SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVORS EXPOSE HARVEY WEINSTEIN’S ABUSE OF POWER

“Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise” – Jenny Holzer, 1982

With the recent publication of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s New York Times exposé on movie executive Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long history of alleged sexual assault, discussions concerning the abuse of women in the entertainment industry are dominating the media. Kantor and Twohey reported that, from 1990 to 2015, eight settlements against Weinstein concerning unwanted physical contact and sexual harassment were reached. Numerous accounts from actresses as well as current and former employees reveal Weinstein’s predatory pattern of behavior: private “business” meetings held at night in hotel rooms that quickly turned sexual. Oftentimes, female employees were expected to assist Weinstein with his morning and nighttime routine, jobs that frequently included inappropriate requests to watch him bathe or give him a massage. Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker interviewed thirteen women whose allegations range from groping to indecent exposure to rape.

L-R: Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, and Rose McGowan, just a few of the women who condemned Weinstein

The brave women who have spoken out against Weinstein include: actresses Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette, Mira Sorvino, Emma de Caunes, Katherine Kendall and Judith Godrèche, former employees Emily Nestor, Lauren O’Connor, and Laura Madden, psychology professor Tomi-Ann Roberts, costume designer Dawn Dunning, and more recently, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow. There are likely more women who have not yet come forward for fear of retaliation (Weinstein and his legal team are threatening to sue multiple media outlets including the Times, and employees of the Weinstein Company must sign contracts that forbid them from criticizing it or its leaders). 

Donna Karan and Weinstein in 2007

Despite the overwhelming evidence that Weinstein is a sexual predator, fashion figurehead Donna Karan described him as “wonderful” during an interview at the CinéFashion Film Awards on Sunday. She went on to say, “I think we have to look at ourselves…You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.” (Karan later apologized for victim-blaming, claiming her statements were taken out of context.) Georgina Chapman, Weinstein’s wife and designer for Marchesa, the evening-wear label that shot to fame the same year the two married, initially stood by her husband. She later announced on October 10th that she will divorce him.

L-R: Donald Trump, Terry Richardson, and Woody Allen, predators whose alleged assaults have not greatly impacted their careers

Weinstein’s predatory history comes to light not far behind the exposure of sexual assaut perpetrated by Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Donald Trump. However, the abuse of power by men in high-profile positions is nothing new. Long-standing allegations against numerous celebrities including Woody Allen, Casey Affleck, Sean Penn, Roman Polanski, and Terry Richardson have largely gone un-checked, and do not affect their legacy and success in the entertainment industry. According to statistics published by RAINN, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. However, a survivor’s decision to report an incident of harassment and/or assault often ends up being traumatic in-and-of-itself due to frequent mishandling of cases, rampant victim-blaming (see: Donna Karan’s statements), and retaliation from the perpetrator (see: Weinstein’s threat of legal action). We can only hope that the devastating stories shared with the Times and the New Yorker will encourage society as a whole to take a deeper, more critical look at why and how the systematic abuse of women can go on unchecked for so long.

Update:
On October 14th, 2017, Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voted to expel Weinstein. The academy told the New York Times that the vote was “well in excess of the required two-thirds majority.”

The list of women accusing Weinstein of rape has grown, now including Lysette Anthony, Rose McGowan, Asia Argento, and an unidentified woman who came forward to The New Yorker with her story.

In addition, a 2005 video in which Courtney Love warns women about Weinstein has surfaced. When asked if she has any advice for young girls moving to Hollywood, Love replies, “if Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private party in the Four Seasons [hotel] don’t go.”

Courtney Love warns actresses in 2005

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