On Thursday night, I had an experience that made me realize how completely naïve and sheltered I am.
Stories had begun to hit the press about the behavior of Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein, relative to pretty much any woman unlucky enough to be within 100 feet of him. The stories had only begun to emerge when a certain narrative emerged along with it.
“He’s been doing this for years,” the narrative went. “Everybody’s known about this for decades.”
Assuming this is true, and Weinstein’s behavior has been an open secret since approximately forever, it was only natural that the usual dumb fucks would start asking questions like, “Why didn’t anyone come forward sooner?”
Anyone asking this question likely does not appreciate, or chooses to disregard, how much power this man had, and the consequences anyone would suffer who dared go up against him. If you fucked with him, your career was over, and you were lucky if that was the only thing you lost in the bargain.
Assuming someone wanted to do it anyway, career be damned, there’s still the money factor. Even someone with money to spend on a lawyer would have lost, simply because of how much money Weinstein had at his disposal. He could afford to keep the case in court forever, until the hypothetical plaintiff simply ran out of money and had to abandon the suit.
This is how tobacco companies operate, and why they have never really been taken down despite the fact that they’re selling an addictive product that causes cancer. They can spend any plaintiff to death, and so could Harvey Weinstein. Go ahead. Scream all you want. No one will hear you.
Anyone who considered opposing him was almost certainly told this. Don’t bother, I’m sure they were told. It will be bad for your career. It makes you look vindictive. Shut up and sit down.
I knew all of this already, not as it pertained specifically to Weinstein, but as it pertained to almost any situation in which a woman was victimized by a powerful man and didn’t come forward. I knew this to be the case in every industry, including the movie industry. But before last week, I didn’t know specifically about Weinstein, because I’m not part of the industry and the only part of it that I follow for my work is pretty wonky box-office stuff.
In the first 24 hours after the story broke, it seemed clear that Weinstein and his team were in damage control mode. Despite the allegations against him in the October 5 New York Times article, his team clearly believed that there was enough wiggle room in his situation that money could prevent a breach. It wouldn’t be cheap, but he could get away with it.
On Thursday night, the tenor of the situation changed when newscaster Lauren Sivan described an incident in which Weinstein masturbated in front of her after cornering her. According to Sivan, the incident ended when he ejaculated onto a nearby potted plant. Immediately after this revelation, Weinstein’s lawyer quit, and he was forced out of the company he had co-founded.
So just to recap, if you’re a powerful Hollywood mogul, you can safely terrorize women for decades with no damage to your reputation or career. When someone comes forward to describe an incident in which she was terrorized, the terrorizer can still go to rehab and sweep the whole thing under the rug.
What you cannot do, however, is ejaculate onto a plant. The entire civilized world will turn against you if you do this. This is what I learned Thursday night.
The reason I say I was naïve and sheltered prior to this was because I simply assumed women in Hollywood, and in every other industry, were habitually harassed with no consequences. What I did not realize is that their lives have less value to those who work in the industry than that of a potted plant.
So far the media has not divulged the nature of Weinstein’s “forcing out.” But I’m going to take a wild guess and opine that his journey to joblessness will be paved with million-dollar severance checks, stock options and personal texts from other powerful Hollywood men, advising him to just lay low, wait until this all blows over, and then you can sit on the board of our company.