Harvey Weinstein: A Symbolic Sacrifice Or The End Of A Protected Class?
At first, it was oddly invigorating to see Harvey Weinstein revealed as a sexual predator who thought he was immune from consequences. As time goes by though, I'm beginning to wonder if he's not being used as a sacrificial lamb, suffering for the sins of our misogynist culture.
Of course, he's a monster. No one can quantify the lives he's ruined or the trauma he's inflicted. The ripples around his behavior have become a vortex, sucking in and implicating dozens of enablers, not to mention victims. Top actresses are lining up to condemn him, after shrugging off his offenses for years. It seems like everyone wants to get in on it. Now it's a spectacle eclipsing everything else in the news, including mass murder and the threat of nuclear war.
A few male actors are inserting themselves into the drama, reminding us that men can be sexually harassed, too. But please, this is about power over women. It's endemic in our culture and it affects all women on a regular basis. If you haven't been hit on by Harvey Weinstein, you've been forced to deal with some asshole who suddenly whips out his penis or comments on your ass or suggests a sex act you don't even want to know about. It comes with the territory of being female.
Can vilifying Harvey Weinstein change the landscape? When the outrage dies down, will anything be different? Will powerful men decide it isn't worth it to sexualize their encounters with pretty underlings? My own feeling is, When Donald Trump regrets pussy grabbing, that's when things will change. Meaning, no, not any time soon.
Terry Richardson is still out there making a great living. His powerful friends in the fashion industry stood by him and covered up for him. Models are less important than actresses, evidently. Since he never pretended to be an upright businessman, the axe didn't fall on him like it did on Roger Ailes, Fox News predator-at-large. Richardson's brand is pervy. He is proof that sexual assault, in some circles, is just bad-boy behavior. Still condoned, maybe even celebrated.
Men need to think of women as fellow humans before things can change. Men in power need to believe they will not be protected when they act out their misogyny. Words like bullying and womanizing need to indicate a problem. Remember, Phil Spector had to shoot a woman in the face before his notorious history of abuse came to an end. Men at the top are like one big Boy's Club, keeping each other's secrets out of self-interest more than fear.
Imagine if Harvey Weinstein had been raping boys. Would that have been covered up as effectively as his crimes against women? In the movies, when a young man faces prison rape, it's like the end of the world! Men's agency is more sacred, somehow. Raping and sexually abusing women is just, you know, things got out of hand. When Donna Karan opined that young actresses are at fault for looking sexy, she was speaking for the old guard, but the old guard is still alive and kicking.
Harvey Weinstein is a broken man, now stripped of income, reputation, family, everything. He is an ideal scapegoat for every asshole out there, at your workplace and in the White House. If he goes to prison, and he should, sexual predators will get back to business as usual unless everyone who enabled him is forced to pay a price too. It took a village to let him get away with this. It will take a bigger village to effect systemic change.
Just when you think we might be getting somewhere, Twitter cracks down on vocal Weinstein victim Rose McGowan by suspending her account, while Donald Trump is allowed to keep inciting hatred, violence, misogyny and nuclear war. What the fuck?! Some are calling for a boycott against Twitter but that kind of virtue-signaling won't shift the power structure.
Women need to speak up regularly, in huge numbers, and men need to support them. Women need a safety net to ensure their freedom to out or report a sexual predator. Figuring out how to construct that safety net should be on everyone's to-do list. To quote Eldridge Cleaver, "There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem."