Since October fifth, news of the Winstein sexual assault scandal has been on the rise. The story was first broken by Jodi Kantor in the New York Times and has quickly snowballed. Dozens of high profile actresses have since come out to report instances of sexual assault perpetrated by Weinstein; there are currently twenty-eight total accusations ranging from harassment to full blown sexual assault. Weinstein’s serial sexual predication has finally been brought to light. This story is still developing but currently Weinstein has been expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and has fled to Europe for alleged ‘sexual addiction’ therapy.
The true question regarding this news story is clearly, why was this atrocity allowed to continue for so long? Weinstein’s sexual engagements were continuously brought up by multiple actresses, and several felt the effects of speaking out on their careers. However no one questioned Weinstein, and when the story first broke several actors tried to defend his actions, notably Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Donna Karan. Karan even went so far as to suggest that the assault perpetrated by Weinstein was the fault of the actresses for dressing provocatively and ‘asking for it’. When the excuses reach the point of blamaing a victim for their own assault, it becomes clear that the problem is not only with Harvey Weinstein, but with the twisted ideals of Hollywood that have become so entrenched the public can barely discern behavior that is appropriate and that which is clearly not. The entire spectacle has uncovered a culture of systematic misogyny in Hollywood that many were aware of but few truly realized the depth of it’s roots.
The ‘casting couch’ abuse of Hollywood is an issue that extends deep through through the performance industry. Sexual confrontations can not only affect the mental health of actresses, however when these encounters are refused they can impact that career possibilities of the performers. When men in influential positions abuse their power it is always women who suffer the consequences. Even now Weinstein is attempting to shift the consequences of his actions onto a perceived, ‘sex addiction’ a term that was legitimized by the National Association of Addiction. By blaming his actions on an addiction Weinstein is increasing the culture of non acceptance and victim blaming that has remained a part of the sexual abuse problem for years. If the belief that respected men should be trusted simply on the basis that they are respectable than no woman will be safe from this power imbalance.
Hollywood desperately needs change.
If the acting industry is unable to rip out its roots of sexual abuse and coercion after this blatantly horrifying instance of predation, than nothing will spur them to finally begin protecting the women who work and live within the industry they’ve built their livelihoods on.