Abused women more willing to speak out
The downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein amid a series of sexual harassment and rape accusations highlights a cultural shift taking place in corporate, entertainment and political America
The downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in a sea of sexual harassment accusations may not seem surprising from the temple of the infamous casting couch. But this scandal is different from the ones before. It involves a much-celebrated producer and the actresses who say they were his victims include some of the movie industry’s biggest names. There also is a cultural shift taking place in corporate, entertainment and political America, with women more willing to speak out about abuse, coercion and threats from male colleagues than ever before. Where once there was silence and shame, there is now a need to right the wrongs that have for so long plagued society.
A string of actresses, including Oscar-winners Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment dating back decades. He has denied rape allegations, but admitted to acting improperly. With a Best Picture Academy Award to his name for Shakespeare in Love and involvement in other top movies like Pulp Fiction, The English Patient and The King’s Speech, he is the most powerful man ever revealed as a sex predator in Hollywood. Within a week of the allegations surfacing, the studio he cofounded fired him.
Weinstein’s sacking was about more than damage control. There is a sea change sweeping the United States, with women more willing to take action against the abuses they have endured for so long. They have been empowered by the outrages of President Donald Trump, who won office despite also having faced a series of sexual harassment claims and a stream of vulgar and misogynistic remarks. His outdated beliefs threaten the rights of half of the population, so it is understandable that there is a desire to speak out.
The Fox News cable network, an ardent supporter of Trump, was forced to fire its president, Roger Ailes, and top presenter Bill O’Reilly, after media reports revealed the company paid millions of dollars to female staff they had harassed. In June, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned amid pressure from investors worried about reports of a culture of harassment and bullying within the company. Women elsewhere in the male-dominated technology industry are increasingly objecting to the way that men are treating them.
Sexual exploitation is so prevalent in the movie industry the world over that actresses have suffered in silence, some being paid off, others enduring or quitting the business. But the use of power to coerce and intimidate women is found in many other workplaces. Weinstein’s undoing must be a clarion call to men everywhere: such behaviour is never acceptable and people have to speak out when they see or experience it so that it can be eradicated.