By Emily Wang
All the stories follow a similar pattern: Harvey Weinstein deceiving an actress to meet in private to discuss film opportunities, all while dropping suggestive comments and eventually attempting to engage in sexual activities without consent.
From Angelina Jolie to Cara Delevingne to Rose McGowan, approximately 80 women from all areas of the entertainment industry have begun to voice their unfortunate experiences with this infamous film director. By stepping into the national spotlight of female empowerment and facing an eager audience comprised of shocked and concerned citizens, these women and their powerful stories have begun to chip away at the seemingly-polished statue of Hollywood masculinity. While most women rejected his advances, some were forced to stay silent after their assaults out of fear of losing their careers or fame, while others spoke out but were ignored or shut down; however, a few who immediately spoke out were heard by others.
Gwyneth Paltrow, a former American actress and singer, was one such woman. Being an entrepreneur now, she is no longer dependent upon Weinstein to secure her next acting role. Unfortunately, she was a lot more vulnerable when she was still an aspiring actress: at the age of 22, Weinstein sent her an invitation to meet him at a hotel to discuss her upcoming schedule. Seeing that the invitation was sent via the Creative Artists Agency, a legitimate organization that represented her, Paltrow suspected nothing as she opened the door into the hotel room. Immediately upon entrance, Weinstein attempted to give her a massage and invited her into his bedroom--hearing his words, Paltrow was shocked and disgusted, as she had thought of him as her “Uncle Harvey”, not a potential romantic partner. She immediately left the hotel room and related the inappropriate encounter to her then-boyfriend, Brad Pitt, who promptly warned Weinstein to never touch his girlfriend again. Even after that, Weinstein contacted Paltrow again, screaming at her for telling others about their private meeting; however, Paltrow remained firm in belief of maintaining a professional work relationship. Although she appeared to maintain a respectful relationship with Weinstein to the public, she gradually distanced herself from him, eventually cutting off contact with him altogether.
After multiple accusations like Paltrow’s, Weinstein attempted to defend his actions against a wave of public anger. In his statement published on New York Times, he blamed the sexual culture of the entertainment industry set by his predecessors--in his opinion, he was only a follower of the crowd. Even more, in a letter to many CEOs and moguls whom he begged to have their support, he questioned the legitimacy of the accusations, stating that “a lot of [them] are false”. Furthermore, he shifted the blame away from his own character, instead pushing it onto a mental health disorder he called “sex addiction”; however, many experts state there is a clear dichotomy between compulsive sexual conduct and violating consent in sexual relations, suggesting that blaming a scapegoat is not a moral or effective way to avoid the consequences of Weinstein’s actions.
Even when the abused actresses survived these dreadful encounters, many were completely changed by their experience with Weinstein. Not only did the corrupted nature of the entertainment industry cause many actresses’ interests in the entertainment industry to severely dampen or diminish altogether, but many others were also traumatized by their experience (remember, the majority of them were in their early twenties). In fact, many actresses were so affected by their experiences with Harvey that they started to harbor feelings of mistrust and uncomfort towards the opposite gender. Many began to doubt the potency of their acting abilities because it was masked by their identity as females. As the audience watching the women bravely tell their stories underneath a national spotlight, our reaction to these women is crucial in redefining how our society perceives and consoles discrimination. We should not avoid their movies as a way to punish the salacious film director, as punishing the director would also undermine the effort that these struggling, suppressed females underwent to create the film; instead, we should not avoid the movies, but watch them with a new understanding of the courage these females displayed in the face of adversity.
Hollywood presents the public with a facade of glamor and excitement, yet the industry is corrupted with fear and a hierarchy of fame and power, with the wolves preying on those who are unable to defend themselves--time and time again, the howls of the powerful quell the whispers of the weak. Only when the voices of the weak unite do they begin to be heard: in the same way, the culmination of female accusation has finally broken through the tough shell of the male-dominated industry. These women are not only speaking to seek justice for themselves, but are also standing up for others that are in a similar crisis as a symbol of hope, reminding them that voicing the injustices they face is not an act of shame, but rather, a deed of courage.
Although all the stories may have had a similar beginning, the next chapter of the story rests entirely on how the public reacts to sexual harassment and its perpetrators--will we choose to let this chapter dictate the mood for the rest of the novel, or will it transform their novel into a story of courage and perseverance?