Expert: Other Women Cause as Much Shame as Weinstein
Do women do more shaming of other women than men in sexual harassment cases? One expert says so.
In early October, the New York Times broke the story that mogul film producer Harvey Weinstein had allegedly sexually assaulted dozens of women in Hollywood. Women who claim that Weinstein harassed them or worse include actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Kate Beckinsale, Cara Delevigne, Heather Graham, and Angelina Jolie, as well as female producers, costume designers, TV reporters, and assistants who worked for or wanted to work for him.
This story is depressingly familiar for women both within media and outside of it. No industry is free from harassment, but until recently, Hollywood execs especially have cultivated an insidious culture of coercion and intimidation of the vulnerable. Weinstein’s inappropriate actions were considered an “open secret” in Hollywood, and many allegedly conspired to bury news about him.
McGowan had her Twitter temporarily suspended after she sent a series of tweets about people allegedly caught in Weinstein’s web and those who were complicit in his actions, including Amazon head Jeff Bezo.
“@jeffbezos I told the head of your studio that HW raped me. Over & over I said it,” McGowan wrote. “He said it hadn’t been proven. I said I was the proof.”
Weinstein has apologized for his impropriety, claiming he was seeking treatment, but he also threatened to sue the New York Times for breaking the story.
Women’s empowerment and business expert Heather Monahan says, “Every woman has a story of harassment or bullying, and through each being transparent and sharing their stories, every woman will set the table for others to do the same. Suddenly it will no longer be scary to share your story and instead will be scarier for the harasser, as they know that they will be exposed.”
On the other hand, women can also contribute to the culture of silencing and shaming people who report their harassment. Actress Lindsay Lohan, celebrity attorney Lisa Bloom, and Marchesa founder and designer (and Weinstein’s wife) Georgina Chapman all initially came out in defense of Weinstein. Bloom later stepped down as Weinstein’s lawyer and Chapman then pivoted, saying she would be divorcing Weinstein.
“These women often actually do more harm to themselves and women overall than many men do,” said Monahan. “[Creating] a culture where women that put down other women is no longer tolerated will be a huge step towards changing the element of fear in coming out and sharing personal stories.”
In the wake of the allegations, other women in Hollywood are emboldened to tell their own stories of harassment. Isa Hackett, executive producer of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle (which her father, Philip K. Dick, wrote), alleged that Roy Price, Amazon’s programming chief, made inappropriate comments to her in a cab during San Diego Comic-Con in 2015. “As somebody with some power, I feel it is imperative for me to speak out,” Hackett told The Hollywood Reporter.
When asked if the Weinstein allegations encouraged her to tell her story, Hackett said, “Yes, it has. I think women inspire each other. I feel inspired by the other women who have been far braver than I am, who have come forward. I hope we all continue to inspire each other and ultimately create change.”
Some men, too, are coming forward to help end the stigma of being a sexual harassment survivor. Actor and former NFL player Terry Crews says in a Twitter story that he was groped by a Hollywood executive but didn’t do anything on the spot because of the optics of the situation. “‘240 lbs. [sic] Black Man stomps out Hollywood Honcho’ would be the headline the next day,” he Tweeted. “Only I probably wouldn’t have been able to read it because I would have been in jail.”
Actor James Van Der Beek detailed a similar story of a male Hollywood executive groping him, saying he’s had “my ass grabbed by older, powerful men.” He tweeted: “I understand the unwarranted shame, powerlessness [and] inability to blow the whistle. There’s a power dynamic that feels impossible to overcome.”
The Weinstein news follows another sexual harassment media shakeup. This summer the story broke that Fox News had paid several sexual harassment settlements against Bill O’Reilly. The brash anchor was subsequently let go from Fox News. However, in September, he was a guest on Sean Hannity’s show to promote his new book. This disappointed former “Fox and Friends” host Gretchen Carlson, who had brought sexual harassment lawsuits against the late Fox News founder and CEO Roger Ailes in 2016. In an interview with Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, she said, “It’s disappointing that somebody who was fired from Fox would be given a venue to come back on as a guest, especially based on the reasons that surrounded it.”
Carlson says her new book, “Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back,” addresses becoming one of the faces of sexual harassment and lists steps going forward to empower women to fight back it. Similarly, Monahan offers some practical advice for people experiencing harassment as well: “If you know you are in a situation where your company will not support you when you are being harassed, you need to find another job. Having found myself in a similar situation, I documented everything that was happening and called a meeting with the owner to give him the journal I kept when I resigned. I knew that he wouldn’t fire the harasser, but I wanted him to know he should. Leaving a company that will not do the right thing is the right move for anyone in this situation, as the situation will not resolve itself.”