Women are done with powerful men not being held accountable for sexual harassment. Now, they are speaking out.
It all began with Harvey Weinstein. On October 5, New York Times reporters, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, revealed that Weinstein had a history of sexual harassment allegations stretching back over three decades. From actresses to models to employees, Weinstein used his power as a renown producer and filmmaker to keep many of his victims quiet, and in too many cases, to convince them to undertake acts that left them distraught.
Lauren O’Connor, a former employee wrote in a 2015 memo, “I am a 28-year-old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64-year-old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.” This statement seems to encompass the mindset of most of the women that Weinstein assaulted and harassed: they were eager to achieve success in an industry where Weinstein’s name reigned supreme.
Weinstein’s behavior has been described as an open secret. Within the Weinstein Company and Miramax studio, both of which Weinstein founded with his brother, Bob Weinstein, there was a code of silence and Weinstein’s predatory behavior towards his employees and actresses being considered for roles was not spoken of. But this code of silence has since broken.
In the New York Times article from October 5, only eight women, who had each reached a settlement with Weinstein over his misconduct, were identified as victims. By late October, there were over 82 allegations against Weinstein. One of the allegations from 1980 seems to represent many women’s experiences with the famous producer.
Weinstein: “Was seeing me naked the highlight of your internship?”
Weinstein’s then 24-year-old production assistant, Paula Wachowiak, averred that Weinstein greeted her wearing nothing but a hand towel. Later, after he dropped the towel, he asked Wachowiak for a massage, which she refused. The only other time Wachowiak met with Weinstein during her internship, Weinstein allegedly asked, “Was seeing me naked the highlight of your internship?”
Likewise, actress Dominique Huett filed a lawsuit against Weinstein in late October, claiming that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2000. Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant of Weinstein’s, asserts that the same abuse occurred against her in 2006.
Women choose to keep their bodies to themselves
In response to the range of allegations against him, which range in severity from rape to exposing himself to them in his hotel room, Weinstein has had little to say. In fact, Weinstein claimed that his actions stemmed from, as lawyer described, him being an “old dinosaur learning new ways.”
In a letter to the New York Times, Weinstein said, “I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”
From this quote, it seems that Weinstein believes that the “rules” surrounding the treatment women have changed between now and the 1960s. And while that might be superficially true—women might not have been as vocal about the abuse 50 years ago—I can almost assure that women now and women then would be just as likely to choose to keep their bodies to themselves.
Our society must stop with victimizing the victim
Even now, it is immensely difficult for many women to report sexual harassment and abuse against people like Weinstein without feeling as if their careers and personal lives will be directly targeted. And that is why so many women making sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein are choosing to keep their identities secret—because we live in a culture that oftentimes chooses to victimize the victim.
We choose to believe that they were wearing revealing clothes, or in the wrong place at the wrong time. But as the allegations against Weinstein portray, sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace, is a serious issue that has no correlation to clothes, or location.
Since the sexual harrasment allegations against Weinstein reached national and international headlines, other women came forward to reveal their experiences with other celebrities.
Roy Moore, Lockhart Steele, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken
The men named include Roy Moore, who is running to be a United States Senator from Alabama; Lockhart Steele, Editorial Director of Vox Media; Kevin Spacey of House of Cards fame; Louis C.K., a comedian; and Al Franken, a United States Senator from Minnesota.
It is likely that you have heard of at least one of the 34 men with allegations against them after Weinstein’s abuse reached the media in October. So many of them are powerful figures in American life, their names can be found attached to the television shows we watch, the news that we read, and in our highest political offices.
Charlie Rose may be the most surprising
Of all the accused that have shaken public trust, Charlie Rose may be the most surprising. With a career in television that stretched over four decades, Rose is well-known for his “Charlie Rose” show, which aired on PBS and Bloomberg TV, as well as his role as a co-host of “CBS This Morning” and as a correspondent for “60 Minutes.” There are very few men whose name, and face, are connected with news journalism than Rose’s. Like Weinstein, many young women saw a connection with Rose as the kickstart to a career in journalism, and again, like Weinstein, Rose took advantage of the admiration they had for him.
In late November, eight women disclosed to The Washington Post that Charlie Rose had acted inappropriately towards them. Only three of the eight women spoke on record though; the other five feared, according to the Post, “Rose’s stature in the industry, his power over their careers or what they described as his volatile temper.”
Women described Rose putting his hand on their legs, and sometimes, their upper thigh, to gauge their reaction to his behavior. Two of the women making allegations against Rose claim that he would walk around naked in front of them at his home or when traveling for business. One alleged that Rose groped her buttocks at a party. A former assistant of Rose’s, Kyle Godfrey-Ryan, claimed that he repeatedly called her late at night or during the early morning to discuss his fantasies of her swimming naked in his Bellport pool. Similarly to Weinstein’s code of silence, when Godfrey-Ryan discussed the harassment she was experiencing, executive producer
A former assistant of Rose’s, Kyle Godfrey-Ryan, claimed that he repeatedly called her late at night or during the early morning to discuss his fantasies of her swimming naked in his Bellport pool. Similarly to Weinstein’s code of silence, when Godfrey-Ryan discussed the sexual harassment she was experiencing, executive producer Yvette Vega, reportedly said that “‘That’s just Charlie being Charlie.’” Since the eight women came forward, another has followed, reporting that Rose forced her to watch a sexually explicit clip of the film, “Secretary,” during her time as an intern for him in 2002.
Within hours of the Post’s publication the allegations, CBS fired Rose and PBS canceled Rose’s show. Likewise, Arizona State University’s journalism school rescinded their awarding of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism to Rose and the University of Kansas likewise took back their William Allen White National Citation from Rose.
But the response to Rose’s behavior does nothing to excuse nor to explain it.
The allegations against Charlie Rose and Weinstein represent a greater movement from women towards holding those in power responsible.
This move can be traced back to the focus on the behavior of then Presidential hopeful, Donald Trump. From his comments about journalist Megyn Kelly to the video that surfaced of Trump discussing grabbing women by their genitalia, Trump’s election set a sad precedent for the behavior that Americans are willing to accept.
But the women who are coming forward about sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein and Rose, among others, are attempting to create a new world of accountability. Because if the President is not held responsible for his actions, then who should be?