to call it sexual harassment and calling some of the women liars…yeah, I wasn’t pleased at all. In addition, everything Weinstein said in his statement screamed spin control to me. Saying he grew up in an era when it was Just The Way Things Are? Check. (I saw a tweet pointing out that this dinosaur was hep enough to name-check Jay-Z, which is also a good point.) Saying he knows he has to do better? Check. Tossing in the bit about the money he’s giving to women in film? Check, check, check. Pandering to his base (bigwig Dems with deep pockets) by saying he’s going after the NRA? Check. The one part that was weird and really offensive to me was the bit about him trying to change this for the last ten years and not being able to. If that’s the case, it makes it worse. He was aware that he had a problem but simply couldn’t help assaulting young, vulnerable women around him? He should be locked up then until he can keep his grubby paws to himself.

I didn’t see real remorse on his part, but this post really isn’t about him. I will probably do that post in the near future, outlining what is wrong with a society that codifies this kind of behavior in powerful men–he’s been doing this for decades without any serious ramification–but that’s not what this post is about. Quick side note: Republicans need to STFU about this. They sanctioned Roger Ailes and look at who they elected president. Weinstein is scum, but at least many Democrats are coming out and saying this. They need to clean their own goddamn house first before crowing over this.

Back to my point, and I do have one.

As I said, I tried to give Bloom the benefit of the doubt, but the more that was revealed about her tactics, the more incensed I got. Yes, she’s a lawyer. Yes, Weinstein deserves representation. This isn’t about that. It’s about Bloom going against her own stated principles for…what? Fame? Money? A TV series based on her book about Trayvon Martin (which is in itself problematic)? The more this story unraveled, the clearer it became that Bloom wasn’t doing this as a way to reeducate Weinstein. She advised using pictures of the victims with Weinstein after the events were supposed to have occurred in which the victims look happy. She was taken to task by Weinstein’s brother (and co-owner of their company) plus another board member for suggesting this because it would look bad on them to shame the victim (by the other board member) and because it glosses over the actual problem of Weinstein’s gross behavior (by the brother). That’s when any respect I had for Bloom shriveled up and died. It’s one thing to want to help Weinstein see the error of his ways (which was her stated reason for taking on the case); it’s quite another to use blame-the-victim tactics which she had said time and time again was not cool (in other cases).

I commented that I’m more disappointed in her than if it were, say, Alan Dershowitz, acting like this because I expect more from her. Not just because she’s a woman,** but because she’s built her social media representation on the idea that she’s an uber-feminist who believes women. No victim-blaming! No shaming! Until she’s getting paid a fat and hefty paycheck to do just that. It reminds me of Bill Clinton, actually, and how many liberals were eager to tie themselves in knots over how he wasn’t really a sexual harasser and how Monica Lewinksi was really to blame. It’s the age old ‘believe women until it’s a man you like’, which is really fucking depressing.

I’m a cynical person. I know the terrible things we can do to each other as human beings. I am rarely disappointed in people because I know that anybody under certain circumstances can do things that go against what they believe. For whatever reason, though, this Bloom thing has shaken me a bit. Not in a ‘what is real in this universe’ kind of way, but in a ‘goddamn it, why does everyone have a price’ kind of way. For all my difficulties with Bloom that caused me to stop following her, I never doubted that she was sincere in her work on the behalf of sexual abuse victims. To see her toss a lighted match to her reputation without so much as a break in her stride is depressing. It’s a stark reminder that no one is above corruption, and I didn’t need that slap in the face right now.

If she had done this because she believed, however misguidedly, that she could be a positive influence on Weinstein (while getting paid handsomely for it), I would have understood. I still wouldn’t have agreed that it was a wise decision, but I could see it. Theoretically, how is someone going to learn without guidance from others? Yeah, Weinstein should know on his own that sexually harassing women isn’t cool, but he’s in a culture steeped with covert cover for this kind of behavior, if not outright approval of it. Let’s remember when the term ‘casting couch’ is used, it’s aimed as derogation towards the person (usually a woman) who employs it to become a star. It is NOT used as a condemnation of the person employing the method on said woman.

I’m angry because someone in Bloom’s position could have used her powers for good. She could have been frank with Weinstein, but instead, she started spinning like a pinwheel. Instead of telling him to change his behavior and take a good hard fucking look in the mirror, she told him how it comes across as inappropriate and maybe even intimidating. You might argue that she was correcting his behavior with those comments, but I think the phrase ‘come across as’ removes responsibility from him. Or, rather, it gives him an implied excuse. “Hey, you might not have meant it that way, but it looks like….” No. Blocking someone’s ability to exit a situation after you force yourself on them is not a question of coming across as intimidating–it *is* intimidating.

I know there are people who are saying, “Hey, Minna. She’s his lawyer. What do you expect her to do?” Remember that both Weinstein’s brother and another board member blasted her for her handling of the case, leading to her resignation, and they both explicitly stated that they were unhappy with her decision to minimize Weinstein’s behavior and her desire to blame the victim. I could give a quick primer on how it’s not weird that the women he assaulted (alleged, of course, for legal purposes) worked with him again or were even smiling in pictures with him, but she fucking knows that. She’s argued the other side many times.

I’m trying to let it go, but it really bothers me that she trashed her reputation for, what, exactly? The chance to become famous and rich(er)? The chance to have a her book made into a TV series starring Kevin Costner? The chance to go on all the bobble-head talk shows to justify what she’s done? The sad thing is, I don’t think she even knows that she did something that goes against everything she’s espoused for at least the time I’ve known her on Twitter. We humans are exceptionally good at rationalizing our bad behavior and justifying it to ourselves. In addition, this probably won’t hurt her legal career all that much, so the chance of self-reflection is nil. It’s all just too fucking depressing for me.




*Said with tongue firmly in cheek.

**It’s fucked up, I know. But I hate it when a prominent minority fucks up like this. It’s not so much a representational thing, like I know all minorities are not good people, but it just makes me mad. I own that it’s not a completely rational response.

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