Change? Not So Fast
There is great excitement among feminists in America that our culture finally is heeding the voices of women.
Over the last several weeks, hundreds of women — millions, if you count Twitter — have come forward with their tales of alleged sexual harassment, assault and rape, mostly against men who have wielded their power to extort sexual acts. Throughout the media, this was heralded as a watershed moment, and we have since been inundated with grandiose declarations that a “sea change” has occurred in the way we understand and acknowledge sexual predation in the workplace and elsewhere.
The only sea change I detected at this gathering was the fish of the day.
A handful of accused men even faced consequences, albeit not legal ones: Harvey Weinstein was fired from his own company, expelled from the motion picture academy and abandoned by his wife. Journalist Mark Halperin was dismissed by NBC News. Leon Wieseltier, weeks from launching a new publication, was dumped by his financial backer, Laurene Powell Jobs. All this after Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly already had been fired from Fox News, though not without multimillion-dollar compensation packages.
“Our consciousness has been raised,” declared journalist Rebecca Traister.
But I say: Not so fast.
Last week, I had dinner with two high-level film producers, both male, and two women who worked for one of them. The only thing we discussed for three hours was Harvey Weinstein and the sexual politics of the entertainment industry.
And let me tell you something: The only sea change I detected at this gathering was the fish of the day.
Both male producers agreed that Harvey Weinstein is an “ugly, pock-marked, smelly bully.” But a rapist? Not so much.
“Most of the women accusing Harvey made a deal with the devil,” one of them said. “If you go to a man’s room at 11 at night, you know what you’re in for. And believe me, I stayed down the hall from him at the Hotel du Cap in Cannes, so I saw the processional of actresses who knocked on his door at all hours.”
So, I guess sexual assault is permissible if it occurs after 11 p.m.?
Next, I was told “the vast majority” of women accusing Weinstein of sexual impropriety really were trading sex for career advancement.
If that’s true, I asked, shouldn’t more of his accusers be movie stars?
When I puzzled over the fact that so many women would claim abuse if they had made “deals” with Weinstein, I was told their confessionals were born of shame for having prostituted themselves early on.
I brought up the actress Annabella Sciorra, who told The New Yorker that Weinstein violently raped her in the early 1990s.
“I’ve known Annabella Sciorra for many years,” one of the producers said, going on to offer a preposterous claim intended to disparage her.
“If you don’t want sex,” the other admonished, “why would you open the door to a man in the middle of the night?”
Actually, “It wasn’t that late,” Sciorra told The New Yorker. “Like, it wasn’t the middle of the night, so I opened the door a crack to see who it was. And [Weinstein] pushed the door open.”
I also asked about Rose McGowan, who suggested Weinstein raped her in 1997. She, too, was callously dismissed.
And when the subject turned to other infamous Hollywood abusers, I was lectured on how “each year, 2,000 young actresses come to L.A. and they will do anything — anything — to be famous.”
I got the feeling these producers feel like victims themselves, since so many young women must use them for parts.
“It’s called ambition,” one of them said.
“Decades ago, I was desperate to sell a TV show and I slept with the female executive who could give it the green light. So I closed my eyes during the act and fantasized about someone else. We do what we must.”
Consensual sex is the sort of ordeal that afflicts men in power.
But when it comes to women, any objections I made about gender inequity, discrimination, intimidation, subjugation, threats, lawyers and hush money were batted away. Even the women at the table referred to one known Hollywood predator as “sweet.” When I suggested he, too, soon would be outed, one producer got so “sad” he skipped his appetizer.
“It’s a witch hunt,” one of them declared.
And he is scared. Because, just like Weinstein, these two are old guard “dinosaurs” whose era serving as gatekeepers to the entertainment industry, with its attendant sexual perks, will soon become extinct.
Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.