“The film starts with Doug seeking out his next prey. He becomes obsessed with a woman named Amy… he’s able to learn details of her life… He meets her at a coffee shop… strikes up conversations with her. The two become friends, but it seems as though Amy isn’t interested in continuing the relationship further.”
That bit of opening plot — from the 2007 Weinstein Company film, Alone with Her — is eerily close to the reality that we are now learning about the secret life of Harvey Weinstein.
TV-journalist Lauren Sivan recalls her encounter with Weinstein to NBC’s Megyn Kelly at a Manhattan restaurant.
He was “complimenting me, telling me how impressed he was with what I do,” Sivan said.
Later, at another restaurant owned by Weinstein, he invites Sivan to tour the kitchen.
“That’s when he cornered me in this vestibule and leaned in and tried to kiss me, which I immediately rebuffed, and … I thought it would end there. That’s when he blocked the entrance and said, ‘Just stand there and be quiet.’ ”
“Shocked, Sivan said she ‘stood there dumbfounded’ as Weinstein exposed himself and began masturbating.”
After that, Weinstein allowed her to leave. Sivan told friends at the time, but was nervous about going public.
“I didn’t know what going public would do for me,” Sivan told Kelly.
Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and now Harvey Weinstein.
It begins the same way: one woman comes forward, then another, and another until there are just too many stories, too many similarities to ignore the truth. And in the case of Weinstein, that truth is abundantly clear: that he was a powerful man who was a sexual predator just like Cosby, Ailes and O’Reilly.
“In April,” The New York Times writes, “Emily Steel and Mike Schmidt reported that over a series of years, about $13 million was paid to address complaints from women about the behavior of the former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly.”
Thirteen MILLION. Not only is the behavior contemptible, it’s costly.
In another Times report (Oct. 10) “Mr. Weinstein’s spokeswoman, Sallie Hofmeister, said in a statement on Tuesday that he denied engaging in non-consensual sex and never punished women for rejecting him.
“ ‘There were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances,’ she said. ‘He will not be available for further comments, as he is taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life.’ ”
Great for Weinstein, but what about the lives of his victims: Kate Beckinsale, Cara Delevingne, Claire Forlani, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rose McGowan who alleges that Weinstein raped her, and dozens of others.
Former Weinstein assistant, Lauren O’Connor, summarized it best in a memo:
“I am a 28-year-old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64-year-old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.”
As more victims came forward, word began to spread that others must have known. Meryl Streep addressed the issue in a statement:
“The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported. The intrepid women who raised their voices to expose this abuse are our heroes.
“One thing can be clarified. Not everybody knew. Harvey supported the work fiercely, was exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally. I didn’t know about these other offenses: I did not know about his financial settlements with actresses and colleagues; I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom, or other inappropriate, coercive acts. And If everybody knew, I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it.
“The behavior is inexcusable, but the abuse of power familiar. Each brave voice that is raised, heard and credited by our watchdog media will ultimately change the game.”
Nonetheless, some on the Weinstein board did know of payouts to women and said nothing.
“David Boies, a lawyer who represented Mr. Weinstein when his contract was up for renewal in 2015, said in an interview that the board and the company were made aware at the time of three or four confidential settlements with women,” The New York Times reports (Oct. 11).
Sometimes, however, it doesn’t take decades for action.
“Roy Price,” The New York Times writes (Oct. 12), “the executive in charge of Amazon’s growing investment in movies and television shows, was suspended by the company on Thursday after a Hollywood producer publicly accused him of making unwanted sexual advances toward her.”
But the behavior continues to be condoned. As we know, some men in power play by different rules.
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them… And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the p***y.” – Donald Trump, 2005 conversation with Billy Bush for Access Hollywood.
Over the weekend, the 54-member board of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences voted to oust Harvey Weinstein from its membership.
In part, their statement read:
“We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over,” the academy said.
Did the board go far enough?
How can they expel Weinstein for his “sexually predatory behavior” without expelling Bill Cosby who similarly preyed upon women over decades, or Director Roman Polanski, who was arrested and charged with acts against a child of 13?
Many organizations, like the University of Minnesota, offer steps that can be taken against workplace sexual harassment and abuse.
Nonetheless, we shouldn’t wait for women to come forward and report sexual misconduct or assault. Men who observe or suspect such behavior have a duty to speak out, as well.