Most people outside of the entertainment industry were barely aware of him until a few weeks ago, but his name is currently inescapable. The 65-year-old film producer has been accused of numerous sexual assaults and rapes by a string of actresses and models including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rose McGowan, while many more have reported unwanted advances made upon them by the Hollywood heavyweight.
The scale of his alleged abuse seems overwhelming. And, like Jimmy Savile’s lengthy reign of rottenness over here in the UK, it seems that many people were aware of what was happening, but simply shrugged it off or ignored it, hoping it would go away. Even Courtney Love, when asked in 2005 for her advice to young women moving to Hollywood, said on video, “I’ll get libelled if I say it… If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private party at the Four Seasons, don’t go.” People knew, but it still remained a secret outside of the industry. The trouble is, things like this don’t go away if you ignore them – they get worse. The New York Times has found almost three decades’ worth of undisclosed allegations against Weinstein. He has since responded to the allegations with an open letter. “I so respect all women and regret what happened,” he wrote, and has “unequivocally denied” any allegations of non-consensual sex. Hmm.
Since its birth, Hollywood has been a breeding ground for a certain kind of predatory man – from Errol Flynn and Roman Polanski to Woody Allen and Bill Cosby – that seeks to take advantage of women. Yet such behaviour isn’t limited to the movies. On a daily basis, women in almost every single kind of industry you can think of are subject to intimidation and attack. Last year, the Trades Union Congress surveyed 1,500 women and found that a massive 52 per cent had been subject to unwanted sexual behaviour at work – everything from ‘banter’ to groping and assault. Roughly 80 per cent of those women did not report it, either through fear of not being believed, or out of embarrassment or worry that it might cost them their job.
It’s a shocking, troubling statistic that needs flipping right now. We need to work on creating an environment in which women can feel safe reporting and speaking out against men who make them feel uncomfortable. If Harvey Weinstein can be publicly shamed, sacked from his own company and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, then maybe that creep from your office can be too.