Unless you are very invested in the world of Hollywood, chances are good that you never heard of the name “Harvey Weinstein” until about two weeks ago, when The New York Times put out a story alleging that he had been sexually harassing women “for decades.” And now, if you’ve been on the internet at all since then, chances are good that you haven’t been able to go on one social media channel without seeing his name splashed everywhere. Maybe you ignored the articles the first few times because you didn’t know who he was and therefore didn’t care. Maybe you’re so used to reading about sexual harassment/assault charges that you simply didn’t want to read another one. But listen: you should absolutely care about what’s going on with Harvey Weinstein, because it’s a really, really big deal.
Harvey is an extremely powerful man in Hollywood, a (former) film studio executive, and the producer behind many of your favorite films. He’s won awards, he’s at all of the big Hollywood events, and he’s a known name by pretty much everyone in show business. He’s not only known for his work, though – Harvey is also known for his bad temper, his fits of rage, and his habit of allegedly sexually assaulting young women in Hollywood who are less powerful than him. Harvey’s wild card, dangerous personality is so well-known in Hollywood that it’s become normalized – behavior that gets almost lovingly made fun of in shows like HBO’s Entourage, something that is so talked about that tearing him down for it seems almost ridiculous.
The scary thing about the Harvey Weinstein situation is knowing there's a man like him at almost every studio, network, company…
— la bella vita (@drugproblem) October 10, 2017
But now things have changed. Women are accusing Harvey of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and the list of victims seems to grow daily. Buzzfeed put together an entire list of women in Hollywood who have claimed Harvey has sexually abused them in some way. Big names like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have said Harvey harassed them when they were just starting out. TMZ has a horrific recording of a model begging Harvey to leave her alone after he repeatedly asks her to watch him shower. Three women have said that Harvey raped them. Every day the accusations become scarier and scarier, and it seems that there were very little women in Hollywood who didn’t feel uncomfortable around him.
So, why should you care? This doesn’t affect you in your every day life. You’re not a celebrity. You’re not part of Hollywood. There are other horrible things happening in the world – natural disasters, mass shooting, innocent people dying. Why should you spend your time stressing about Hollywood news?
I get it. But guys, this is bigger than just Harvey. This speaks to a much larger problem about men and sexual assault, especially white, wealthy, powerful men. It’s a conversation that I feel like we’ve had multiple times, like at least once a week. Harvey Weinstein is just one Hollywood mogul who has (allegedly) sexually assaulted and harassed less powerful women because he knows he can get away with it. He knows that, at the end of the day, he’ll be okay. The women, the victims, will not, but he will – and that kind of thing doesn’t only happen in Hollywood, or with super wealthy men. It happens in workplaces all over the country, all over the world, and it’s something you need to be aware of.
Situations like these are why women feel afraid of men and feel like they can’t trust them. Gurl writer Ashley Reese mentioned this while we discussed the situation in the office, and again on Twitter:
I…really don't think men realize how terrifying they are. I don't think there's a single woman on earth who isn't afraid of men.
— Ashley Reese (@offbeatorbit) October 10, 2017
Ask any woman you know, and I’m sure they have at least five stories about times men made them feel uncomfortable at work (or anywhere). A few weeks ago, a man followed my sister to her car after work, then followed her to the next location she drove to in his car. In college, I worked for a male manager who played favorites with his female employees. You could get on his good side only by flirting with him, and if you didn’t play the game, you were regularly scolded for small things and given bad shifts. These stories are nothing compared to some of the abuse some women deal with.
Workplace sexual harassment might bring to mind long, boring meetings, a ’90s video about what constitutes sexual abuse in the office, something you can roll your eyes or laugh at. But it’s not. It happens all the time. Men who are in a position of power often laud their power over female employees by sexually harassing them, and this behavior often gets pushed under the rug. Of course, not all men do this, and I’m not trying to claim that they do. There are some great guys out there who don’t treat women this way and would never dream of doing so. Unfortunately, there are many men who do this kind of thing and get away with it – and men who see it happen and ignore it, or assume it’s normal.
You need to care about the Harvey Weinstein situation because it could happen to you too, even if you aren’t a celebrity and even if you don’t have a high profile job. A man in a higher position might make a remark to you that makes you feel uncomfortable, or they might touch you in a way that feels way too friendly, or they might do something even worse. And you might feel like you can’t tell anyone about it, for so many reasons. You could feel like no one will believe you, because he’s been around a lot longer than you, and he’s established and you aren’t. You might feel like the company you work for will ignore you and protect him instead because it’s easier. You could feel like you’ll lose your job because of it. And the sad part is, you might be right.
Honestly, fuck every single person who is making Harvey Weinstein about women's "failures" to speak out.
Y'ALL ARE THE FUCKING PROBLEM.
— Sarah Lerner (@SarahLerner) October 10, 2017
These things happen all the time. Harvey didn’t get fired from his position for decades because women were afraid to speak up, because they figured no one would care. And in many cases, they were correct – I was horrified by a story I read about the New York Times refusing to write about Harvey’s sexual harassment charges years ago because they didn’t want to be shunned by him. If you can’t trust the Times, who can you trust?
Here’s what you should know: if a man you work with – or any man in any setting – makes you feel uncomfortable with a sexual remark or action, you always have the right to speak up and the right to fight any consequence that comes your way. Making things public and exposing someone is not easy at all, but sometimes it’s the only way to get the justice you deserve. You don’t need to do anything you’re uncomfortable with. I understand why so many women were silent about Harvey for so long. But you should also know that you don’t need to be silent. The man doing this stuff isn’t better than you – so please remember that.