On Thursday, The New York Times published an article detailing allegations of sexual harassment against big-time Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The allegations come from multiple women and date back nearly three decades. The article included allegations from actress Ashley Judd, who said Weinstein "asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower." She added that "women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it's simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly."
Mark Gill, former president of Miramax Los Angeles, which Weinstein co-founded, was quoted in the article saying that "from the outside, [the company] seemed golden — the Oscars, the success, the remarkable cultural impact. But behind the scenes, it was a mess, and this was the biggest mess of all..." He also said that "if a female executive was asked to go to a meeting solo, she and a colleague would generally double up" to avoid being alone with the powerful producer.
A confusing series of statements accompanied the Times article: Weinstein responded to the paper, writing that he has "long way to go" and he wants to "conquer" his "demons." One of his lawyers, Lisa Bloom, told the Times that "he denies many of the accusations as patently false" (and added that he's "an old dinosaur learning new ways"). Then, after the article was published, another of Weinstein's lawyers, Charles Harder, refuted the story and threatened to sue the outlet on his client's behalf.
Whatever happens with that lawsuit, Weinstein's initial statement to the Times lives on — and it's disturbing, to say the least. Let's break down the most questionable aspects of that statement and shed some light on the persistent problem of sexual harassment in America.
Hmmm. It's appears he's talking about the Mad Men-era, which, as a white male born in 1953, might've been around when he grew up, but the bulk of his actual career took place in the 80s, 90s, and into the 2000s, when sexual harassment in the work place was very much a topic discussed. He is a 65-year-old man — he has been in the culture now for quite a long time, and has had years upon years to catch up. I don't still use a flip phone because it was the mobile phone that was in the culture when I came of age. How long will old white men be able to excuse away their behavior by saying they thought it was OK because Don Draper did it?
Newsflash: Talking about sexual harassment in the workplace didn't just become a "thing" in 2017. Workplace sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and has been in the forefront of much of the public consciousness for quite some time. You can't tell me Weinstein wasn't aware of some of the more higher profile cases, like Anita Hill's testimony against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, which dominated the headlines that year. Further, you'd be hard pressed to find a person who was alive in the '90s who wasn't familiar with the iconic, "It's called sexual harassment and I don't have to take it!" ads. (These were such a thing that I used to scream them at boys on the playground in grade school when they so much as took the Four Square ball from me. I didn't fully grasp it then, but I was seven. In 1993, Harvey Weinstein was 41.)
What I'm saying is — I was barely a person when those ads were aired non-stop on TV and I had some concept of their weight. I find it hard to believe that Weinstein wasn't aware of the wrong he was allegedly doing when he was allegedly doing it. More likely, we have a very real issue in this country where we protect powerful men in the workplace at the expense of all others.
I will save you the money, Weinstein: Don't sexually harass anyone. It doesn't take a genius to follow one simple rule: Don't sexually harass anyone. Here's a quick rule of thumb: Treat every person who enters your work life in the exact same way. If a woman you find attractive enters the room, treat her like a fully-formed human being. To put it in easier terms for you to understand: treat her like you would a man.
Weinstein needs intense sit-downs with a high-powered, high-paid lawyer (who happens to be a woman) to understand how to behave? I'm pretty sure any of my nieces or nephews could explain this to you in 30 seconds: Treat other human beings with respect.
It speaks to a festering rot in Hollywood (and in many other places) that nobody interfered with Weinstein's behavior sooner. Instead, multiple settlements were allegedly reached. Maybe he got a slap on the wrist, or a talking to, but it wasn't enough.
As someone who has worked in Los Angeles for five years, I've personally seen this type of thing happen, and heard equally horrendous stories about "talented" male directors and "esteemed" male producers, all of whom ruined the careers of amazing women with so much potential, simply because they (sometimes literally) couldn't keep it in their pants. How many women's careers are sacrificed to keep these men in positions of power? What amazing things would these women have done in their work lives? How much innovation and brilliance do we, as a nation, miss out on because of this?
Sorry, Weinstein, but why do you get a second chance? (If these allegations are true, you've had chance upon chance upon chance upon chance to change; you did not.)
Why don't you (or some of your multiple proxies) reach out to all the women whose lives you've negatively affected and offer assistance in their careers? Retire, take full-time lessons from Lisa Bloom in how to be a person, and then donate your considerable wealth to helping women succeed in show business.
Yeah, it's more like a 30-year process that should've never started, and when it did, it should've been nipped in the bud with a 10-minute conversation about how: 1. you shouldn't sexually harass anyone and 2. Now that you have, you're fired.
TEN YEARS? And being publicly outed as an alleged sexual harasser is what it took?
I'm pretty sure you can be more remorseful, and this sloppy statement is a strong indication of that fact.
Weinstein's letter then takes an abrupt left turn:
Uh, OK? I thought you were gonna be in full-time sessions with Lisa Bloom on how not to sexually harass women? I guess I'm confused.
Also, the way Weinstein tries to shift focus onto the NRA reads to me as if he's saying, "Here's a real issue we're dealing with! I don't have time to deal with the petty business of women accusing me of routinely harassing them! I'm over here doing REAL work!"
Maybe Weinstein should be in full-time human lessons with Lisa Bloom if this is his pivot? Perhaps he could hand over the reins on the "important" work he's doing to some other people, preferably women, and allow them to lead the shift? If this is a man who (allegedly) didn't understand until 2007 that it wasn't OK to ask women subordinates to touch his body, perhaps he doesn't have the best judgment as far as, well, anything is concerned.
If Weinstein really wants to help anyone, perhaps he should be clearer about the conduct he says he's remorseful about and go about attempting to repair the real damage he's done. By the end of this messy statement, I can't help but feel like Weinstein wants a parade:
That's great, but, if these allegations are true, it's not nearly enough, and Weinstein gets no praise for starting to act like a human at 65 years of age.