After decades of using his executive position to sexually harass and assault women, Harvey Weinstein is now swiftly cast out from the Hollywood garden of Eden he helped to create. For a man who was at the top of his industry, this grotesque-incarceration-of sexual-predation-made-flesh is now a disgraced, unemployed and universally condemned pariah.
Yet, we’re coming to see that Harvey isn’t the only morally corrupt professional in this situation. Celebrities and former staff alike have come forward to confirm that not only was Harvey’s despicable behaviour accepted, it was enabled by his friends and teammates. The most noteworthy including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Quentin Tarantino, all of whom admitted that they were well aware of how he treated these women and that they took no action to put an end to it. Likewise, prior assistants confessed that they lied to women, often claiming that Harvey would be meeting them in public or with a large group, only to show up and be corned alone with this predator like a fly trapped in a spider’s web.
Now is about the time we begin discussing the fact that this is a widespread systemic problem. That this type of lewd behaviour, unacceptable as we all say it is, is a commonplace occurrence that thrives in the Hollywood hills but is found in each and every industry.
We already had a detailed version of this conversation last year, with Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape. He’s the President of the United States now. In fact, if it wasn’t for The New York Times making his behaviour an issue, Harvey Weinstein would still be producing movies and getting patted on the back by every executive in the film industry.
So what should we do?
First and foremost, we need to keep encouraging the survivors of these assaults to come forward with their experiences. While a number of Harvey’s victims disclosed his barbarous behaviour prior to this expose, most of these accounts were not taken seriously, if not outright dismissed. As the evidence stacked up against him all at once – even the most reluctant survivors, like Lena Headey and Lupita Nyong’o – this proves that when it comes to taking down these behemoths of influence, our game plan needs to be founded on some old-age wisdom: There is strength in numbers.
Yet, before we can demand any work on the part of the survivors, we all need to be actively address how we think of sexual harassment and why it matters.
Though the #MeToo campaign that blew up on social media is raising awareness of how commonplace sexual harassment is, it’s by no means a sustainable solution. For one thing, women shouldn’t have to publicly relive their trauma in order for you to believe them. What’s more, no matter how many times we go through this, men are persistently still shocked, literally amazed, at the fact that sexual violence is happening and by men they know or even like.
So that’s where we start.
Believe women and men when they tell you they’re being harassed. Always. Let’s be clear here: Every single woman at one point or another has been in an uncomfortable situation where someone made unwanted sexually aggressive advances to her. According to the Everyday Sexism Project, 2/3 of women aged 18-24 are harassed just at work – an environment that should by definition be professional above all else. Not to mention that for those who spoke out against their aggressor, 16% said coming forward made it worse.
Know that just sharing this experience is already frightening and embarrassing. It causes survivors to feel vulnerable all over again, and by dismissing their claims you basically ensure that they will never tell anyone again or take any serious action against their abuser. By doubting these survivors’ stories or demanding evidence (you’re not the police), you actively help guys like Harvey. To bring them down we need to be creating supportive trusting networks where the victims of these assaults feel safe enough to come forward. Paul Feig, the director of Bridesmaids, suggested creating an anonymous hotline for victims of harassment to report their abusers while ensuring that they won’t be personally attacked again for it.
Now, if you’re a man you get extra homework. You know, just to even things out a bit. What the most important action you need to take is to intervene if you think sexual harassment is happening to someone you know. Especially at work. If you’re not sure. then you’re not off the hook – just gently ask her or him. Guys like Harvey love men that look away.
Remember when the Jian Ghomeshi allegations came out? His male co-workers eventually broke the bro-code and came forward to back up the victims by testifying that they witnessed his brutish behaviour firsthand. However, they had a much more difficult time trying to explain why they didn’t get involved, or even warn others, once they knew.
Still, before you drop into utter despair, recognize that what Harvey’s scandal does give us is some momentum to work with. Since his downfall on October 5th, over twenty powerful executive men have been accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour. This ongoing list includes former President George W.H. Bush, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Ed Westwick, Louis C.K., James Toback, Roy Price, Terry Richardson and Ben Affleck. These are men who thought their positions made them so untouchable that they could forcibly touch anyone else.
The monsters in the shadows that we haven’t caught yet are starting to realize that when one person comes forward it’s easier for others to come forward as well. For once they’re the ones that are scared. Now more than ever, we need to keep working together, supporting those who speak out, believing them, fighting for them, pushing for laws that protect them – to make sure their perpetrators never feel safe behaving that way again. The truth is that the only way we’re going to make things better is by not looking away and using our collective voices to push these fiends off the pedestal they don’t deserve. No matter how high that may be.