On 5th October, New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published a story detailing decades of sexual harrassment allegations against Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein. This predatory behaviour had been part of the rumour mill for years, but previous attempts to publish anything substantial had fallen foul of Weinstein’s far-reaching influence.
This article went off in Hollywood like a bomb. Within days, Weinstein had been sacked, and more women were coming forward. On 10th October, the New Yorker published a piece by journalist Ronan Farrow accusing Weinstein of many more counts of sexual harassment and assault. High-profile actresses like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow joined the chorus.
And it didn’t stop there. Emboldened, women – and men – across the entertainment industry spoke about their own experiences of being sexually harassed, assaulted and intimated at work. Their stories implicated Kevin Spacey, Steven Segal, producer Brett Ratner, comedian Louis CK, and many more. They lifted a lid on a toxic culture where powerful men feel entitled to do whatever they want, without fearing consequences.
Even for those of us who know enough about Hollywood sexism not to be surprised, exactly, the flood of allegations is horrifying. Weinstein is not some isolated monster, but a symptom of a far deeper problem. And though the issue doesn’t end with the film industry, there’s something particularly insidious about its manifestation there.
We now know that some of the most beloved films of recent decades, stories we’ve embraced and made a part of our lives, were made off the back of exploiting the vulnerable. Behind the scenes, Hollywood silences and objectifies women – how can this not affect its end products? In how many small ways, and for how long, have the global audiences who watch Hollywood movies been absorbing these toxic messages?
But there’s also something cathartic and empowering about recent revelations, and that’s watching survivors find a voice. It’s a hard road, but the possibility of real change seems to be in the air – the possibility of better stories, told by more diverse people. The truth, as somebody once said, will set us free.
Far wiser people than me have written far more informed pieces about all of this than I possibly could. As a primer for anyone who wants to find out more about what’s been happening and reflect on what it all means, I’ve compiled some of the key stories and the best of the analysis from around the internet.
Obviously neither of these lists is exhaustive – tweet @damarismedia or email [email protected] if there’s anything else you think should be here.
‘She often thinks of something Weinstein whispered—to himself, as far as she could tell—after one of his many shouting sprees at the office. It so unnerved her that she pulled out her phone and tapped it into a memo, word for word: “There are things I’ve done that nobody knows.”’
‘I was entering into a community that Harvey Weinstein had been in, and even shaped, long before I got there. He was one of the first people I met in the industry, and he told me, “This is the way it is.”’
‘Women, particularly the most marginalized, are silenced, while powerful abusers can scream as loudly as they want, lie as much as they want and continue to profit through it all. This is a long awaited reckoning. It must be.’
‘A lot of great art will now forever be marred by disturbing subtext concerning its creators. But what about the people they targeted, whose resulting trauma affected their chances or ability to advance their careers and pursue their dreams? What about the great art we lost?’
‘Another important step forward would be for all of us to start telling and consuming different stories. If you don’t want to be a part of a culture in which sexual abuse and harassment are rampant, don’t buy a ticket to a film that promotes it.’
‘The history of cinema is also a history of the exploitation of women…Cinema has long served as a vehicle for male onanism, a space in which male fantasies about sexual power over women are expressed on screen and enacted behind the camera.’
Sophie Lister is the editor of the Damaris Media blog