All Men Are Harvey Weinstein…
The revelations about Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual harassment, assault, rape and the conspiracy of silence (from colleagues, friends and employees) that followed the knowledge of his crimes have been shocking. It’s been a wake-up call for the entire media industry. The film industry is a “kiss kiss/hug hug” super friendly super fake world where everyone NEEDS to be liked and appreciated. Getting hired is largely a question of personal relationships over talent. It was a perfect place for a predator like Harvey to hunt.
As for me, a 50-something white straight male who has worked in film and television for almost 30 years that is definitely not assaulting women — I have been complicit in being silent when I have witnessed direct or indirect harassment, gossip and third hand stories about it. I have chosen to play it “safe”. Safe for me — not for the people involved. In my industry, I have chosen my fear of NOT being hired or “liked” or even having losing my “good guy” reputation. I am a coward, like Harvey Weinstein. In this context, it would be safe to say that ALL men are Harvey Weinstein.
It is in the doing or saying nothing that us men are complicit with the likes of Harvey Weinstein. Our silence is assent.
It is clear that Harvey Weinstein is ill. He sexualized nearly every interaction he had with the female actresses, creatives, executives and models that he came into contact. However, many of the thoughts and desires that Harvey has on women are the views that ALL men have DEEP DOWN. (Please note: I wrote: “VIEWS” and not actions. The difference between thinking and acting is a universe apart. However, it is the thinking that needs to be shifted.) Said simply, every interaction that a man has with a women has some sexual componet to it — even for a moment. But the difference between Harvey Weinstein and 99% of men is that he acted on his thoughts and most men do not.
To understand my assertion that ALL men are Harvey Weinstein, you have to see past the sexual nature of Harvey’s actions. Sex crimes have NOTHING to do with sex. Clearly, Mr. Weinstein has some major issues in this area since he found it important to expose himself to his victims again and agin and again and again. What many experts on sex crimes say, however, is that rapists aren’t attacking women to have sex. The attacks are about dominance, power, anger, fear, validation, lack of communication and control.
The basic nature of relationships between men and women is a struggle where sexuality, dominance and ultimately some sort of agreement on the nature of what is what emerges. Rarely it is “friendship” in the absolute sense. More often, despite the closeness and even intimacy of platonic friendships between men and women there are awkward ambiguities that live in the “unsaid”. Work gets done. People flirt. They stare. Friends do what friends do. Happily, no one gets assaulted or harassed, but the precarious emotional and psychological minefield that men and women must navigate through is there all the time. To deny these ambiguities is part of how the Harvey Weinsteins of the world are created and even protected for decades. In the film industry, these ambiguities are exacerbated by the culture itself and by the expectations people have by working closely in a “creative” environment.
Here’s a quote (written by a woman, Nora Ephron) that helps illustrate my point:
“A woman friend. This is amazing. You may be the first attractive woman I have not wanted to sleep with in my entire life.” Harry, When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Let me be clear: I am not attacking the nature of attraction. Nature is nature. Chemistry and attraction are healthy and fun — in context. I am also not saying sex is bad or trying to put some moralist prudish BS on the revelations swirling around Harvey Weinstein. I am saying that we men have thoughts, fantasies and scenarios that if brought into the light of day might shock and amaze the people in our lives. I am human and I have thoughts. I am told that women have similar thoughts — but I will not speak to that.
Therefore, in this context, here are some of MY thoughts about women:
I want women to validate me. I want to be attractive, sexy, virile and relevant to women. That said, I am afraid of most women. Ironically, I seem to be attracted to smart, powerful women that I am ultimately scared of. I have anxiety in social situations with women where relationships and boundaries are NOT clearly defined. I get awkward. I get weird. I talk too much. When I get scared (like most men) I get angry. I get confused and embarrassed. I compare myself to others. And then, then I get angry… I do and say stupid shit. Really stupid.
It would be easy to blame HOW I was brought-up in a first generation off-the-boat Scilian male-dominated semi-misogynist 1960s booze and cigarette fueled environment where my mother, aunt, sister, female cousin and my grandmothers navigated decades of direct and indirect harassment, insults, being patronized and I saw it all as perfectly normal. Society had made the objectification of women acceptable and yes, even desirable. Into this enviroment I was born and raised. However, I am 100% responsible for how I now deal with women and hopefully at my age I am not past redemption. Frankly, it is my generation that must be the first to transform its relationship to women and lead the way so women in the future are not harassed or assaulted.
In the years since I became an adult, I really have done NOTHING to shift my own views on the nature of my relationship to women. In company settings where “sexual harassment training” was conducted — my job was to “be good” but I never really understood the nature of what was being discussed. For me, “harassment” was liability for the company and nothing more. Now I see that I should be asking the question: “how do I create a “safe” environment for women with my behavior?”
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein charges, I found myself wanting to apologize to every woman I knew for being a man and that I didn’t see how blind I have been. I see now that this was a pointless and ludicrous emotional response filled with disgusting “look at me” self-loathing. I am an idiot. Then it came to me…
Treat women as people.
Many people have acknowledged the bravery of the women who have come forward to detail their interactions with Harvey Weinstein. I think their courage is tremendous and frankly, I don’t think I would even be writing this article without their selflessness. The film industry scares people into line by having people say, do, dress and respond in a way that won’t stir up trouble or rock the boat. For creatives who want to be hired, ironically, conformity is the path. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, that meant thousands of people who knew Harvey, his company and the rumors of his actions toeing the line with a monstrous sexual predator for decades.
Despite the bluster and bullshit, most men are cowards.
My problem is: for the last 30 years, where were the MEN around Harvey Weinstein who might say: “dude, what the fuck are you doing? Are you crazy? By the way, you’re married. If you don’t care about that, what you’re doing is ASSAULT and RAPE.” Let’s be straight: most men are completely chicken shit scared of scaring away a possible client. Because of the sexual nature of harassment, we men might try to laugh off the stories as a joke (nervously). Men might find this an uncomfortable insight: but NO MATTER what industry you happen to be in try to imagine telling a client or even a friend that you knew was harassing women to stop. How would you start the conversation? You would be afraid that pulling them aside and saying something would be “crossing the line” and that your livelihood or reputation might be effected. These reasons (read: excuses) are enough to stop most men from acting. Pathetic. I know. I am one of them.
If you see something, say something. Now. Not years from now.
We currently have a President that has been accused of harassment for decades and was even caught on video in 2005 bragging about it on television. Like Harvey Weinstein, he is rich, powerful and a Tweet from him can ruin careers and lives. And still… no one has come forward to lay him on the carpet for his actions. There’s no New York Times piece or New Yorker article to spearhead the public outrage. There is only silence with occasional “noise” on social media. Will we men finally storm the castle and bring to light what our 45th president is accused of? Are we ready to “rock the boat” in such a way that might literally take down our Government?
Wait a second…
Maybe we haven’t dealt with Trump because our OWN houses are not in order? Maybe our chicken shit male Congressmen and male Senators have assented to the President because they have been harassing their own staffers? What’s that line about men who live in glass (white) houses? Maybe what is needed is a complete change in how men view, act, speak and ultimately relate to women in our society?
Context is decisive.
Yesterday, I was at the gym. Our coach was leading us through an exercise where there were 4 women and 8 men present. At the beginning of the workout he said: “OK, athletes and ladies get ready…” I was shocked. I stood-up and said: “I’m sorry, what did you say?” He said: “what”? I said: “are the women here NOT athletes such that you have to verbally segregate them?” The room was surprised and he was shocked. Quickly he said: “oh, wow, sorry, yes, athletes, you are all athletes…”. Afterwards, several of the male and female participants thanked me. The problem is that this happened and that my saying something was worthy of a thank you.
Your words matter. How you listen matters.
Apart from dealing with my own being very uncomfortable, I saw my finally speaking up at the gym as the beginning of no longer being silent. When I see something I am going to SAY something, write something or get into action. I am going to talk to my male friends and colleagues who share experiences that are near or over the line with women. When I hear songs, films or theatre that demeans or promotes negative stereotypes, I am going to say something. I am going to treat women as people and not as potential “dates” or sexual objects. I am going to listen far more often than I speak when interacting with a woman friend, colleague, family member or any female.
Listening is communication.
Honestly, this will be a process. I will be battling my own thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires and insecurities everyday that have been conditioned over decades. But we have to start someplace and that someplace for me is with me and my own actions. Too many lives are being effected and too much damage is being done.
No more silence.
Thank you to the victims who started a new dialog.
And, Fuck you Harvey…