The New York Times recently revealed allegations that Harvey Weinstein has been sexually harassing women in Hollywood for decades. The industry is in chaos and many argue that a culture of silence has elicited this abuse. Hollywood is finally assessing the extent of these allegations but many in the industry say that Weinstein is just part of an extensive problem that has been ignored for far too long.
“I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behaviour and work places were different.” Weinstein’s flawed logic points to a pattern of behaviour that Hollywood is all too familiar with. Hollywood has been a male dominated industry from the beginning, and many women have been sexualised and devalued by powerful men. The fall of Harvey Weinstein could be the spark that will help to extinguish a larger issue, but currently, the problem still remains.
Sexism in Hollywood is undeniable. Four per cent of directors are women, and only Kathryn Bigelow has received the Academy Award for Best Director. “I am a professional and have tried to be professional. I am not treated that way however. I am sexualised and diminished.” Lauren O’Connor’s memo suggests that prejudice has produced a noxious environment for women in Hollywood. The stereotypical “casting couch” is an example of this; men in power have exploited women’s sexuality by exchanging sexual favours with women desperate for a chance of success.
“The fall of Weinstein could help to extinguish a larger issue, but the problem still remains.”
Over the last decades, a veil of silence has shrouded sexual abuse allegations in Hollywood. Many who attempted to discuss their abuse were met with ignorance and were often discredited. Colleagues of Weinstein claimed that when pressed by several board members, he blatantly denied the accusations and insisted that these women had set him up. Furthermore, he reportedly reached at least eight settlements with victims in order to ensure their silence and his protection.
Some have praised The Weinstein Company for dealing with this scandal swiftly, but as Lena Dunham said “this has actually been the slowest action because they always always knew.” Hollywood’s conspiracy of silence has made many vulnerable to those who abuse their power. Weinstein’s role in the entertainment industry has been ended, but it is horrifying that Weinstein stated that he hoped to be given a “second chance”.
Weinstein has been the focus of the world’s media this week but he is not the only one to be accused. The founder of Honest Trailers, Andy Signore, was fired last week as a result of sexual abuse allegations. Similarly, in August, Joss Whedon’s wife accused him of using his position of power to participate in adulterous, inappropriate affairs. It seems that a tone has been set in Hollywood, and that Weinstein is only the tip of the iceberg.
“Weinstein is only the tip of the iceberg”
“Isn’t it the same story as Jimmy Saville?” Emma Thompson’s interview argued that there are too many “blind eyes” in Hollywood as many opportunities for Weinstein to be called out were ignored. Thompson admitted that she was not convinced that Hollywood would change as a result of this scandal, but stated that it must change nonetheless. Hopefully, the accusations that came to light this week will permeate the idea of the “casting couch” and thus providing both men and women with the confidence and encouragement needed to speak out against abuse.
Meryl Streep said, “The behaviour is inexcusable, but the abuse of power familiar.” If Weinstein is an old dinosaur that leads to learn new ways, then Hollywood is too. If it does not change then vulnerable people will continue to be preyed upon and abused. Hollywood needs to become an institution where sexual assault is career-terminating for men and being vocal about being assaulted is not.