By Sophie Goodwin-Rice
To most, the name “Harvey Weinstein” meant movies. It meant A-list films, Academy Awards and cinematic magic, along with various showstoppers on Broadway. It invoked years of Hollywood success, accompanied with some advocacy and political support that only a powerful figure can give. Yet to those who worked alongside him, the name meant something else: a threat, a danger and an overwhelming need to stay quiet.
It wasn’t until early October, through an article published by The New York Times, that this side of Weinstein truly came to light. When it became public that Weinstein had spent decades harassing the women he had worked with, he was fired from his own production company and removed from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In just a few short weeks, his name has gone from inspirational to disgraced, and has joined the ranks of powerful sexual predators such as Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly. People are quick to show their anger and disgust, but only after years of harm and predation. Why did it take the world so long to realize what was happening?
“If Harvey were to discover my identity, I’m worried he could ruin my life,” an anonymous victim told a journalist from The New Yorker a few weeks ago. Looking at the accounts given by women since the initial allegations were made, one thing is clear: as a powerful man in a powerful business, Weinstein had the power to destroy women and their careers, and he used that threat as effectively as he could. In an industry that brings in billions of dollars and houses some of the world’s most influential people, this abuse of power goes almost unnoticed, often paid off or simply ignored. It makes one wonder just how bad things have to get before real action is taken.
Apparently, much worse. If you’re experiencing deja vu, it’s because a year ago, a tape was leaked with Donald Trump’s recorded voice saying, “when you’re a star, they let you do it.” The tape was enough to spark outrage, but not enough to stop Trump from taking office only a few months later, and becoming one of the most powerful people in the world.
The list doesn’t stop with Trump: former president Bill Clinton has had multiple allegations made against him, and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes resigned from his position in 2016 amidst lawsuits. Yet these allegations weren’t the first against any of the men. Weinstein has been the subject of much speculation regarding harassment for years, though often passed off as a joke at awards shows and among executives. Clinton’s past has been widely ignored and forgotten by the American public. Suggestions that Ailes had harassed women throughout his career were dismissed as false rumors before the lawsuit was filed. Abuse of power in industries such as Hollywood, or places like the White House, aren’t specific to any one political party or belief system. It’s almost as if money and power earn figures a free pass, and the ability to do what they want because they know they’ll be protected.
Hopefully, though, Harvey Weinstein will be different. The worst thing that can happen in the aftermath of a sexual assault exposure is for the public to cease caring. Once it fades into the background, and once the list becomes so long that harassment seems to be “normal,” it opens the doors for it to happen again. Rather than blaming women for not coming forward sooner, we should focus on making sure that they no longer have a reason to, and that their job security can be based on something more than just willingness to comply with power trips. As long as the name “Harvey Weinstein” continues to remind people of more than just the movies, we can focus on eradicating the abuse of power and the rape culture that surrounds it.