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.
— Mean-a bwahahaHong (@asiangrrlMN) October 10, 2017
I’m not going to lie. It’s not easy being the guy who puts the kibosh on this kind of behavior. You’re going to be ol’ Joe-stick-in-the-mud, and at first, your friends probably will make a big deal of it. Quick analogy: I don’t drink. I used to drink very rarely, but now, I don’t drink at all. It’s not that big a deal, but sometimes, someone will make a fuss and because drinking is so endemic in our society, I’m the one who looks like a freak. I’ve had people get angry I don’t drink because they’re sure I’m judging them for drinking. Or, they don’t feel comfortable drinking if I’m not. It’s the same when I used to say I don’t want children. I had people angry because they were sure I was judging them for their decision to have children. I had people insist that I’d want them some day. I had people endlessly questioning whyyyyyyyyyyy. It’s not exactly the same thing, but any time you push back on the norm, people are going to feel threatened. And, when it’s something that is a hotbed of messy emotions such as sex and power, well, yeah. Batten down the hatches.
Here’s the thing, though. Decent dudes will at least listen to what you say even if they don’t agree, and they will respect that you don’t want to be part of that culture. Less-than-decent dudes, well, you don’t really want to be friends with someone who wants to coerce women into having sex with them, anyway, right? RIGHT?!? And, also remember that as hard as it is for you to have these kinds of conversations, it’s much harder to be on the receiving end of that kind of unwanted attention. In addition, if you remain friends with someone like this, you are tacitly giving that person your stamp of approval, which signifies to women that he’s safe. You *really* do not want to be a part of that–trust.
There’s a theory I ran into on Captain Awkward’s website, and she got it from pervocracy.com. It’s called the missing stair theory, and really simplified, it means when a group of friends all know something really negative about someone, but they work around it because they’d rather keep harmony than bring it up. It usually comes into sharp relief when a new person comes into the group, points out the person’s problem, and everyone’s like, “Oh, that’s just Chad.” Many problems ensue because of this accommodation, and it would be easier just to simply fix the damn stair. Sadly, this is how it often works with creepers/predators. Their friends know he’s creepy, but they make excuses that he’s socially awkward or clueless. Or, in Weinstein’s case, the excuse is that he couldn’t help himself. I pushed back hard on all this bullshit because Weinstein didn’t assault any women in front of anyone. He had assistants who rented hotel rooms for him specifically for these purposes. He knew it was wrong, and he only targeted vulnerable women who would be hesitant to speak out. In the case of socially clueless, in most cases, it’s a no as well. Again, the person isn’t doing it to everyone–just to one person of choice.
We put so much energy into excusing the behavior of predators while being hyper-focused on what a woman (usually. Men can be victims, too, and I’ll get to that in a second) should do to avoid unwanted attention. Instead of fixing the missing stair, we find ways to contort ourselves around it. How much easier in general society to say to the asshole, “Back the fuck off. Now.” In the case of Weinstein, it’s trickier because he is such a powerful man. It’s hard to not notice the fact that it’s only after his power has started to slide that this is all coming out. At the apex of his power, this never would have been a story. Or rather, it would have been a hushed-up story, as it has been.
People like to say what victims should or shouldn’t do before the incident happens/during it/and afterwards. It’s depressing, but predictable, that a litany of behaviors are listed after these kind of stories are released. One thing that happened yesterday that puts all the shoulds into a harsh light is that Terry Crews tweeted about a situation that happened to him in which he was at a gala, and a director grabbed his crotch. Here’s the first tweet:
This whole thing with Harvey Weinstein is giving me PTSD. Why? Because this kind of thing happened to ME. (1/Cont.)
— terrycrews (@terrycrews) October 10, 2017
Here are the rest as he didn’t thread them, so the easiest way is to see his whole TL. He’s a well-known, muscular black man, and he felt powerless to say anything, in part because he knew how it would look if a 6’4″ black man stomped the shit out of an (probably) older white man. I saw the initial tweet being RT’ed, and blinked when I saw the name. I love Terry Crews for his infectious enthusiasm, and it was hard to reconcile that with the story he was telling. The thing is, though, if even HE felt he couldn’t do anything about it, if even Jolie and Paltrow felt they couldn’t do anything about it, then think of the poor unknown who feels she has to comply or never work again.
By the way, Paltrow told Brad Pitt whom she was dating at the time, and he went to confront Weinstein. Good for him. We need more of this. Sadly, it made Weinstein angry, and he threatened retaliation against Paltrow. But, the instinct is good, and I wish more people would have said or done something. I’m not saying the victims or their loved ones (but good on Pitt for standing up for her), but the board? Weinstein’s brother? They knew. On some level, they knew. There’s rumors that Weinstein’s brother leaked the news to the press because he wanted to distance the company from Harvey, and if that’s the case, then he knew something was going on.
I have more to say, but I’m done with it for now. As I said on Twitter, I may be all fire and brimstone about it, but what I am, mostly, is tired and heartsick.