Harvey Weinstein and Rape Culture

Trigger Warning: Rape

If you’ve been keeping up with Hollywood news, you’ve probably heard about Harvey Weinstein this week. More specifically, Harvey Weinstein's sexual assaults. If you’re anything like me, the first thing that comes to your mind is, “wow, what a typical portrayal of rich, white, male privilege.” If you have no idea what I’m talking about, allow me to inform you.

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Harvey Weinstein is a 65-year-old American film producer, with a wife (his third) and five kids. He has been called one of the most successful film producers of the 90’s, co-founding Miramax and then creating his own Weinstein Company, both of which are responsible for several award-winning films. Of all the things Harvey has done, the most astounding are his alleged sexual harassment and assaults of 29 women and counting, without being publically condemned for it, until now.

After a ten-month investigation, reporter Ronan Farrow published a story in The New Yorker, airing all of Weinstein's dirty laundry. Since the article has come out, here is what we know. At least 30 women have come forward, accusing Weinstein of sexual misconduct, dating back to 1984. The victims fit a pattern, all women in their mid to late 20’s, all actresses or models, usually working in a film of his. Some of these women include Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mira Sorvino, etc. The stories of the victims also fit a pattern. They involve Weinstein inviting the women to his hotel room for drinks with himself and other female co-workers. Once the women arrive, there is no one else in the room except Harvey in a bathrobe, or already naked in the tub. Finally, Weinstein has been accused of raping three women. All three women described forced oral, and/or vaginal sex.

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These are the facts of the reports, and when Weinstein was confronted with them he made the statement, or excuse, “I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different…” (NPR.org). Following with an apology for any pain he has caused. When Weinstein's inner-circle was confronted with them, they claimed they had no idea what Harvey was doing behind closed doors. Many people find this difficult to believe since Weinstein's sexually inappropriate reputation was, in fact, a known one. It has been described as one of Hollywood's many kept secrets- something everyone knows, but nobody wants to talk about.

This unfolding scandal brings up an even bigger discussion. “Why didn’t these women speak up sooner?” The question can be answered by looking at rape culture. Rape culture “is a sociological concept which discusses settings where rape is normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.” This idea is built and sustained by the sexual objectification, slut-shaming, and victim-blaming of victims.

We see a lot of victim-blaming in our society, especially when it comes to women accusing men in power. It is important to remember that no woman asks to be sexually harassed, or assaulted. The appearance, nor the attitude of a woman suggests that she wants to be stripped of her dignity and humiliated. When this unfortunate scenario takes place, it is incredibly challenging to admit to yourself, let alone to the public. Many women are ashamed and fearful. Many of Weinstein's victims described the fear of being accused of lying, and in turn having their careers ruined in Hollywood. These cases are typical circumstances, and so it becomes a cycle.

Since the story has come out, things have gone very downhill for Harvey Weinstein. He has been fired from his own company, his wife has decided to leave him, and he is on the verge of being completely ostracized from Hollywood. In a society that normalizes rape, and blames women for being attacked, it is nice to see so many women come together in order to assure that Weinstein gets what he deserves. I am hopeful that we may avoid asking questions that put the victim in a position of judgment and conviction and place the predators there instead.