After an astonishing number of people came forward accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexually harassing or raping them, The Weinstein Company officially fired its co-founder this past Sunday. Surprising most of the nation, Weinstein’s reputation instantly shifted from Hollywood mogul to sexual predator.
Both Harvey and The Weinstein Company are currently under public scrutiny. One-third of the company’s all-male board has already resigned and another four members have taken a leave of absence. Though the company hasn’t fully addressed these allegations yet, they maintain that Harvey was fired because he broke their code of conduct.
The sexual harassment cases date back decades, as multiple former employees and actresses have come forward accusing Harvey Weinstein of such crimes. Politicians are publicly expressing how appalled they are by his actions and are returning his contributions, women’s rights organizations are speaking out against him, and actors and actresses alike are publicly addressing what happened.
Not only was this abuse taking place right under the noses of The Weinstein Company and Miramax, the previous company Harvey co-founded, but Harvey paid off many of these women as well. Well, no longer will these women be silenced, as more and more victims are coming forward to speak their truths.
The Harvey Weinstein Sexual Harassment and Abuse Cases
Let’s start from the beginning. Harvey Weinstein has been making international headlines for the past week, after a report was published by the New York Times revealing decades’ worth of sexual harassment and abuse allegations.
The article started by addressing some of the older cases, including one involving Ashley Judd. Weinstein invited Judd to a “business breakfast meeting” about two decades ago, which ended up being an invitation to his hotel room. Weinstein continuously harassed her, asking her to massage him, watch him shower, etc.
Eventually, Judd ended up “weaselling” her way out of the hotel room, but while connecting with other women harassed or abused by Weinstein she learned that she was not the only woman to experience this. As Judd explained, “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”
While interviewing multiple women harassed by Weinstein, the interviewers noticed a very clear pattern of behaviour. The women were typically in their mid-20s and looking to get ahead in the film industry. He often approached them, requesting for these naked massages in the same “quid pro quo” manner. And it wasn’t necessarily a secret within the industry, as one woman interviewed even advised other women to “wear a parka when summoned for duty” by Weinstein.
To refresh your memory, here’s a portrait of the Hollywood star:
The New York Times then fast forwarded decades later to a case in 2014, when Weinstein asked Emily Nestor, a temp who had been working at the company for only one day at the time, to “accept his sexual advances” and in return he’d kickstart her career.
Only a year later, another female employee came forward, admitting that Weinstein harassed her until she agreed to give him a massage while he was naked. A memo was then drafted about the incident and sent to multiple executives, explaining that sexual harassment and other misconduct had occurred by Weinstein, and that “there is a toxic environment for women at this company.”
Weinstein paid off at least eight women to keep quiet about their sexual harassment and “unwanted physical contact.” These cases ranged from as early as 1990 and as recent as 2015, and keep in mind that these are only the known settlements as published by the New York Times.
“From the outside, it seemed golden — the Oscars, the success, the remarkable cultural impact,” explained Mark Gill, former President of Miramax Los Angeles. “But behind the scenes, it was a mess, and this was the biggest mess of all,” he stated in reference to Weinstein’s mistreatment of women.
Popular actress Gwyneth Paltrow also came forward, explaining that Weinstein sexually harassed her, asking for more of these naked massages while “placing his hands on her.” Though she refused his sexual advances, she confided in her then-boyfriend, Brad Pitt, who addressed the matter directly with Weinstein. Weinstein then confronted Paltrow, intimidating her so she wouldn’t tell anyone else about what happened.
Angelina Jolie also addressed Weinstein’s sexual harassment, detailing her own experience with him.
“I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” Jolie explained. “This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”
Three other women came forward and admitted that they were raped (forced vaginal or oral sex), and four women stated that they experienced unwanted touching that they considered to be sexual assault. I will not go into detail regarding the specific details of these rapes, but you can read them in The New Yorker‘s article.
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This wasn’t necessarily news to the companies he co-founded, either. Sixteen former and current executives as well as assistants at Weinstein’s companies stated to The New Yorker that they witnessed or knew that Weinstein had sexually assaulted or harassed people at events associated with Weinstein’s movies or in the office.
According to these employees, it wasn’t uncommon for Weinstein to hold meetings that would end up being “a little more,” as he’d make sexual advances towards the women he was meeting with. These employees all noted that his misconduct and mistreatment of women was a well-known fact within both of these companies, yet people continued to turn a blind-eye.
“This wasn’t a one-off. This wasn’t a period of time,” a long-term executive who worked with Weinstein told The New Yorker. “This was ongoing predatory behaviour towards women—whether they consented or not.”
The sad part is that this isn’t uncommon within the entertainment industry. Tons of people and children have been victims of sexual assault and harassment, as so many executives have used their positions of authority to either rape or sexually harass others working within the entertainment industry.
One example that comes to mind is former child start Corey Feldman, who explained:
I can tell you that the number one problem in Hollywood was, and is, and always will be pedophilia. That’s the biggest problem, for children in this industry. . . . It’s all done under the radar . . . it’s the big secret. I was surrounded by them when I was 14 years old . . . they were everywhere, like vultures… there was a circle of older men that surrounded themselves around this group of kids, and they all had either their own power or connections to great power in the entertainment industry.
Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood has spoken out about this issue as well (though he was never sexually abused himself). “Let me be clear: This subject of child abuse is an important one that should be discussed and properly investigated,” Wood said.
“What bums me about these situations is that the victims can’t speak as loudly as the people in power,” Wood stated. “That’s the tragedy of attempting to reveal what is happening to innocent people: They can be squashed, but their lives have been irreparably damaged.”
Another example is the Jimmy Savile pedophilia case. Savile was an eccentric TV personality who hosted a number of TV and radio shows, including positions within the BBC. Many people knew him as a flashy, opportunistic celebrity, but what they didn’t know was that over the course of his career, he used his celebrity status to exploit and sexually abuse hundreds of children.
These are only a few examples of sexual abuse and harassment within the entertainment industry, and they really only scratch the surface.
However, what’s particularly inspiring about the Weinstein case is the number of women who came forward, and the overwhelming amount of support they’ve received from the public. Celebrities have publicly addressed this subject, standing by the victims and expressing their support for them, and even politicians have spoken out about this particular case.
It’s crucial that we remain supportive and allow victims to be heard with open minds and open hearts, so we can encourage people to feel safe in sharing their experiences with the public. The best way to prevent these cases from happening in the first place is to share these stories with others. Not only will this warn other people about the abusers themselves, but it could also help to give the victims peace of mind.
I’ll leave you with the words of Meryl Streep, who publicly expressed her remorse for the victims and how appalled she was by Weinstein’s actions: “The behavior is inexcusable, but the abuse of power familiar. Each brave voice that is raised, heard and credited by our watchdog media will ultimately change the game.”
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