Why is Hollywood so outraged when they’ve been supporting abusive behaviour for years?
Since the Weinstein allegations have become public knowledge (at least overtly now), celebrities have been clamouring to make sure that they get their PR right. There’s a race on to get out statements that show support for women, and distance themselves from Weinstein, but if everyone was a such a good ally then why are we discussing the misogynistic culture surrounding Hollywood? How would that culture have ever developed if solidarity existed?
Weinstein has been referred to as the tip of the iceberg and it has already proven to be the case. There have been allegations now of groping made against several Hollywood names and many of the statements in response are torn between “well, we knew Hollywood had a problem but I personally knew nothing”. It’s a cop out. A handful of the responses since have looked downright ridiculous. Quentin Tarantino’s statement (issued via a third party) focused completely on his pain and his need to process. There was no acknowledgement for the women at the centre of this story. J K Rowling, has also had strong words to say on the matter, and yet Rowling defended the casting of Depp in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them despite the allegations that he assaulted his then partner Amber Heard. It was particularly astonishing from Rowling given her record on queer solidarity. Heard is bisexual, and bi women are at greater risk than gay or straight women for experiencing intimate partner violence. James Corden just made a joke about Weinstein at the AmfAR Gala. Women have revealed stories of abuse and Corden uses them for a laugh. In a piece for The New York Times, Mayim Bialik came incredibly close to victim blaming and urged young actresses not to be sexual or wear clothing that could be deemed sexual, and this was supposed to be a great act of feminism. Bialik is a major star on The Big Bang Theory, a show that regularly features geek cis white men mocking women and other marginalised people. Top tip Mayim: the problem is abusers, not their victims.
The list of faux allies goes on. Kate Winslet dashed to offer her support for the women now at the centre of a media frenzy, yet Winslet has just finished a film with Woody Allen – you know, that guy dogged by sexual abuse allegations. Prior to the Weinstein allegations, Winslet even defended Allen when asked about the allegations. Matt Damon only seemed to register women were human because he has daughters. Ben Affleck also made a strong statement against Weinstein, only to immediately have to apologise when Hilarie Burton revealed her own claims that Affleck groped her. The Academy expelled Weinstein and said:
“We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over”
However, this is not even a year after Casey Affleck, who also has had sexual harassment claims made against him in the past, won the Oscar for Best Actor.
Whenever allies could make a difference – by standing up, and not trying to cash in – they turn their backs on marginalised people. They do what is easy and never what is right. Rowling didn’t have to defend Depp but she did. Winslet didn’t have to defend Allen but that is what she chose. The Academy could have nominated someone else for Best Actor but they made a choice. It’s not an accident that we have a culture that empowers men and disenfranchises women. It is by careful, often selfish, choices that our industries routinely silence those who have experience of sexual abuse. When all of the well known, liberal, respected and admired names defend those with allegations of abuse surrounding them, then who on earth would ever come forward?
It has taken so many women to come forward for anyone to believe they might be telling the truth. It has taken some of the most powerful women in the world to give this story any credibility, and for what? Weinstein’s career is probably finished but the police had information long ago. What is next? Women without such platforms may have no hope at all of ever getting justice for their own experiences of abuse. This is a global case because of what it symbolises far beyond Hollywood. If some of the loudest women in the world have been silenced, what hope is there for the rest?
Around such allegations there are often social commentators who claim people jump on the bandwagon and that is true, yet, it is not survivors, but allies who scramble. They’re the ones who rush to get out the best statements and who race to seem like they are taking action. However, their opportunity to make any real difference has long since passed. If more had been done to make it safe for women to speak, then perhaps this story – and many others – would be different. Stop paying attention to allies until they show us their solidarity is actually worth something. Until then, we can only count on ourselves to dismantle our culture of misogyny.