Harvey Weinstein is scum. An entire thesaurus of results for words like “monster” and “predator” aren’t enough to describe his gross abuse of power and manipulation of women, which Ronan Farrow’s just-published investigation in The New Yorker reveals includes the alleged rape of at least three women.
In other words, the scope and depravity of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior is wider and more horrible than we thought.
The New York Times revealed that whispers of Weinstein’s harassment of women and abuse of the proverbial casting couch—whispers that became industry jokes—actually extended to settlements between Weinstein and at least eight women over the course of three decades over his sexual misconduct.
Shock and disgust over that revelation leveled-up Tuesday with the horrific details of Farrow’s New Yorker piece: Three women alleged that Weinstein raped them. Four said they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as assault. Four more said that Weinstein exposed himself or masturbated in front of them. Four actresses, including Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, said that they lost roles and their careers suffered after they spurned Weinstein’s sexual advances.
Hours later, the Times published a second exposé in which Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie joined the growing roster of women to come out saying Weinstein sexually harassed them. Paltrow was 22 and Jolie was 19, both at the beginning of their careers.
More, surrounding Weinstein through all of these anecdotes and decades of misconduct and use of power as sexual currency is an army of Weinstein employees and cronies, protecting their king from consequence for nearly three decades.
There is no excuse for Weinstein’s actions, and no conspirator can shoulder any of the blame he is owed. But Weinstein didn’t act alone.
It takes a village to take down a monster. But it also requires one to help him reign.
Since the Times exposé published, complicity has been a major topic of conversation. The meaningless, decades-long shoulder shrug that Weinstein’s behavior was an “open secret” had morphed into a witch hunt: Who knew? Standing adjacent from those applauding the actors and executives for speaking out once the extent of the allegations became public were those with pitchforks pillorying them for not doing something sooner.
And while there is merit to that—something that actors ranging from George Clooney to Glenn Close have copped to—Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker investigation outs the real coven: the Weinstein Company executives, assistants, legal team, PR battalion, and employees who didn’t just turn a blind eye to their boss’s actions, but willingly took part in an orchestrated effort to facilitate his harassment and suppress his accusers and consequences.
Farrow writes that 16 former and current executives and assistants at Weinstein’s companies told him they had knowledge of Weinstein’s pattern of making unwanted sexual advances, and that the behavior was “widely known within both Miramax and the Weinstein Company.” In other words, it’s more than the 16; they’re just the ones who spoke to Farrow.
They confirmed what has been alluded to for years, that “professional meetings” would be orchestrated as a ruse for Weinstein to make sexual advances. There were employees who acted “in subterfuge,” deceiving these young women to make them feel safe. Other employees served as a “honeypot,” joining these pretext meetings to lure the women in, only to abandon her alone with Weinstein.
As Farrow writes, “employees described what was, in essence, a culture of complicity in at Weinstein’s place of business, with numerous people through the companies fully aware of his behavior but either abetting it or looking the other way.”
(A spokesperson for Weinstein told Farrow, “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Mr. Weinstein obviously can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual. Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr. Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance.”)
The shocked response in all of these PR-massaged notes from celebrities purport surprise that such widespread abuse could happen. How? It’s power. The fear of retaliation for speaking out or disobeying orders. The reasoning and self-justification that takes place in one’s conscience when their own self-interest is at stake: Maybe it’s consensual. Maybe it’s not rape. Maybe I’m just doing my job. Maybe this is just how it is.
It’s ridiculous to wonder why these actresses waited so long to speak out, as if coercion isn’t a suffocating force, and as if these women estimated that they alone had the capability to take down the titan. Perhaps that’s why so many employees were complicit in Weinstein’s action. The fact remains, however, that they were complicit.
Farrow details the case of Filipana-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who went to the police in 2015 saying that Weinstein groped her and even participated in a sting operation in order to have him arrested. After she went to the police, negative stories meant to demean her character and credibility began appearing in New York gossip pages. The insinuation is that Weinstein had members of his team plant them.
The rampant question that everyone has been trying to answer but no one can seem to nail down is why, after so long and after such rampant behavior, is this all coming out just now? Whatever is in the zeitgeist with Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby and their comeuppance might be a component, but the power of Weinstein’s army isn’t to be underestimated. As Farrow writes, “Weinstein and his legal and public-relations teams have conducted a decades-long campaign to suppress these stories.”
It sounds too simple, but it’s not.
There are striking, haunting details in the accounts of the women in Farrow’s piece, chief among them the guilt they expressed that they did not try harder to stop this man from assaulting them.
Lucia Evans told Farrow that “maybe I didn’t try hard enough” to get away when this man who is six-feet-tall and reported to weigh at least 300 pounds pulled out his erect penis and forced her head onto it repeatedly. Asia Argento, who said Weinstein performed oral sex on her against her will in their first meeting, made a point to call her sexual interactions with Weinstein complex, for reasons including “that she didn’t physically fight him off, something has prompted years of guilt.”
What leads to that? A network of people who were part of an organized effort that allowed this to happen to you is certainly part of it.
A producer led Argento to Weinstein’s room under the ruse that she was attending a party. Weinstein was alone. The producer left her there.
Another woman who worked with Weinstein and said he forced himself on her sexually said she didn’t want to be identified because “he drags your name through the mud, and he’ll come after you with his legal team.” She thought of coming forward, but she “thought about how impressive his legal team is…and how much I would lose.”
When you know there are actual humans, be it producers who introduce you to your rapist or lawyers who will help cover it up, acting on behalf of this man, how can you feel protected? How can you feel like there was anyone who could have helped you but yourself? Hence the guilt.
“Even in an industry in which sexual harassment has long persisted, Mr. Weinstein stands out, according to the actresses and current and former employees of the film companies he ran, Miramax and the Weinstein Company,” Jodi Kantor and Rachel Abrams write in the Times.
There needs to be an evolution in how we talk about Harvey Weinstein and the institutionalized culture that facilitated and condoned his behavior, unchecked, for so long.
The question of “who knew?” is now, amazingly, irrelevant. It was everyone, and some, like Paltrow and Jolie, knew for decades.
The question now should be “who helped?” Once the industry reckons with that, maybe we can begin to hope this pattern of sickening behavior—which, don’t be fooled, isn’t limited to Harvey Weinstein—will come to an end.