As stomach-turning as the recent controversy surrounding disgraced Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein is, it is the reaction in the wake of the scandal which really makes your blood boil.
The damning allegations of rape and sexual assault have generally been accepted as a matter of fact. Indeed, this is something which was known about within the industry. To cite just a couple of the many examples: in a red carpet interview back in 2005, Courtney Love advised young girls not to accept any invitations from Harvey Weinstein to a private party at the Four Seasons. While presenting the 2013 Oscars, Seth McFarlane joked that nominated actresses ‘no longer had to pretend they were attracted to Harvey Weinstein.’
So why did no one listen? A toxic atmosphere of fear, combined with institutionalised sexism and nepotism surrounds those at the centre of these kind of cases. The claims against Bill Cosby ended in a mistrial, Jimmy Saville outlived any accusations, while other alleged sex offenders have ended up in the White House. No, not Clinton - I mean the climate change denying, neo Nazi-sympathising, chauvinist demagogue with the shit hair.
Sadly, sexual exploitation, rape and sexual assault are not limited to the media
In cases of similar nature, inaction from the law has proved costly and allowed countless people to be robbed of their dignity. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s decided not to prosecute Weinstein in 2015, and Vance has been forced to deny that months later, a $10, 000 donation to his re-election campaign- made by a lawyer of Weinstein’s- did not sway his thinking. This stinks of sleazy men who prop each other up with their enormous wealth and power.
Sadly, sexual exploitation, rape and sexual assault are not limited to the media. Silence on the part victims who have undergone through such an ordeal is understandable. The culture of silence, with the purpose of protecting the perpetrators, is unequivocally not. It is thanks to the bravery of all victims of sexual assault who speak out, that others can find the courage to come forward too; and it is thanks to those in complicit knowledge, whose voices remain mute, that such acts are allowed to continue. To quote Edmund Burke, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’.
The Harvey Weinstein allegations will have – unfortunately – not come as a surprise to many people when New York Times broke the story. The fact that a powerful Hollywood big name has been accused of sexually harassing women is nothing new. Woody Allen, Jared Leto, Casey Affleck, Donald Trump: all have been linked to sexual harassment claims, yet remain in their positions of power and influence.
Society’s willingness to look past women’s experiences with sexual abuse is a symptom of the patriarchy. It’s more likely men are defended – whether out of fear, loyalty, or just the refusal to believe a woman’s word – than for any help to be given to those who speak out.
The media is a male-dominated world in many aspects; particularly in film, with many of the largest production companies being headed by men. The Weinstein Company are responsible for creating Django Unchained, The King’s Speech and the Silver Linings Playbook – all very successful films, making the men in control a lot of money. With this money comes power, and seemingly the ability to get away with repeated sexual assault and rapes.
Society's willingness to look past women's experiences...is a symptom of patriarchy.
More than 40 women have spoken out about Weinstein, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. These are actresses of considerable fame and wealth who would arguably have a platform to share their experiences.
However, society has created a rape culture that expects silence and often punishes women brave enough to speak out, regardless of their status. Weinstein is simply indicative of a wider issue – men who feel they have the right to take whatever they want, and who don’t expect any consequences. Consequences must happen, and attitudes need to change around sexual assault. This must start in the media, which we are constantly surrounded by, if we ever want these stories to come to an end.