The bombshell accounts of Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein’s decades of predatory advances on women keep coming, and likely won’t end any time soon.
Weinstein is accused by many women of horrific things — from masturbating in front of unwilling aspiring actresses, to coercing starlets into his hotel room for massage sessions, to committing outright rape — for which he’s likely to pay significant costs, potentially even his freedom.
Despite this feeling familiar, it also feels singularly different. Weinstein’s outing and ouster may, in fact, signal a real turning point when it comes to the age-old story of men, power and sexual harassment.
For one, journalists broke this story. In most other cases, the media might have been aware of rumors and insinuations, but for various reasons wasn’t willing or able to dig too deep. From Juanita Broaddrick to Gretchen Carlson, it took women themselves to courageously step out of the dark and into the light to tell their stories, against tremendous adversity.
While Weinstein’s behavior was Hollywood’s worst kept secret for decades and it took far too long to tell, the New Yorker and the New York Times should be lauded for having the guts to pursue the truth about a man who wielded significant influence within their own circles.
For another, the wave of victims came like a torrential flood. In the case of accusations against Fox News’ Roger Ailes, Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton and Bill O’Reilly, their victims were slower to tell their stories, even after the first woman came out.
In the span of just a weekend, Weinstein’s victims multiplied exponentially. By Tuesday, Hollywood’s biggest stars were admitting they had either been assaulted or harassed by him, or had known of his behavior. That victims of sexual harassment and assault are getting more courageous is an incredibly encouraging thing.
And perhaps because Weinstein’s behavior was so brazen, and the accounts are so graphic — this time there’s actual audio of his attempts to coerce a woman into his hotel room — it feels like we won’t have to suffer through the usual indignity of discrediting the victims.
In fact, it appears as though his initial adviser, Lisa Bloom, very quickly abandoned a reported effort to reveal “photos of several of the accusers in very friendly poses with Harvey after his alleged misconduct” at the behest of Weinstein’s board members. Comparatively, Bill Clinton’s accusers were subjected to horrific smear campaigns, purportedly even by his wife Hillary. As recently as 2016, Joy Behar of the “The View” called Clinton’s accusers “tramps.” There were likewise many attempts to discredit Cosby’s and Trump’s accusers as unreliable or consenting.
Weinstein is insisting that his victims were consenting as well, but in light of that audio and the consistency of women’s stories, few believe him.
Another sign the times may be changing is that Weinstein’s wife is not standing by him in the wake of humiliating revelations about his sexual deviance. Unlike Clinton, Trump, Cosby and Anthony Weiner’s wives, who either initially supported their husbands or continue to today, Georgina Chapman swiftly announced she was leaving Weinstein, calling his actions “unforgivable” and acknowledging the “tremendous pain” he’s caused women. We’ve heard no such thing from Hillary, Melania, Camille or Huma.
Unfortunately, some of the familiar hallmarks remain. Like many before him, Weinstein has sought to deflect blame for his behavior. Like O’Reilly, Ailes, Trump and Cosby, Weinstein has also been able to ensure his accusers’ silence over the years either through non-disclosure agreements or settlements that kept their allegations sealed. This insipid practice may be legal, but it only enables the perpetrators and muzzles the victims.
What’s also troubling is that a man of Weinstein’s brazen indiscretion was protected for so long, by so many. It appears that plenty of his own employees, friends and colleagues witnessed his behavior, and we likely have a long way to go when it comes to men outing other men for these crimes. Few if any men in Clinton, Trump, Cosby, O’Reilly or Ailes’ inner circles have publicly denounced or even acknowledged their misdeeds.
Women aren’t out of the woods; sexual harassment happens every day, in every corner of the world. I don’t know a woman who hasn’t had an experience with this. But it seems as though the time of reckoning for serial sexual predators in powerful positions may finally be upon us. Amidst these horrific revelations, there might just be some hope that times, they are a changing.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com.
This column first appeared in the New York Daily News.
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