Harvey Weinstein and the fall of Male Privilege
Tell James Brown this is a man’s world, no longer. The ladies brought us into this world, and they can take us out. The “Good Ol’ Boys” club is falling faster than a house of cards, and us guys only have our own bad behavior to blame. I include myself in this club. Being a black man in America, I grappled with the idea that I had any privilege at all. Though I’m far from the worst abuser of male privilege, I certainly have benefited from the ‘benefit of the doubt’ associated with my gender. We can no longer deny that this social hierarchy based on the physical strength associated with our biology just comes at too high of a cost. Scorned women have come to collect on the debt, and how!
Since Harvey Weinstein’s scandal first broke in the New York Times, it’s been a firestorm in Tinsel Town. Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd coming forward caused a domino effect not seen Cosby’s career nosedived. Then came Lupita N’Yongo’s testimony about Weinstein’s lewd proposals and backhanded compliments. The Kenyan starlet’s words seemed to seal the deal for Harvey while simultaneously emboldening even more victims to step out of the darkness. Not only was Lupita’s call effective, but as the uproar grew louder, Harvey’s male associates soon found themselves in the crosshairs.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have long been red carpet mainstays. These two younger white males seem to be heirs to the proverbial throne of Hollywood, long occupied by those who fit their description. Their silence on Weinstein’s behavior was swiftly called into question. How could people who worked so closely with the mogul be oblivious to such horrifying and long-standing patterns of gross behavior? What were the mechanics of their apparent complacency and acquiescence? It was as if their careers depended upon being tight-lipped about this kind of sexual perversion. Sadly, that may not be too far from the case.
The rumored Hollywood “Casting Couch” is looking more and more like a reality. It seems to be an open Hollywood secret that after a certain level of fame, talent doesn’t matter as much as what “favors” you perform on which director or producer. The gateway to the A-List is likely a producer’s zipper. No one seems to be exempt, not even big, physically powerful men. Expendables actor, Terry Crews, released a series of tweets in solidarity with Weinstein’s victims. In the tweets, Crews claims that at a Hollywood function in 2016, a high-level executive groped his genitals in front of his wife. He jumped back and asked what the guy was doing. The executive allegedly just smiled and kept going. Crews tweeted, “I decided not to take it further because I didn’t want to be ostracized – par for the course when a predator has power and influence.” Is that fear of being ostracized what kept Affleck and Damon silent as well?
The likely answer is, yes. Reese Witherspoon of Legally Blonde fame came forward about a sexual assault from a Hollywood producer suffered when she was 16 years old. In her confession, Witherspoon expressed shame in not coming forward sooner, afraid that her own career would be drowned in the conspiracy of silence. The fact that she was a minor when it all happened is sadly not a new phenomenon. In fact, Reese Witherspoon’s case points to a far darker entertainment secret that anything Weinstein had been accused of. The secret is widespread, rampant pedophilia.
The 2014 documentary, An Open Secret, is a chilling account of the shadowy side of show business. In the film, we see multiple child stars give their account of sexual abuse at the hands of supposed child casting agents. Former child stars like Corey Feldman, Todd Bridges, and Michael Egan open up about being lured with drinks and drugs into lewd acts with powerful men. Among those implicated is Brian Singer, famed producer of many of Marvel’s X-Men movie series. I remember watching the movie thinking, “I remember that kid. I used to wanna be that kid. There but by the grace of God go I.” The acting bug bit me as a plucky 5th grader after watching the movie, Hook. I wanted to sword fight on the silver screen with Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. Had I lived in Los Angeles, my loving parents would have likely let me nudge them into letting me go to auditions. Who knows what fate could have awaited me there, especially back in the 90’s.
What do these predators have in common? They are almost universally white and male. All a part of the same power elite that set up Tinsel Town to begin with. Harvey Weinstein’s bold violations of boundaries are part and parcel with un-earned entitlement. Harvey’s downfall comes as the latest in a string of high profile men being exposed as sexual deviants. The dust hasn’t even settled from the fall of Fox News giants, Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. Something seems to be in the air, and it’s more than just the #MeToo hashtag. CNN columnist, Sally Kohn, seems to be on the scent of the cause. Her op-ed entitled, “Weinstein’s fall grew from rage over Trump” states her thesis. After the liberal L.A. crowd failed to stop the election of Trump, the backlash was imminent. Since the “Grab them by the p*ssy” guy still got into office, they’d look like a bunch of hypocrites if one of their own got busted and didn’t pay the price. It was Weinstein whose head would roll.
At the women’s marches last January, a word kept popping up: Patriarchy. This is otherwise known as, “The Good ‘Ol Boys Club.” This club is a social construct that gives immunity to men in the face of their crimes against women. The Hollywood elite are such a social construct. This patriarchy is backed by billions of dollars and a culture of silence that enabled men like Weinstein to go unchecked for literally decades. They should have known all this lip-service to gender equality was going to come back to collect. They should have seen the writing on the wall spelling a new zeitgeist gripping the women and femmes of this nation. Every day Trump sits in that White House, the blowback against his kind collects like storm clouds gathering. To think his presence in that office has nothing to do with the lifelong free pass granted to men like him is to indulge in a cruel self-deception.
This may have been a man’s world, but it’s a woman’s planet, and always has been. The man’s world is artifice. It is gendered costuming for power. Too long, our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives have winced under the lash of our entitlement. So much human potential has been wasted in this; I don’t believe the Earth will allow it any longer. Not even your God can protect you from this coming wave of feminine fury. All three Abrahamic religions allow gendered inequality in some form. This will simply not be tolerated any longer. We will have to find a new definition of masculinity. Preferably one that feels secure beside femininity, not smothering it. All in all, the numbers tell the story. If you believe in democracy, then the majority rules, and fellas…we’ve thankfully been outvoted.