Written by Annie Wilson
Illustration by Sapphire Ink
TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual abuse and rape
On October 5th 2017, the reputation of Hollywood juggernaut, Harvey Weinstein, metamorphosed. Several women came forward en masse and on record, exposing the movie producer as a sexual predator.
The New York Times reported that many women had accused Weinstein for rape and sexual misconduct. This had been going on for over 3 decades.
His career rocketed by starting the film production company, Miramax, with his brother. They would schmooze with Academy members and become frontrunners for Oscar nominations. The Weinstein brothers had found success and fame, would host parties and rub shoulders with A-list celebrities.
After the story broke, like many abuse survivors, the women were questioned by the public. Why now? Why not when it happened? If you’re telling the truth, then why so many years later?
This is a typical patriarchal response to such an accusation. We blindly trust and give the man more chances to explain himself than the woman. There is no immediate character break down of the accused but instead, a fear for his reputation.
An interesting fear to have for only one individual within this story. If we look at the fear people have for the man’s reputation as a result for a rape claim, we can find the very reason that led the man to committing the act: power.
For decades Weinstein had been holding such a strong power over the narrative. His presence would leave his peers intimidated by his power.
Within the BBC documentary, ‘Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein’, former colleagues and peers say that “he would scare people in the same way a gangster would” and a “monster you wouldn’t want to cross”.
He had contacts, wealth and an influence on the press. At a party, Weinstein verbally and physically abused a reporter shouting, “I’M GLAD I’M THE FUCKING SHERRIF OF THIS SHIT ASS FUCKING TOWN”. He punched him in the head in front of photographers but a photo was never published. When he told his own editor, he said that “Harvey was Russia, don’t report this story”.
It was this form of ‘untouchable’ power and wealth that stifled his victims. Harvey had his own legal team paying large silencing settlements to any woman who had come forward.
Although colleagues heard rumours, the culture of Hollywood would fill in the gaps, having everyone believe that these were only actresses trying to get a better role.
Once the story broke, Harvey Weinstein is now a household name for different reasons. However, he is a microcosm to a global problem which haunts all industries, workplaces, families and neighbourhoods.
The reality is that power is not just reflected in fame, contacts and monetary wealth. It sits in social currency through predetermined societal hierarchies. Gender, race and class all play a large part in the social power we gain. However, it’s how we use that social power over others which decides the shape of our character and the lives we affect.
When all bodily autonomy is ripped from us, we lose everything. Hope D’Amore, one of Harvey’s victims, eloquently said, “it steals something”.
As a woman, in most environments, we put our trust into others to play nicely. We conversationally tip toe when we feel uncomfortable, we have well practiced survival instincts. Fight, flight, appease, freeze.
Within the BBC documentary, Paz De La Huerta says she was intimidated by Weinstein’s power. She stated that rapes don’t occur like you think they would.
You don’t end up clawing and scratching and fighting and screaming. For many, “you’re too afraid to say no” (Paz De La Huerta), you’re worried that “leaving will make it worse”, they tell themselves that “if they stand still then maybe it’ll all go away and they’ll just disappear” (Erika Rosenbaum) and they’ll “cut it out of themselves somehow” (Caitlin Dulany). But this lack of struggle doesn’t mean we’re saying yes.
When this story broke, so did an online viral movement. The hashtag ‘me too’ sparked important social dialogues about sexual misconduct. Hundreds of thousands of tweets, videos and social media posts claimed “#metoo, this sounds like my story”.
This movement was not only moving, but eye opening and a reassuring step forward. However, were still living within a climate where women feel afraid to say “no”.
We need to work harder to dismantle this social language, to respect and believe women. We give power to men when we fear for their reputation first.
It’s about altering the system, creating safer spaces for women to come forward and holding these predators accountable. It’s about not abusing the social power we’re given and being conscious human beings. It’s about holding powerful people to the same justice system we all answer to.
Currently, in 2019, Weinstein is still a working man but awaiting trial. The results of which we’ll learn how ‘untouchable’ power can really be.
Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous