Recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein, American film producer and founder of the Weinstein Company, have indicated that he may be guilty of multiple counts of sexual harassment and assault going back as early as the 1980s. Victims of Weinstein’s escapades include Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Rosanna Arquette.
An investigation by the New York Times further uncovered Weinstein has been paying off various parties to cover his indiscretions.
Most of the victims were involved as young actresses looking to land an acting role or earn a voice within the trade.
Gwyneth Paltrow said, “I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified.”
Episodes included unwelcomed touching, undressing, and massages. Weinstein also frequently appeared in the nude after requesting the presence of actresses or assistants within the company.
Weinstein’s decades-long scandal was kept secret in part by paying off those involved. The New York Times investigation discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid to involved women to ensure silence. Furthermore, many women remained silent to avoid being fired or destroying their chances of landing a role or job within the industry.
Weinstein has produced and distributed such influential films as “Pulp Fiction,” “Gangs of New York,” and “Good Will Hunting.” Though a heavily influential director, the board of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.), the group in charge of the Oscars, has voted to drop Weinstein from the committee.
In their statement, the A.M.P.A.S. board said, “We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over. What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society.”
On October 31, Weinstein was also permanently banished from the Producers Guild of America. Two weeks later, this decision followed the A.M.P.A.S. decision. These decisions have prompted scrutiny within the Hollywood movie business in an effort to discourage and prevent further situations within the business.
The effect of Weinstein’s actions on the numerous women he abused have been heavy. In a memo concerning Weinstein’s sexual promiscuity, company employee Lauren O’Connor wrote, “I am a professional and have tried to be professional. I am not treated that way however. I am sexualized and diminished.”
Many women even questioned their own worth or guilt in these scenarios.
Oftentimes, Weinstein’s advances were resisted. In these cases, he would continue to approach women, and they continued to resist. These episodes sometimes lasted over an hour before Weinstein was able to leverage his power and force sexual activities.
Many victims noted Weinstein’s power as an influential white male made him extremely hard to resist. Furthermore, as someone who was prominent in the film business, he possessed the power to create or destroy a career.
Investigations, interviews, and legal documents also revealed employees within the Weinstein Company were aware of his activity. Though some confronted him about the issue, the vast majority remained silent. The silence of employees can largely be contributed to Weinstein’s rule within the company to not say anything that would compromise the name or fame of the company.
Weinstein’s future at this juncture is unclear, though it is clear his reputation in Hollywood has all but evaporated. Having been expelled from A.M.P.A.S. and the Producers Guild of America, Weinstein was also fired from the company after a large number of employees quit during the second week of October. Legal actions are likely to be taken by various parties in the future as well.
The Weinstein accounts have caused a widespread consideration on sexism and sexuality. The New York Times published an article on November 6, titled “The Deep Confusion of the Post-Weinstein Moment,” in which the actions, studies and responses to the incident display a continuing awareness of these issues on a global scale. (Multiple sexual misconduct cases have arisen in the past month, including the resignation of British Defense Minister Michael Fallon on the grounds of “misconduct.”)
Though Weinstein’s actions shocked many individuals, his behavior is also the route of a pernicious problem within American culture. Both on a systemic, and an ideological level, obstacles have been placed in front of women. This is especially true in the workplace. The oversexualization of women has been a pervading issue in America. This issue has been promoted in various ways.
In her New York Times article on the “Post-Weinstein Movement,” writer Naomi Alderman said, “Cinema, television, novels, the infamous locker room talk, promulgate the view: grab her, kiss her, she’ll like it once you’ve started.”
This response to the Weinstein scandal poses many questions to the American public. Discussion has arisen about how the “rules” of both the workplace and of social dynamics will respond to situations such as the Weinstein scandal.
Conversations of this nature have even entered the realms of evangelical academia.
In a Christianity Today interview, authors of “Women Faculty at an Evangelical University” such as Brad Christerson, M. Elizabeth Lewis Hall, and Shelly Cunningham all said, “The Paradox of Religiously Driven Gender Inequalities and High Job Satisfaction,” spoke on “benevolent sexism.” This idea is a non-aggressive sexism. It promotes certain roles and limitations on genders, even constructing a gender hierarchy. Benevolent sexism can also lead to the biases creating obstacles for women in the workplace. Furthermore, such ideas can prompt men to leverage their power in a work context.
Thus perhaps, like Hollywood, this instance should prompt Covenant’s community to take stock of its own biases and perspectives on women. Though nothing of the nature of the Weinstein scandal has occurred within the Covenant community, the sexualization of women as well as sexism in the workplace are ideas that easily enter the mind because of their presence in modern society.