Stopping: The Trend of Hollywood Sexual Violence
Earlier this month, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was finally called out for what he is: a sexual predator.
I say “finally” because, frankly, people have known what Harvey Weinstein is for many years, and most of them didn’t do anything about it.
There are many reasons why no one spoke up; some of them understandable, and some of them craven, but there is one that must be talked about in greater detail, because it often goes ignored in cases of sexual assault and rape.
The simple truth about sexual assault and rape is that, for the people who commit these acts, it is not about sex, so much as it is about power.
Harvey Weinstein had power. He knew he could get away with it and — for many years — he did.
There are many people like Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood, people who are so powerful and well respected that they begin to think of themselves more as gods than people. They believe they can get away with anything and, as evidence seems to show, they can.
It says something about us as a people that we allow people like Weinstein to get so much power.
In the end, we see him for what he is, but it took many years, and there are still many powerful people in Hollywood who we have essentially forgiven for being predators. People like Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Bryan Singer, to name just a few.
Very likely, there are many more Hollywood artists and producers whose predatory natures have not yet been discovered — and very likely will be just as summarily ignored by the public once they are discovered.
People still openly joke about Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, as if the fact that they were both implicated in high-profile pedophilia cases was just some sort of amusing character quirk.
What does it say about us that we allow these people to have this kind of power?
Actress Ashley Judd was one of the first people to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. Judd’s story details how Weinstein invited her to a breakfast meeting; however, when she arrived, she was sent up to Weinstein’s room, where Weinstein was waiting in a bathrobe.
He asked Judd if he could give her a massage, or if she could watch him shower.
Even in that moment, Judd’s first thought was, “How do I get out of this room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?”
Without alienating Harvey Weinstein.
This is the degree of power Harvey Weinstein had in Hollywood. He could sexually harass someone, and the victim wouldn’t be able to fight back because they feared for their job.
Show business is tricky in terms of psychology. Many performers don’t just think of it as their job, but as the key element of their entire lives, and the sum total of their dreams.
Harvey Weinstein knew this, and he used that knowledge to render women powerless.
Let’s not forget that this Harvey Weinstein issue, and the issue of sexual harassment as a whole, is about power. Harvey Weinstein wanted to show his power over these actresses. Harvey Weinstein knew he could get away with the horrible things he did.
How did he know it?
Because we gave him this power.
We gave him our money and exercised our almost unlimited ability to look the other way, not just for him, but for many powerful people in Hollywood.
We condone him because we like his product.
We do the same for Roman Polanski and Woody Allen.
For far longer than we should have, we did the same for Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein.
Artists are given a special place in society, and popular artists are nearly untouchable. The people who consume and love their art start almost to believe they know them. They feel like friends in some distant way.
Artists are allowed this special place in society because art helps us through hard times. Art supports us, and experiencing art gives us an emotional release.
This is what makes a powerful artist different from other types of powerful people, like a corporate CEO or a politician.
People identify with artists, so people feel inclined to give artists the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accusations of sexual assault. People might even feel more inclined to defend those artists.
What the Harvey Weinstein scandal should teach us more than anything is that we must truly scrutinize the people responsible for popular art in this country.
For a long time, it has felt as though people in the arts have been completely untouchable when it comes to accusations of violence. Over these last few weeks, that has changed.
Victims are speaking up, and where their stories were once buried or discredited outright, now they are being treated with the seriousness they deserve.
Take for instance actress and musician Courtney Love. In 2005, she spoke to Natasha Leggero at a red carpet event. Leggero asked Love for advice on a young girl moving to Hollywood, and Love’s reply was telling.
“I’ll get libeled if I say it,” Love said. “If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private party in the Four Seasons, don’t go.”
That was in 2005. It’s been an open secret in Hollywood for more than a decade, and we’ve only gotten around to correcting the problem now.
So let’s make up for it.
Let’s have no more half measures, no more looking the other way when someone does something unspeakably awful simply because we like their work.
No one is above reproach, and no one gets a free pass from punishment simply because they’re too powerful to be fought.
After all, these people have impossible power because we gave it to them, and we can take it away from them.
All we need is the will to do it.