The American film producer Harvey Weinstein has engaged in sexual intimidation, sexual abuse, and even rape for decades. Since the beginning of October, The New York Times has been publishing articles in which dozens of women speak out against his crimes.*
One of these women is actress Rose McGowan, who earlier reported that Weinstein raped her. She was hardly believed at the time; now that so many other women stand beside her, the tide is finally turning.
Some 35 women have come forward so far. Gwyneth Paltrow says that Weinstein forced her to put her hands on him, after which he kept asking her for a massage. Cara Delevingne was pressured into kissing another woman in his hotel room, after which Weinstein himself tried to kiss Cara. Léa Seydoux got jumped by Weinstein; she had to defend herself harshly to get him off her.
And the list goes on. Employees of The Weinstein Company had to sign a code of silence, anything to conceal the criminal excesses of their boss. As his behavior was no secret, female employees did not dare see him alone; they made sure to go into his office with another female or, better yet, with a man.
The allegations and the number of women that have gone public are extensive. But that should no longer surprise us. Men like Weinstein exist.
In the Netherlands, one out of eight women has been raped. That is the reality. It is, therefore, time to be angry. It is time to speak up. It is time to accept the behavior of men like Weinstein no longer. In the United States, a shift seems to be taking place.
For the first time, men from the film industry are speaking up. At the urging of, among others, “Girls” director and actress Lena Dunham, who wrote a piece in The New York Times about the silence among men in Hollywood, more actors are coming forward daily. Mark Ruffalo was one of the first to speak up on Twitter. Kumail Nanjiani put the accusations addressed to Weinstein in a broader context and said, "Hollywood has a sexism problem." The British newspaper, The Guardian, asked 26 men who have worked with Weinstein for a response; no one replied. Female fans of Leonardo DiCaprio did not leave it at that and urged him to speak up. Within a day, he issued a statement on his Facebook page, condemning Weinstein's behavior.
Now, I do not want to praise the men who have listened to what the women did these past few weeks. However, we do live in a world in which people listen to men better than they do to women. Just look at McGowan. People preferred to believe a powerful producer over an interchangeable actress. Now, no one can ignore the allegations any longer. It is horrible that such a thing is necessary before a woman is believed.
In our own country, we experience the same, in a way. When a woman says on television that she has been abused by her father, we prefer to talk about the controversial treatment that was involved. There was no reason whatsoever for author Griet Op de Beeck to lie about her abuse. And yet, her credibility was questioned; it was claimed she was only discussing her abuse to draw attention to the promotion of her new book. As if Op de Beeck needed that. The first printing of "Het beste wat we hebben" issued 75,000 copies.
She spoke about the abuse to prevent a confrontation with it during an interview. I cannot imagine that people who question her motives have experienced sexual abuse. It is not something one likes to talk about, it costs enormous amounts of energy and carries the risk of reliving the experience. The first step we need to take in Holland is to listen when someone comes out with a story about abuse.
The correlation between sexual abuse and power relations is difficult to understand for some, as is also the case with Harvey Weinstein. A reaction that is commonly heard is that those women didn't have to go to his hotel room when invited. Watch the episode "American Bitch," from the TV series “Girls.” In this episode, the main character, Hannah, is invited to the apartment of a famous author she had criticized. As an aspiring writer, Hannah is deeply impressed with him, and it gets to the point where he manages to put his penis in her hand, a frighteningly realistic episode that anyone who still does not understand the problem should watch.
Meanwhile, Weinstein is going down; hopefully, he will be criminally prosecuted. Whether things are indeed going to change is in everyone's hands.
Men still have a stronger position than women. It is precisely for this reason that it is essential that men use their power positively. It is so easy to be quiet.
Feminism can do just fine without men, but men, should you want to come along for the ride, now is the moment. Speak up. Make yourselves heard.
*Editor’s note: Harvey Weinstein, although accused of criminal offenses, had not been formally charged with any crime as of the time this article was published.