25 February 2020
The Harvey Weinstein verdict is at once gravely disappointing and grimly satisfying.
Until the verdict, the only sliver of satisfaction came from the fact that the legacy he built had been destroyed. Now, though, because he’s been convicted of two out of five counts — rape and criminal sexual act — the first line in his obituary won’t be about his Oscars or “alleged” acts, but about his felony convictions. His name will also forever be synonymous with the worst excesses of the entertainment world, whose power brokers have too often acted as if they were above the law. Harvey Weinstein is going to prison, and that is profound. (He faces other, similar charges in Los Angeles.)
So, Weinstein is no more. Yet there are no silver linings here. Women were hurt and traumatized, and their lives and careers irreparably damaged. The verdict doesn’t change that. Yes, there was a surge in activism after news of his abuse broke in October 2017, but women were already angry, already organizing. The African-American activist Tarana Burke launched #MeToo in 2006; the first Women’s March took place in Jan. 2017, the day after Donald J. Trump became president. In the end, Weinstein is part of a far larger story about contemporary feminist activism, including in the entertainment industry, where women have been fighting sexism for decades.
That sexism is both systemic and symptomatic of the industry’s history of acting as if it is above the law. This has led to a wide range of exploitation including racism and on-set fatalities, exploitation that has been habitually rationalized as the cost those without power pay for doing business in a putatively glamorous industry. It’s hard to think of another business, outside of sex work, that has sexually exploited people so openly and whose abusive practices — emblematized by the casting couch — have been trivialized, at times with leering giggles. It’s well-known that the industry is a grossly exploitative of both men and women — why have we tolerated this?
Read the full article in the New York Times.