How Rape Culture Made Harvey Weinstein …

… And Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and all the other predators employed by Hollywood.
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An in-depth investigation by the New York Times published yesterday reveals that Harvey Weinstein, the larger-than-life liberal chief of the Weinstein Company and Miramax, hero of independent film, Hillary Clinton supporter, former boss to Malia Obama, is, in fact, a sexual predator.

The Times report reveals that over the course of three decades—during which time he collected armloads of Oscars for producing films such as Shakespeare In Love, Gangs of New York, The English Patient, and Chicago—Weinstein regularly lured actresses and young, female assistants to hotel rooms, greeted them in a bathrobe, sometimes took it off, and coerced many of them to give him a massage, or watch him shower. At least eight financial settlements have been confirmed, all of which required the recipients to sign non-disclosure agreements, legally preventing them from ever talking about the details of their interactions with Weinstein. Ashley Judd, who did not receive a settlement, but claims Weinstein harassed her, told the Times, “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”

This news is shocking too, at most, exactly half the population—the male half. Women have been living with predatory, entitled men their entire lives. For the first time in history, women now lead men in college completion. Close to half of working mothers are the sole or dominant breadwinners to their households. And, yes, we almost had a female president. And yet, women still make 72 to 77 cents on every man’s dollar, and women of color make even less. Women make up only 5 percent of CEOs globally, and in the U.S. exactly zero African-American women sit in the C-suite.

Women are also constantly under surveillance by men—whether being harassed on the street or pressured by employers for pumping breast milk at work—and always at risk of violence. One in six women has been the victim of sexual assault. More than half of all female homicide victims were killed by intimate partners, most of whom are repeat offenders. Most sexual harassment claims are settled out of court, often keeping the perpetrators’ names off the record. And those are just the accounts that were reported in the first place.

Weinstein, who has taken a leave of absence from his company, released a statement saying, “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”

First of all, he called these women his “colleagues,” which they were not. Every one of them was in a position of inferiority to him. They worked at his company or hoped to star in one of his films. This power structure all but guarantees that women will be at his behest. If they wish to advance, or even get face time with the man in charge, they will be forced to do so by his rules. It’s a male-supremacist model that rewards “merit” and “talent,” but requires very little regulation as to who is granted access to opportunities for advancement.

Weinstein also makes all of his employees sign contracts that they will not criticize the company, or its leadership, setting up a pretty sweet deal for himself to take advantage of that silence. When men in power are given the keys to the kingdom and allowed to make the rules—including immunity from consequences—it sustains a culture where sexual harassment and assault are all but guaranteed. And victims are shouldered with the burden of proof.

Weinstein, in his first interview since the Times exposé broke, railed against the newspaper, promising to sue for $50 million, whining about not having enough time to review and respond to the paper's reporting, calling its six months of sourced accounts "reckless." He insisted that everything's cool between he and actress Rose McGowan, who reportedly settled a harassment case against Weinstein in 1997. McGowan begs to differ, tweeting, "Anyone who does business with __ is complicit. And deep down you know you are even dirtier. Cleanse yourselves." Weinstein also took the time to insult Judd—"I know Ashley Judd is going through a tough time right now, I read her book [her memoir, All That Is Bitter and Sweet], in which she talks about being the victim of sexual abuse and depression as a child. Her life story was brutal, and I have to respecte her. In a year from now, I am going to reach out to her" — implying that her past abuse caused her to lie about the trauma he caused her. 

Critics will assuredly come out of the woodwork to berate women accusing Weinstein for not coming forward sooner, or condemn those who chose to settle rather than speak up. Conservative chauvinists on slime collective 4Chan, Reddit, and even Facebook will argue that, yeah, sure, women are harassed, but that's just the price of competing for "men's jobs." These women should be thankful and humble for even gettnig a seat at the table, or more realistically, merely entrance to a room that contains a man. The women will be called liars, opportunists, and whores. If their identities are revealed, they will be picked apart, judged, and then forgotten as the news cycle moves on to Trump's next tweet.

Hollywood will make more Weinstein movies, just as it has continued to employ and honor predators such as Woody Allen, Charlie Sheen, Sean Connery, and Roman Polanski—who was accused of raping another woman this week, and the news was met with a shrug. The only reason Bill Cosby isn’t still headlining multimillion-dollar speaking tours and endorsing children’s snack products is because the media finally paid attention to the claims of rape and assault against him, accusations that have been public since 2005.

Hollywood seems to forget how these men—and many more like them, still comfortably benefitting from a chauvinist society that silences women and celebrates male dominance—have systematically treated women over the years. They are objects, possessions, or simply insignificant. But these women, whether they chose to come forward, or are forced, guilted, or threatened into silence, will never forget.

Neither should we.

 

Heather Wood Rudúlph is a feminist author and journalist who writes about women, culture, and global issues that matter. She's the co-author of "Sexy Feminism: A Girl’s Guide to Love, Success, and Style," and an adjunct professor of journalism and media literacy at American River College in Sacramento. Follow her on Twitter @hwrudulph