If the pile of allegations against him are true, Harvey Weinstein is a monster who managed to roam Hollywood unfettered for decades. That he was able to do that is wrong, and we should do everything we can to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
That seems a pretty simple concept—sexual harassment and rape are morally repugnant and socially deleterious. People who do those things are bad people. But as stories escalating in horror drop about Weinstein—from The New York Times to the Huffington Post to today’s stomach-souring piece in the New Yorker—many responses have been anything but helpful.
Blaming women for what happened is not helpful. On Sunday, clothing designer and Weinstein friend Donna Karan implied that the women Weinstein targeted put themselves in the position to be sexually harassed or assaulted because of how they dressed.
"How do we present ourselves as women?” she told The Daily Mail. “Are we asking for it, by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show? I don't think it's only Harvey Weinstein ... We have to look at our world ... And how women are dressing and what they're asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble."
Karan has apologized, saying that she misspoke and that the quote was taken out of context. It’s hard to imagine a context in which that vomit of victim-blaming would be anything less than the platonic ideal of bad takes on sexual harassment and assault.
Blaming other prominent Hollywood actresses for not speaking out sooner is another bad look. Even Hollywood’s biggest stars have much less power than studio executives, and Weinstein wasn’t targeting the Jennifer Lawrences of the world; he targeted up-and-comers, young, easily discarded. Smugly condemning the vocally anti-Trump Meryl Streep for waiting days to issue a statement on Weinstein reads like a tone-deaf attempt to prematurely make a political point. Finger-wagging that people didn’t respond soon enough turns the theater of disavowing into a distraction from the alleged acts of Weinstein himself.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s second or perhaps third-favorite child, has aimed his loose cannon of a mouth at the Weinstein disgrace. He cares about sexual assault victims now, suddenly. But like everybody who defended Donald Trump Sr. last fall after the Access Hollywood tape was released, Junior has completely blown his credibility on this issue. Either sexual assault is bad, or it isn’t. Defenders of Trump chose Team Isn’t. And their leaping into the fray, treating Weinstein like a way to win an argument, is gross.
I’m not sure what point they’re trying to prove: That there are a lot of craven hypocrites in the entertainment industry willing to turn a blind eye toward abuse in order to advance their own careers? Where else in America does that happen? No wonder they say Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.
In the case of Weinstein, it’s impossible to know how much most individual actors and actresses knew for sure before this week. But we all heard the same Access Hollywood tape. People in the entertainment industry, in the face of serious on-the-record accusations, are now disavowing Weinstein. Don Jr. and company didn’t have the same response to on-the-record accusations.
Crowing about Weinstein’s political affiliation is not helpful, if only because we have so many recent examples of people whom he disagrees with politically pulling the same garbage. Weinstein interrupts a streak of prominent conservatives getting nailed for similar behavior. Roger Ailes built an entire company in his image and likeness as a gross old man who got off on pawing young blondes. The President bragged on tape about sexually assaulting women; more than a dozen women allege that it was more than just “locker room talk” on a bus. But despite what Facebook’s most insane corners might imply, being a predatory motherfucker has no political preference.
If anything, Weinstein’s status as a Democratic donor should serve to remind those who vote like him that monsters often cloak themselves in partisan sanctimony. We shouldn’t let our own politics eclipse what’s actually right and wrong. And, as mentioned before, sexual assault and harassment are wrong.
It’s also pretty unhelpful to Monday morning quarterback this story, a la Sharon Waxman claiming The New York Times killed her version of the story more than a decade before. As former Times editor Jonathan Landman pointed out, if Waxman had the goods since 2004, perhaps the reason the story never ran elsewhere is because she couldn’t get enough people on the record.
Journalists were trying to nail this story down. As Ronan Farrow points out in The New Yorker, it’s much more difficult to get a story like this to meet journalistic standards than it is to pass along a rumor you heard once at a party. Weinstein allegedly manipulated a thirsty entertainment and gossip press to his benefit, forced his employees to sign non-disclosure agreements, paid off his victims. Perhaps the columnists that ran disparaging items about women he victimized should sit silently with themselves for awhile today.
And so should people who wish to use this scandal to do anything but reiterate the wrongness of sexual assault and harassment. No matter who’s doing it. No matter who it’s happening to. No matter who has or has not condemned it.