Sexual Violence in Hollywood

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Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood producer, cultural icon, and philanthropist, was fired from his own company on October 8 due to a bombardment of sexual assault allegations spanning decades. For years, Weinstein used his position of power to coerce vulnerable, often young women. He lured actresses, both aspiring and established, into hotel rooms alone and then demanded they perform acts, varying from massages to sex. If they refused, Weinstein told them that this was just part of the industry. He would threaten to end their careers, call them prudes, or even go as far as to offer them specific roles for sex. The stories that these women tell are chilling, including details of Weinstein chasing actresses Mira Sorvino and Katherine Kendall and model Zoe Brock around hotel rooms as they attempted to escape his advances. Many actresses endured these experiences and went on to work with Weinstein, starring in his movies and attending parties and awards ceremonies with him.

Weinstein’s behavior was enabled by his company. His own employees scheduled one-on-one meetings with these women, ushered them in, and then disappeared. Afterwards, they often encouraged distraught women to keep quiet. And if an employee felt compelled to speak out, they were silenced by non-disclosure agreements within their contracts, disallowing them from exposing the system of abuse. Women who sought legal action against Weinstein were also silenced by non-disclosure agreements and payouts. The working environment for female employees at Weinstein’s company was described as toxic, with a reporter for the New Yorker claiming that the company had a “serial problem” with the “mistreatment of women.”

These reports of assault and harassment, while considered an “open secret” of Hollywood for years, juxtapose Weinstein’s work in support of women. Weinstein backed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and donated money to create a position honoring feminist icon Gloria Steinem at Rutgers University. Perhaps most chillingly, it was his company that distributed “The Hunting Ground”, the 2015 documentary about sexual assault on college campuses.

There is no good in the three decades of sexual abuse and harassment of women perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein, and no good that can come of it. But the group of women who have accused Weinstein, numbering more than fifty, have shaken the status quo far past just Hollywood; their speaking out has been a watershed moment that has inspired dozens of other people, men and women alike, to speak out against other abusers in power. In the weeks since the New York Times first published accusations against Weinstein, at least twenty-six other men, ranging from celebrity chefs to comedians to US Senate candidates, have been accused of sexual misconduct and many are finally facing ramifications. Perhaps this watershed moment will force abusers to take responsibility for their abuse, take abusers out of power, and change the abusive environment of the American workforce which enables those with the power to prey on those without.

 

Sources

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/11/the-allegations-against-harvey-weinstein-what-we-know-so-far

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/us/gwyneth-paltrow-angelina-jolie-harvey-weinstein.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/us/harvey-weinstein-harassment-allegations.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/08/business/harvey-weinstein-fired.html

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/from-aggressive-overtures-to-sexual-assault-harvey-weinsteins-accusers-tell-their-stories

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/the-weinstein-effect-list-of-men-accused-of-sexual-misconduct/

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