Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 48 seconds
The Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment/abuse scandal has only grown larger everyday since the New York Times published an article on October 5th, revealing at least 8 settled lawsuits brought against the movie mogul for his predatory behavior over the years. Since then, more women have come forward with horrifying Harvey stories, more public condemnations of Weinstein have occurred and more recriminations are most certainly on the way such as the hashtag movements #metoo and symbolic stances like the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), better known as the Academy Awards/Oscar people, kicking Weinstein out.
Even when I wrote about the Weinstein scandal last week, it garnered a tremendous response, some of which was very interesting and insightful, some of it amusing and some of it disturbing. I did receive a great deal of supportive emails and comments, and for that I am grateful, but not surprisingly I have also gotten some less than encouraging ones as well.
Some commenters thought I was too limited in my attacks on the guilty in regards to the Weinstein case. This is a legitimate criticism and one I hope to remedy. The main reason i skipped the following entities was due to strict length limitations.
Lisa Bloom is a "celebrity attorney" who has made a name for herself representing women who have been harassed or abused by powerful men. Some of her clients include Janice Dickinson in the Bill Cosby sex assault case and three women who sued Bill O'Reilly for sexual harassment. She is the daughter of attorney Gloria Allred, who blazed the same trail that her daughter followed in defending women against powerful men. It is nearly impossible to turn on a television and not see Ms. Bloom or Ms. Allred at least once a week sitting next to some woman claiming to have been abused by a famous man. The only thing Ms. Bloom and Ms. Allred like more than attention, is more attention.
The shocking thing regarding the Weinstein scandal was that Lisa Bloom, who has built her brand on shamelessly getting in front of any camera she could find to defend women, sold herself out in order to defend Harvey Weinstein. It is stunning that she would so quickly discard her (and her mother's) life's work in order to kiss the ring of King Harvey, but that is what she did. A closer inspection of the situation reveals that Ms. Bloom had a book adaptation deal with Weinstein's company. Lisa Bloom is a perfect example of how men like Harvey Weinstein prosper because both men and women toss their ethics and morality out the window when fame and riches are dangled in front of their eyes.
CYRUS VANCE JR.
Speaking of shady lawyers, it was nice to see New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. involved in the Weinstein case. Vance Jr. was recently in the headlines for having scuttled an investigation into Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump for criminal fraud. Shortly after he called his dogs off of the Trump siblings, Vance received a large campaign contribution from Trump's lawyer. Shock of shocks, it turns out Vance also decided not to pursue misdemeanor sex crime charges against Harvey Weinstein when the police brought him a witness and an audiotape containing Weinstein's surreptitiously recorded confession. This will shock you, but after Vance decided not to prosecute Weinstein, he got a large campaign contribution from Weinstein's lawyers. Vance is running unopposed for re-election this November, I hope his campaign slogan is "Cyrus Vance Jr., Corruption You Can Rely On!!"
POLANSKI AND WEINSTEIN - A CASE STUDY
I received some comments recently on a subject that a few different people asked me about which was why Harvey Weinstein was out of the Academy (MPAAS) but Roman Polanski is still in, and they asked, "what is the difference?" Brave Sir John Oliver also brought this topic up on his HBO show Last Week Tonight this past Sunday, so obviously this train of thought is gaining traction out in the world and deserves to be explored.
The answer is that there are many differences between Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein and their sexual scandals. One big difference between the two men is that Roman Polanski is an artist, and Weinstein is the antithesis of an artist, he is a business man. Polanski is considered a true visionary filmmaker and a few years before his rape charge he had made one of the greatest films of the era, Chinatown. This difference might explain why other artists are so much more willing to give Polanski a break regarding his crime and not Weinstein.
Another thing to remember, and this may be the most important thing of all, is it was 1977 when Roman Polanski committed "unlawful sexual intercourse" on a 13 year old girl, that is forty years ago. Polanski also admitted to his guilt and was punished for his crime, having spent time in jail as part of a plea agreement, but the judge went back on the agreement and wanted to put Polanski in prison for more time which is why he fled to France never to return. This is a rather large difference between Polanski and Weinstein.
Also, context matters, and the context surrounding Polanski's sexual misconduct were that he had suffered a horrific, brutal and public tragedy just 8 years before when his wife, the actress Sharon Tate, was brutally murdered by the Manson gang and his unborn child was carved out of her womb. This doesn't negate the severity of the crime Polanski committed, but it does provide a contextual understanding for the twisting of his soul which could produce such abhorrent behavior.
Weinstein, of course, is the polar opposite of Polanski in that he never created anything except profits. Weinstein is notorious for butting heads with directors, demanding cuts to their films, so much so that he earned the nickname Harvey Scissorhands. He even had the temerity to demand Martin Scorsese, yes, Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, cut nearly an hour off of both Gangs of New York and Silence, which mortally wounded both movies. Being delusional enough to think you know more than Martin Scorsese about making movies says all you need to know about Harvey Weinstein and also why artists deplore him.
So, to sum up, Polanski's case was forty years ago, he admitted wrong doing, was punished for it and is a highly regarded artist which are all in great contrast to Harvey Weinstein's situation. Oh…and Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, now wants the case against him dropped, which is definitely not the case with Harvey Weinstein.
NUANCE NEED NOT APPLY
Another reader, a middle-aged woman who used to work in the entertainment business, wrote, "Weinstein, Casey Affleck, Polanski, Woody Allen…they should all be banned…I believe women always and every time!"
This sort of sentiment, which is entirely lacking of any nuance, is epidemic in our culture and sadly, is little more than a short cut to thinking. Here is the reality…women lie. You know how I know that?…because human beings lie, and women are human beings, therefore women lie. Not all women lie but not all sexual assault, harassment or rape charges are true. Some claims are true and some of them aren't. Any sort of blanket statement that demonizes any group of people, even the most evil group of all...men, is absurd and unserious. Every sexual harassment, assault and rape case should be evaluated on its merits, not on the assumption that women never lie. For instance, the UVA rape case was a lie, as was Tawana Brawley's claim…this doesn't mean all claims are false, just that all charges must be investigated and backed up by facts and evidence.
As for the particular charges this rather emotionalist commenter makes, the closer one looks at some of them, the less clear they become. Casey Affleck's case is a very convoluted one, with both sides disagreeing on the basic facts and the accusers choosing to still work with Affleck after the alleged events happened and then later agreeing to settle the case. This does not mean Affleck didn't sexually harass these two women, it just means that this case isn't as cut and dried as the pussy hat wearing brigade would claim it to be.
As for Woody Allen, his accuser wasn't a woman, she was a little 7 year-old girl. Personally, I think he is a twisted individual and a pedophile, but that is just my opinion. I have never understood Allen's success, I think he and his films, including Annie Hall, are dreadful, but actors, and famous actresses in particular, continue to work with him and defend him. Allen imperviousness to scandal baffles me, and I can't help but discount anyone who is attacking Harvey Weinstein but ignoring Woody Allen. But that is just me and the truth is if we are to "ban" people only on unproven allegations from one or two people, that means we are going to disregard logic, critical thinking and the courts and just allow for the emotionalist mob to rule. That is not something I want to happen, as I believe that it is more important for the innocent to be free than for the guilty to be punished.
Say what you will about Polanski, Casey Affleck and Woody Allen, but the bottom line is this regarding dialogue in the age of Trump and in the aftermath of the Weinstein story…nuance need not apply.
WHITE KNIGHTS DECLARE "HOW DARE YOU!!"
Another topic I got a lot of emails and comments on was of the "how dare you" variety. "How dare you attack the victims" was a common refrain and it was usually coming from virtue signaling men. Apparently people didn't like it that I had the temerity to expect the most powerful, connected and successful of Weinstein's victims to actually take a public stand against him back in the day and in so doing put an end to his reign of sexual terror.
This sort of pseudo-feminist/protectionist approach infuriates me because it is so counter-productive to changing the demented paradigm that leads to sexual harassment in the first place. When the parameters of debate surrounding the Weinstein case are clearly defined that anyone who doesn't treat all of the victims with kid gloves is a beast beyond the pale, then we have calcified the structures that limit women and keep them powerless.
A friend recently sent me an article that describes how when people try to "humanize" Muslims in an effort to counter Islamophobia, they are actually reinforcing the dehumanization of Muslims. The basic premise is that Muslims are humans, so to try and "humanize" them actually and unintentionally dehumanizes them. I think a similar thing occurs in regards to women when men try and protect women they actually, on a fundamental and foundational level, make them more vulnerable.
For instance, when football player Ray Rice was videotaped knocking his fiancé out, everyone went crazy, and rightfully so. But…when Rice's then fiancé and now wife, Janay, came forward and said she had some responsibility for the physicality of the fight they engaged in and that she forgave Rice and wanted to marry him, people ignored her or worse scolded her for not being of right mind. By ignoring and scolding her they took away her agency and made the case that she, and all women, are emotionally, mentally and physically too weak to make their own decisions.
This dynamic where women must receive special treatment and protections because they are mentally and emotionally too fragile and therefore inferior, leads to women seeing themselves as weak and defenseless. In this dynamic men are the strong ones who must protect women, and thus women willingly give their agency over to them. The more unsavory and predatory men will pick up on this weakness, and like any predator, exploit it to their advantage. Until women are given total agency and control over their lives, including the ability to make mistakes and take responsibility for them, then this cycle will continue. And the more "feminists" of both sexes try to lower expectations for women's behavior in an attempt to protect women from their own errors, the less agency they will have and the more disempowered they will become, generation after generation.
I believe that women should be treated equally as men, that means being held to the same standard across the board. What happens in cases like the Weinstein scandal is that the foundational belief that women are fragile and delicate and therefore weak and defenseless gets fortified. When women are taught that they are weak and defenseless, they learn that they are "less than", and turn to men to protect them, which automatically makes men the superior entity in the power dynamic. Predators like Weinstein believe women are delicate and fragile, which is why he relishes abusing them, but the basic, foundational belief Weinstein holds regarding women, is the same foundational belief that the White Knights who came out decrying anyone who made the case that the more famous victims should have come forward sooner. These White Knights think they need to protect women, and in believing this they perpetuate the belief that women are less than men. In other words, White Knights are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Why I wrote that I felt it was imperative for Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd to have come forward when they were harassed is because they had a support system and were not powerless in the industry due to their famous families. I would not hold Weinstein's other victims to that same standard because they did not have the same support system and power.
I think that Gwyneth Paltrow is someone who needs to be held to account for her lack of action in the face of Weinstein's harassment. Ms. Paltrow claims Weinstein harassed and tried to assault her in a hotel when she was in her early twenties. She then told her boyfriend at the time, Brad Pitt, who then threatened Weinstein. Well, Ms. Paltrow had more than Brad Pitt in her corner. She grew up in the industry, her mother is the famous, well-liked and respected actress, Blythe Danner. Her father was a well liked and respected producer, Bruce Paltrow. Her Godfather and de facto uncle is Steven Spielberg…and Spielberg may be THE most powerful person in the industry and he was partners with the two other most powerful people in the business, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. If she had gone to her father, mother and Spielberg, they could have snuffed Harvey Weinstein out like a bug beneath their shoe. But she didn't, in fact, she continued to not only work with Weinstein by becoming the first lady of Miramax, but she ardently defended him in interviews. It is obvious that Gwyneth Paltrow's ambition was more important than any feminist values she may have held, and so she sold out other, less powerfully equipped and connected women, to be victims of Weinstein while she reaped the rewards. That may sound harsh, but it is the truth. The fact that stating that truth is considered anathema is proof that the power dynamics where women are on the weak side opposite men will continue to prevail in Hollywood and America.
WEAKNESS IS STRENGTH - THE FALSE IDOL OF VICTIMHOOD
The same is true for women like Lena Dunham who are out there asking what "men are going to do" about sexual harassment. Stop asking for men to do anything, you do not need men to protect you, do it yourself. This sort of approach by allegedly feminist women is unconsciously self-defeating and fueled by emotion.
Another form of self-defeating activity is the #metoo. This hashtag, where women simply say that yes, they have been harassed, is just another form of embracing victimhood. Embracing victimhood is a dangerous game because it can solidify feelings of inadequacy and weakness. With so many women embracing victimhood, which is quite en vogue among all sexes in our culture right now, they are fortifying the structures that keep victimizing them.
Actress and director Sarah Polley wrote a piece in the New York Times this past weekend which is endemic of this type of thinking. Ms. Polley lays claim to being a victim, and that Hollywood is male dominated and being a women is isolating and scary, but she refuses to name any names of the men who harassed her. That is a serious problem because Ms. Polley, and the #metoo people are embracing victimhood without going through the next, and most vital step in psychological and cultural evolution, getting your power back by confronting your assailant.
As long as Ms. Polley and #metoo and the rest just embrace their victimhood and do not name names, then the power dynamic will not change and the cycle of abuse will continue for generations.
Look, these women did not ask to be harassed or abused and they didn't deserve it, but the reality is they have been and they must accept that it is a test. To pass the test they must confront the dragon that they fear will devour them and slay it. It is not enough to say you are a victim, or to say dragons exist, you must pull your sword, confront the beast, and kill it. Anything less and the dragon will have won, and will make others their victims.
NAMING NAMES - NUMBER ONE ON THE ENEMIES LIST
Which brings me to my final point. A few commenters took me to task for saying I knew what Weinstein was up to, but didn't do anything about it. This is true, I did nothing. I had no first hand experience or proof of Harvey Weinstein's misdeeds and I am not exactly a person anyone has ever listened to, and no one gives a crap about, but still, my inactivity on the subject is shameful.
With that in mind, I will share with you the name of someone who is still working in the industry who I know for a fact sexually harassed and sexually assaulted someone on a film set. I heard this story directly from the person involved right after it happened, and know that there were dozens of witnesses who did and said nothing during and after the incident because Schiff was one of the bigger names on the small project. The person who sexually harassed and assaulted a female crew member was none other than actor Richard Schiff. Yes, Richard Schiff, everybody's favorite limp-dick, mealy-mouthed douchebag from The West Wing and now The Good Doctor.
I am willing to bet that Mr. Schiff has assaulted other women, but I can only prove he did it to one. Will Hollywood hold Mr. Schiff to account for what he did? I doubt it because it is too busy scapegoating (in the classical sense) Harvey Weinstein for all if its ills. But I can promise you this, if I ever meet Richard Schiff, I will hold him to account. See, I am a big and very, very scary guy, and if I were in a room with Mr. Schiff he would get to feel what it is like to be on the short end of the power dynamic in a hurry. Schiff would quickly find out that when you are the weaker one it is no fun because you have to rely on the kindness of the more powerful and that is rarely guaranteed. As an example of this look no further than Mr. Schiff who, just like Harvey Weinstein, did not behave with kindness when he was powerful on a movie set and instead assaulted the woman with whom he was working.
Now, I doubt anything will come of this Richard Schiff revelation, but maybe I will catch a break and he will sue me. I hope he does because discovery would be an absolute treat. Who knows, if it comes to a court case maybe that ferocious defender of feminism, Lisa Bloom, will defend me. Fingers crossed!!