It’s the end of an era. Harvey Weinstein, 65, a massive Hollywood producer, has been sacked by the board of the Weinstein company (which he set up with his brother Bob) following the allegations of sexual harassment and rape. Formerly of Miramax, an independent production company which produced and distributed successful films such as Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love and The Crying Game, Weinstein later co-founded the Harvey Weinstein Company which distributed success such as Silver Linings Playbook, The Kings Speech and Django Unchained.
Weinstein’s power extended into politics as well. A long-time Democrat, he had a well-established relationship with the party as a donor. He was a donor to the Clinton Family foundation and he also donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. However, his relationship with the Obamas is no less prominent; Michelle thanked him in 2013 after his donations to Barack’s campaign, and this summer their daughter Malia interned for Weinstein’s company.
5 October 2017: The New York Times published an article reporting stories of women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment; the list included actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan as well as model Ambra Battilava, as well as many employees of the company. They all shared a common narrative: with a working excuse, the producer attracted women in hotel rooms, asking for massages, attempting to have sex with them and/or harassing them. The majority of them preferred not to talk, scared that their career would have been ruined. In at least eight cases, the victims obtained payout settlements with condition of anonymity regarding Harvey Weinstein’s behavior (as with Battilava). After this article, some actresses intervened to express their support, while Weinstein lawyer claimed that legal action against the journal were ready to be taken.
However, on 10 October, Ronan Farrow (son of actress Mia Farrow and Woody Allen) published an enquiry which collects the story of 13 women who claimed sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein, including three that accused him of rape. Italian actress and director Asia Argento explained the terrifying experience where the producer forcefully practiced oral sex on her during the production of the movie B. Monkey in 1997. Farrow also included an audio recording from the NYPD police, where Harvey Weinstein admits to groping Battilava. This article was a real break-through. The same day, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie shared their stories: both have experienced sexual harassment by the producer while involved in movies that his company was going to distribute. Since 10 October, the list has grown longer: Cara Delevingne, Lea Seydoux and Eva Green have shared their stories accusing the producer of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.
In the meantime, the reaction of Weinstein and his entourage is ambivalent. On one hand, Weinstein has released a statement where he apologised for the pain he has caused and currently in a retirement to “learn about myself and conquer my demons”, while his spokeswoman kept repeating that all accusations of non consensual sex are false. On the other hand, he has been sacked by the board of his company, left by his wife and expelled by the board of the Academy Awards. In addition, the New York police and the London MET police are currently investigating accusations of sexual harassment.
Hollywood appeared in shock, but is this shock genuine? After actor Ben Affleck shared his support for the victims, Rose McGowan (@rosemcgowan) accused him of knowing everything and staying silent about him. She was later suspended from Twitter for sharing a private phone number during her crusade. After she came back, she accused an Amazon producer too for sinking her project with them after telling what happened with Harvey Weinstein. Hints about his behaviour have been found in comments left by stars in the past. The more this issue is going on, the more Hollywood insiders are claiming that it was an “open secret”; while among the list of women harassed there are many employees that described a situation that was well known by the majority of the people inside the company.
This affair is more than just a case of a guilty man; it suggests that this is an accepted practice to the extent that Harvey Weinstein is just at the “top of a harassment ladder” as Emma Thompson explained in an interview for the BBC. A ladder made of powerful people who do whatever they want in a system where their money and their success do not make them accountable for rape and sexual harassment; where women who can’t defend themselves have to be subjected to crimes against their persona, marginalisation and abuse.