After the New York Times released their expose on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconducts with numerous actresses, the public was forced to face the facts: sexual assault happens everywhere, even to the “elites” in society.
While the Hollywood scandal is at the forefront of the news today, this scale of sexual assault is nothing new. The incident serves as a parallel for the way our society handles sexual harassment on all spectrums. For instance, the fact that thirty-plus women had to come forward in order for these allegations to be taken seriously speaks volumes about the way our society neglects victims of sexual assault.
Moreover, the entire entertainment industry enables sexual predators through ultimatums and the principle of networking. Since there is such a surplus of actresses, models, and singers, they become “replaceable.” This means that if they do not meet the demands of their higher ups, then they will lose their job, connections, and prospect of fame.
In addition, seeing as many of these women are young when first exposed to the industry, these powerful men are easily able to manipulate young girls. For one, some victims have reported that they were told to strip down in front of numerous men. When they voiced their discomfort, they were convinced that it was a test, in order to see how they can perform on camera for more risque movies.
Although Weinstein has since been fired from his own company, it is unlikely this is new news to them. Dominique Huett alleges that the company was aware of Harvey’s misconduct and failed to do anything about it. This enabled Harvey to continually sexually harass women with no repercussions. So, one might ask why the company refused to fire him sooner? The answer is simply it was easier not to. Only when the public found out about the allegations and began questioning the company was it an inconvenience to Weinstein Company. Prior to this, no one in the industry cared about what Harvey was doing to these women.
While many celebrities have withdrawn their support from Weinstein and spoken out against Hollywood’s atrocious lack of action, a few of the women are receiving criticism because they “waited too long” to speak out. However, this is an unfair and quite frankly idiotic accusation to make, as there are numerous reasons these women would not want to speak out.
Firstly, the fear of being isolated from roles, movies, and other career-making opportunities keeps women silent. In a field where connections are everything, bad blood is unacceptable.
Secondly, our society has the tendency to view victims of sexual assault as “damaged goods.” This toxic mentality creates a negative stigma around victims of sexual assault and makes it extremely difficult for victims to speak out. In a world where one controversial headline can ruin your image forever, celebrities have to be careful with how they portray themselves.
Furthermore, the fact that these men are powerful, acclaimed figures in Hollywood makes them appear untouchable. This assumption is not unwarranted, as modern society tries to find every possible excuse for the sexual harasser, rather than try and solve the problem. Phrases such as, “well she didn’t say no” contribute to the toxic mentality held today. The entire notion of victim-blaming is ancient and needs to be eradicated from modern culture as quickly as possible.
There are multiple ways to begin reforming our society for the better. One of the most important is the implementation of strict regulations regarding sexual assault in Hollywood. Similar to how corporate industries have implemented strict conduct guidelines between co-workers (especially between boss and staff), acting agencies and production companies need to define interactions between producer, agents and actresses. This would make guidelines clearer, so that when they are broken, there is no question of misguided intent or “not knowing.”
From this it is clear that society needs to reevaluate itself, and ask themselves why they persecute victims rather than perpetrators.
Hopefully these new events will bring the issue to the forefront of our discussions and shed new light on the issue, revealing that sexual assault is an issue that affects all people, including celebrities.