A Post-Weinstein Age
On October 5th, 2017 The New York Times published a story detailing the decade's long sexual assault allegations against film mogul and producer Harvey Weinstein. The resulting weeks have seen the proverbial floodgates opened. It seems that there is not a day goes by that we are each inundated with breaking news of fresh allegations against powerful men and women. Every day we have more and more proof that the wealthy and powerful have wielded their influence to coerce and abuse people below them. There is no denying that men are the ones who are committing these acts of sexual assault. To list out all of the alleged crimes would take too long, so I am instead going to give an incomplete list. In the weeks since the Weinstein story broke former President George H.W Bush, actor Kevin Spacey, Senate nominee Roy Moore, Senator Al Franken, presenter and host Charlie Rose, film director and head of Pixar John Lasseter, and singer Mariah Carey. All these people in the space of a month and a half, and once again this is not the complete list. What we are now seeing is a backlash century in the making.
I can honestly say that I am shocked. People like Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore, I can understand. I was not shocked by the allegations. Even Al Franken, while surprising, was not too much of a shock. It’s the unexpected ones. People like Charlie Rose, who frequently made unsolicited lewd phone calls as well as walked around in the nude and forcibly groped his female colleagues. It’s shocking when you read that the female employees at Pixar have a go-to move whenever they have to sit next to Lasseter because he would uncomfortably place his hands high on their thighs.
The one major difference in this new wave of allegations is that it is no longer exclusively men who are being accused. Granted it is still overwhelmingly men, but now musical icon Mariah Carey has been accused of sexual harassment by her bodyguard. This particular accusation lays bare our society's hypocrisy regarding sexual harassment against men. Carey was accused by her bodyguard. He claimed that she repeatedly propositioned him and would belittle him about his race. The media has been largely silent about these allegations because why wouldn't they? It’s Mariah Carey after all, a woman famed for being a diva. Of course, she would do something like that. It’s played off as silly, but that ignores the fact that this man is the victim. We can’t have any real change until we fix any and all inequality between men and women.
To some people, this has all come out of left field. They had no clue that this problem was rampant. There have been those out there who are worried about a “Witch Hunt” and fear that this sort of purge will rob the world of great talent and artistry. That by removing so many famous people in the media and political landscape that we would be creating a dearth of talent and rob the world of what could have been. This is frankly a stupid position to espouse. It is ignorant. It implies that sexual assault and harassment are small prices to pay for the art or content that would have come from these perpetrators. That line of reasoning entirely discounts the victims and what they were robbed of. When the Louis C.K story finally breached the mainstream, in the New York Times once again, it highlighted how some of the female stand up comedians up and left the business altogether. They did not feel safe or welcomed. These women were essentially bullied into silence and submission by C.K. What of their futures? What have we lost because they were forced out of their industry? What about all the women that refused Weinstein and were blacklisted? What could they have created?
There will be more allegations in the future, more women and men coming forward with their stories. Plenty more, of that, I have no doubt. Right now, as you are reading this in fact. So if there is to be a “Witch Hunt” let there be one. It would be a net positive to have all those who have abused their power and abused people to be called out, to be shamed, and to be ostracized. Our collective society will be much better for it once we finally cut out this rot on our culture. We can’t stand aside and let this continue to happen. We have to be more vigilant. We have to stop this sort of behavior and entitlement when we witness it. The onus does fall on men. Men still hold the majority of positions of power in this country. It is men who are committing these crimes on a grander scale. It is us men who need to incite the change. I said it before and I’ll say it again. We need to be better.