Good Men, What Are You Doing About the Harvey Weinstein in Your Life?

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Today, the New York Times published an article titled, “Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Others Say Weinstein Harassed Them.” The New Yorker has a similar piece, detailing decades of abuse and assault. There’s so much to be said here.

Both articles are full of stories of women who never reported Weinstein’s abuse out of fear of retaliation. One woman told the New Yorker:

[S]he said that Weinstein brought her to a hotel room under a professional pretext, changed into a bathrobe, and “forced himself on me sexually.” She said no, repeatedly and clearly. Afterward, she experienced “horror, disbelief, and shame,” and considered going to the police. “I thought it would be a ‘He said, she said,’ and I thought about how impressive his legal team is, and I thought about how much I would lose, and I decided to just move forward,” she said.

She wasn’t wrong. That is what happens to women who accuse powerful men of rape. Look at how the public treated the women who accused Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Donald Trump.

And that is in fact what happened to several women who tried to report Weinstein. Rosanna Arquette lost roles because she had refused his advances. Ambra Battilana Gutierrez reported her assault to the NYPD Special Victims Division, then wore a wire and obtained a confession from Weinstein. But the DA’s office ultimately declined the case after the press started running stories about the victim’s sexual history. Then Weinstein’s legal team — in what was apparently their signature move — pressured her to sign a non-disclosure agreement and an affidavit recanting her account of what happened. In the past few months, Weinstein and his legal team started contacting victims to discourage them from talking to the press.

All of the women reported feeling shame and guilt for not coming forward, for not fighting hard enough, for not acting like the perfect victim is supposed to act.

These are some of the most famous, wealthy, and powerful women in the world, and they didn’t come forward publicly because they were ashamed and afraid. If that’s what it’s like for them, just imagine what it’s like for the rest of us.

Let these stories stand forever as the answer to the (evil, victim-blaming) question, “why don’t women report abuse?”

Instead, women warned each other about him. They told their friends, mothers, colleagues and boyfriends. Angelina Jolie said that after a “bad experience” with Weinstein in her youth, she “chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did.”

This is what women usually do when we can’t go public. We have all been pulled aside at a party or work event by a female friend or colleague and told, “watch out for that one.” We’ve all delivered such warnings ourselves.

Ask your female friends — they’ll tell you. This is how we try to protect each other from predatory men.

One thing that leaps off the page in these articles is the fact that it was never really a secret that this man is a predator. Everyone knew what he was and what he was doing. Emma de Caunes told the New Yorker:

“I know that everybody — I mean everybody — in Hollywood knows that it’s happening. He’s not even really hiding. I mean, the way he does it, so many people are involved and see what’s happening. But everyone’s too scared to say anything.”

“Current and former Weinstein employees described a pattern of meetings and strained complicity that closely matches the accounts of the many women” interviewed by the New Yorker. Reports were made to human resources. The New York Times reported that Weinstein “had an elaborate system reliant on the cooperation of others: Assistants often booked the meetings, arranged the hotel rooms and sometimes even delivered the talent, then disappeared, the actresses and employees recounted. They described how some of Mr. Weinstein’s executives and assistants then found them agents and jobs or hushed actresses who were upset.”

Everyone. Knew.

As the New York Times reported, when Seth MacFarlane announced Oscar nominees in 2013, he joked, “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.” The audience laughed. Everyone laughed.

And even now, powerful people are defending him by attacking his victims, saying they were asking for it. Look at Donna Karan. Look at the comments section on the New York Times article.

The question we should really be asking isn’t “why don’t women report sexual abuse.” We know why women usually don’t report men like Weinstein to the police, and we know what happens to them when they do. Let’s stop pretending it’s a mystery and start asking the right questions.

The real question is, why don’t men take action when they know what other men are doing? And why don’t institutions take action? The board of the Weinstein Company’s fired Harvey Weinstein this week, but why didn’t they fire him when they received Lauren O’Connor’s memo? Why didn’t they fire him when the NYPD was investigating him for sexual assault? Why didn’t they fire him when Emily Nestor reported his sexual harassment to human resources?

Dozens of people and institutions knew about Harvey Weinstein, and they covered for him or at least kept silent, and he got away with it for decades.

Brad Pitt confirmed to the New York Times that he approached Weinstein and told him never to touch Gwyneth Paltrow again. Irwin Reiter confronted Weinstein within the company and reached out to Emily Nestor sympathetically. Why were they the only ones? Why did it end there?

Draw your own conclusions as to why, but this is unacceptable. It’s also the way the world has always worked. Everyone knows, but no one acts.

Good men of the world, let this be your wake-up call.

Men like Harvey Weinstein are able to do what they do because of the tacit consent of all the good men who know them.

I guarantee there is a Harvey Weinstein in your life. At least one. There is a guy in your office who leans too close to the secretaries, who leers and jokes about women’s bodies when they’re not in the room. There’s a male boss your female colleagues avoid being alone with. There’s the friend who drinks too much and gets all handsy with women in bars, and the one who complains all the time about women who won’t sleep with him. You know men who objectify women, men who discriminate against women, men who attack women, men who hate women.

Don’t turn away so as not to see what they’re up to.

Don’t make excuses for them.

Don’t abide by the bro code that says their behavior is none of your business.

No, #NotAllMen abuse women, but many do. Many more disapprove but say nothing. It’s hard to speak up, but look at the consequences when good men stay silent. Don’t wait to read your name in the New York Times twenty years from now as part of the “everybody” who knew but did nothing.

You want to keep thinking of yourself as a good man? Then be the one who blows the whistle — not the one who looks the other way.
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