With the allegations against famed producer Harvey Weinstein still fresh in our minds, the number of people coming forward seems to be mounting. Weinstein has been accused of committing over fifty sexual assaults over his illustrious career. Most of his accusers have been the very actresses who starred in his films, including Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. The accusations range from harassment to rape and span a period of over thirty years. Yet, many have defended him and his actions, which is evidence that we need to change the way we think about sexual assault.
According to a 2017 study done by Cosmopolitan, one in three women will experience workplace sexual harassment in their lifetimes. Many of these women will remain silent in fear that speaking out will bring career-ruining ramifications. Many of these women will speak out against their abusers, only to find that nobody will take them seriously. Many of the accused will not even face a stain on their reputation.
The allegations against Weinstein are abhorrent, yet they are not isolated. The Weinsteins of the world are found in locker rooms, coffee shops, IT departments, casting couches and in every career field on the planet. These men are some of the most powerful on the planet, and they use this power to take advantage of those who rely on them.
Nobody in Hollywood seemed surprised by Weinstein’s hefty list of sexual harrasments and assaults. It was not a secret that Harvey Weinstein preyed upon young women. Even worse, many of those around him remained silent because of nondisclosure agreements, and fear.
Most of those who have admitted to knowing about Weinstein’s behavior have claimed that the industry has simply “always been that way”, which is a fair conclusion. Wealthy men in power often use their power to force men and women into positions in which there is no choice but to say yes. The perpetuation of the assaults is rooted in the victims being afraid to say no, which allows the abuser to claim that sexual relations were consensual.
This isn’t a new phenomenon; we have seen the effects of this ideology throughout the world. We attach masculinity to sex, as if women are a conquest and men must dominate them, or they’re not a real man. We still view women with The Madonna or The Whore complex, while men are free to make their own name in this world. The working woman is still not taken seriously, and as such, she will continue be reduced to either The Madonna or The Whore.
It’s easy to see how Harvey Weinstein was able to continue his assaults for so long. His behavior was accepted, even encouraged. He was seen as masculine and powerful due to his relationships with young starlets. Many of the women he was romantically associated with were significantly younger, and were attempting to make a name in the business. Though Weinstein was in fact married, it was not a secret that he could have any woman in Hollywood, a fact which was celebrated more than condemned.
Perhaps the apathy around the victims of this case is due to the views we hold of Hollywood – that predators are just a part of that elusive business of “show-biz.” Perhaps we don’t see the women as being true victims, since their careers did benefit from having sex with Weinstein. Brushing off the actions of Weinstein makes us just as evil as his compliant peers. We must change the way in which we as a nation think about sexual assault.
First, the world must begin taking assault survivors seriously. We must end the mentality that “boys will be boys,” and begin punishing them for their very real actions. We are still afraid as a society to persecute men for sexual deviance when we should be unafraid to weed out repulsive and predatory behavior.
In order to stop sexual assaults in this country, we must stop the assaulters. We must stop victim blaming, as if there is any behavior besides enthusiastically consenting to sex that would provoke an attack. Workplaces on all levels should be safe communities in which men and women feel protected and supported, rather than in fear of their colleagues and supervisors. We must make a world in which sexual assault is a real crime, rather than a small blip on an otherwise illustrious career.