5 October 2017 a day to be remembered for many women everywhere. It was the day when Harvey Weinstein, an American film producer and the co- founder of the Miramax entertainment company as well as The Weinstein Company a film studio, was ousted by the New York Times and the New Yorker.
They published a story that detailed decades of allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape against Harvey Weinstein. More than 80 women in the film industry subsequently came forward accusing him of such acts, saying that he engaged in what was called as “coercive bargaining” that if they do not submit to his requests their careers would be destroyed by him.
The courage of these women who came forward opened a Pandora’s box unleashing the veil on a twisted normalized reality which has condemned many women within the Hollywood industry to suffer in silence. The New York Times report paved the way for hundreds of women to come forward against many other powerful men who abused their position to intimidate and assault women under the hashtag #MeToo. The impact that this scandal had on these men has been dubbed as “The Weinstein Effect”.
On 8 October 2018; Harvey Weinstein was expelled from his own company that he co-founded and the producers of the Guild of America ban him for life.
On 25 May 2018; he was charged with rape and several other counts of sexual abuse.
However, none of this is new.
In 1977; Roman Polanski a Hollywood director, drugged, raped a 13-year-old girl who came to his house to model. The facts of that case were not in dispute when, in 2003, he received an Oscar for Best Director, along with the overwhelming adulation and a standing ovation from the entertainment elite. But the child looked so much older than 13, they said. It was so long ago.
In 1991; US attorney Anita Hill testified against Clarence Thomas who still maintains his position at the Supreme Court today. She was denounced as “a little bit slutty and a little bit nutty” by everyone while the perpetrator came out of this unscathed.
In 2010; several women came forward bringing forward claims of abuse by the comedian Bill Cosby and the list goes on.
What’s new however, is the reaction of the public against these men gives women hope that they will be taken seriously and these men will be held accountable for their actions and facing a reckoning of their own doing thereby paying significant consequences for their sexual misconduct. These men can no longer shoo away such accusations through large settlements or carefully worded public apologies. Finally, these allegations are taken seriously.
The Weinstein Effect removed the veil of shame that kept the victims of sexual assault, abuse and rape silent.
The Weinstein Effect eroded the culture of silence protecting these monsters mimicked by faces of men, slowly changing the culture of sexual amorality that was allowed to fester unchallenged for many generations. This started the process of marking with it a cultural shift where women feel emboldened and comfortable to speak out against sexual misconduct – and confident enough that these men will be held accountable.
The change is slow and there is a logic to it; it is easier to push back on accusations than to challenge the status quo that requires men to relinquish their power and privilege. Furthermore, if the accusers of such sexual misconduct are to be believed, we will be confronted by many questions like – ‘Why is sexual violence against women so widespread? Why are men overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual violence? How are women and men complicit in perpetuating the systems that give rise to such violence? What do we need to do to bring about change?’
After reading this article, you may ask yourself the following questions like: How many women get harassed every day? Or raped? Don’t you know at least one victim of harassment and assault? How many Weinsteins are out there and how many are we willing to let off the hook for their misconduct because of shame or culture.
The consensus and silence has to come to an end and change starts with you. Stop shaming victims and don’t let fear or shame prevent you from speaking against the offender if you are a victim…. Now is the time to speak up because you are not weak or a disgrace.