I see your name in lights, scrolling at the end of hit movie after hit movie, a star-maker behind the scenes, your influence woven into the very fabric of Hollywood. You’re the gatekeeper to a land of untold successes, the ferryman to a distant shore where dreams come true. You brush shoulders with the glitterati and make or break careers. You’re An Important Man, Harvey Weinstein, with all the capital letters and toxic hubris that title implies. You’re on a pedestal that’s never so much as wobbled, so it must have come as quite the surprise to have come crashing to the ground with all the speed and splashback of a lead turd.
The casting couch is no new idea to anyone who’s ever watched a movie, let alone been involved in the industry. It’s a mental image that we’ve held for years, either giggled at as a seedy joke, normalised as a rite of passage or even fetishised as somehow romantic – the idea that a handsome man in a smart suit can make an ambitious starlet unlock her potential using the magical key of his penis. That it’s become a pop culture footnote tells a depressingly predictable story about how we view sexual exploitation; that on some level the victim has to be complicit in it, that they may even benefit from their abuse, and that the whole tawdry business is a bit seedy but there are no real victims and it warrants no more analysis than a stifled giggle or a joke from James Corden.
Well done, Harvey Weinstein, for blowing apart the self-evident bullshit of that particular myth. There is no handsome man and there is no ambitious woman in the world that aspires to have violence thrust upon them as a means to an end.
True, this is all still unfolding and as yet, you aren’t facing any criminal charges. What we have instead is the levee of silence breaking and a flood of allegations coming forwards, all terrifyingly similar and heartbreakingly familiar. You’ve got away for abusing your position for years, an ogre in a bathrobe breathing heavily in a blocked doorway. There’s no glamour to it and there are real victims broken under your feet. You’re a reminder that predatory behaviour crosses all societal boundaries, with money and power making no difference other than making it easier to conceal your crimes.
And although the initial wave of revulsion has been a powerful one, sweeping your legacy away with it, already the predictable and pernicious responses have started to blossom in its waters like toxic algae. You don’t have to look far to find people claiming that a deluge of accusers must mean there are liars among them, that others must have been willing because they didn’t fight enough, that some of the objects of your ‘affections’ had careers that flourished as a result of it, so they must have been complicit. We move with lightning speed to blame the victim and then ask ourselves why they didn’t feel they could come forward sooner.
A victim’s decision to speak out is never a question of strength prevailing over weakness. The shame, fear, guilt and trauma inflicted by an abuser are just as much weapons in their armoury as the physical violence that comes with any sexual assault. A grotesque imbalance of power is the veil that silences, and it’s weighed down on the voice of the victim by the wider expectation that they simply won’t be believed. Well guess what, Harvey Weinstein. The whisper of a hundred silenced voices quickly gathers into a roar and now they’re calling your name.
And can we stop with the “it was another time” bullshit? I’m pretty sure Rose McGowan and Cara Delevingne weren’t in that many movies in the eighties. You haven’t stopped or adjusted your behaviour in decades and even if you had, we shouldn’t be refusing to judge history by the standards of our present. If we did, we’d still be calling Caligula a top lad who just took the bants a bit far. There hasn’t ever been a time when acting the way you did wasn’t abusive. There was only ever a time when you were getting away with it.
A woman finding a powerful man attractive is one thing; for a man to assume that said attraction is implicit due to his power is entitled, predatory bullshit. It’s grotesque that you’ve attempted to recast yourself as the victim, bravely battling his demons and addiction, and it’s even more grotesque that apologists like Woody Allen are more concerned about a man’s right to wink at a woman in the workplace than justice coming for a potential rapist. And as for the #NotAllMen morons trying to make this about them, how about just for once shutting the fuck up and recognising that the idea of ‘violence against women’ is not a passive phenomenon where there are no aggressors. If you want to be an ally yet retain your ever-so-important masculinity, just have a quick look at how Anthony Bourdain’s handling Asia Argento’s revelations about Weinstein and follow the fuck suit. Better yet, how about we stop talking *at* women about sexual assault and start listening *to* them instead.
I see you, Harvey Weinstein, an apologetic and reformed man, having completed your treatment and learned the error of your ways. That’s all you needed to do, after all, and now everything is fine. You’re sorry for the hurt you’ve caused, even if you believe everything was consensual and you’re still planning on suing anyone who’s claimed otherwise. It’s all over now, because you’ve decided it is, and although you may have lost your titles you’re free to walk back into the world and attempt rebuilding your legacy. I see you walk down the corridor towards the pleasant sunlight behind the sliding doors, ready to reemerge into the world a new man.
I see the shadows gathering, blocking your path. I see them swell and loom over you, coalescing into a dark, terrifying figure blocking your path. I see you stop, swallowing nervously, wondering how to get past safely.
These are your shadows, Harvey Weinstein, and your victims have stepped free of them. Now the only path they’re blocking is your own, and there’s no path back into the light until you accept the truth of what you’ve done.
I see you, Harvey Weinstein. I fucking see you.