CW: Harvey Weinstein, sexual assault
It has been just over a month since the New York Times published a story chalked with accusations of sexual assault and harassment regarding Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Now over 93 women including Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Lupita Nyong’o and Cara Delavigne have come forward with stories of sexual assault and harassment committed by Weinstein. Men in high positions exploiting women in the workplace through manipulation is not news, especially to women. The Weinstein case has gathered a slew of media attention and has seemingly provoked a negative response from the public. The solidarity in response to Weinstein has prompted women and men in Hollywood and beyond to speak out against Weinstein and the rampant sexual assault they have endured. At last, Hollywood’s “how to get away with sexual assault” saga has come to a screeching halt as a revolution begins to unfold. These experiences are not exclusive to Hollywood, the misogyny and systemic oppression women experience is widespread and powerful. Older white men often yield too much power and women are far too often treated as commodities instead of as humans. Women continue to be belittled in the workplace seemingly preventing them from breaking through the glass ceiling. This, in turn, allows men to maintain powerful positions allowing the cycle of power and misogyny to continue.
The Academy of Motion Pictures voted to dismiss Harvey Weinstein amid the allegations. The seemingly good news poses a dilemma: What about the rest of them? Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski and Stephan Collins. Roman Polanski pled guilty to sexual intercourse with a minor then fled the country. Stephan Collins admitting to having sex with minors and Bill Cosby has been accused of sexual assault of 50 women. Furthermore, Casey Affleck settled claims out of court for two sexual harassment claims against him in 2010 after two women who worked with Affleck on the set of “I’m Still here” accused him of sexual assault. One claimed that he crawled into her bed while she was sleeping and the other alleged that he pressured her to stay in his hotel room where he violently grabbed her arm when she declined. Affleck then won an Oscar in 2010. Men facing consequences for sexual assault allegations is nearly unprecedented in Hollywood. This is what makes the Weinstein story so important. It makes the beginning of a time where men are to be held accountable and women are to be heard and believed. Undoubtedly Weinstein should not have been the first man dismissed from the Academy based on allegations of abuses of power involving sexual misconduct, Weinstein’s name belongs smack dab in the middle of a very long list.
For decades women have been sharing stories of sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry but are very rarely believed or supported. Judy Garland, Shirley Temple and Marilyn Monroe have all come out with stories about sexual assault and harassment but no story seemed to have received the same amount of attention and support as this one. Women who face abuse are often trapped in a lose-lose dilemma. They are shamed when they are silent and shamed when they speak up. The truth is, it can be very damaging for women to speak out. Many perpetrators threaten victims in order to keep the assault a secret. Patricia Arquette revealed that when she denied Weinstein’s advances Weinstein threatened her career. Dawn Dunning said that when she denied Weinstein’s advances he said, “You’ll never make it in this business. This is how the business works.” Heather Graham wrote in Variety that Weinstein implied that she had to sleep with him for a film role. These are attempts to coerce and manipulate women into sexual acts by yielding power over them.
The response to Weinstein has been overwhelmingly positive in a lot of aspects but this does not erase the history of exploitation of power, abuse and oppression that women have endured. This doesn’t mean that the battle is over; we still have a long way to go. It is rare to see a powerful man face consequences for their actions, but it shouldn’t be. Men being held accountable for their actions must become the norm in order for change to occur. The condemnation of Harvey Weinstein has created an open dialogue about sexual assault at the forefront of the media about the importance of consent. However, the issues of sexual assault in the workplace run much deeper and require systemic reform of workplaces and institutions that favour acute power imbalances. Until there is more gender equality in the workplace, the workplace will remain unsafe for women and men.
By Emily Colero
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.