Harvey Weinstein’s Fall: When Women Speak and People Listen

There’s no such thing as too much noise.

10.09.17
Photo by Theo Wargo via Getty Images.

This morning, Meryl Streep shared an exclusive statement with HuffPost that condemns Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein for his alleged sexual harassment of at least eight women.

“The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported,” she says in the statement. “The intrepid women who raised their voices to expose this abuse are our heroes…The behavior is inexcusable, but the abuse of power familiar. Each brave voice that is raised, heard and credited by our watchdog media will ultimately change the game.”

Streep’s acknowledgement of these voices rings loud and clear in the wake of the explosive New York Times report, which investigates decades of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein.

Harvey Weinstein released a statement in response. In it, he does not deny the accusations. He apologizes for his actions, admits that the way he behaved with colleagues in the past “has caused a lot of pain.” He quotes a Jay Z lyric: “I’m not the man I thought I was and I better be that man for my children.” He stresses how much he respects women.

He also makes an excuse: “I came of age in the 60s and 70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”

The Weinstein Company’s board of directors fired him three days later.

Actress Ashley Judd speaks publicly about Weinstein’s abuse in the Times‘ exposé: “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.” She says Weinstein harassed her multiple times, often using his power in the film industry as a coercive bargaining chip.

Actress Rose McGowan, who reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein in 1997, has also spoken out in a series of scathing tweets.

Weinstein’s alleged victims aren’t the only celebrities who have raised their voices. In addition to Streep’s statement of support, a host of other A-listers have used their social media platforms to condemn the media mogul’s actions:

Link no longer in bio, emotions remain the same 🎥 💔

A post shared by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

Here is a prime example of the positive power of the internet’s “outrage machine.” Rather than fall into echo chambers, the outpouring of support and calls to action in solidarity further amplify the voices of those who’ve been silenced. People are listening.

It’s the opposite of “The Braindead Megaphone,” a metaphor coined by George Saunders to explain the way the media disseminates information and shapes how people think and act and formulate opinions. The megaphone in Saunders’ story is braindead because it prioritizes sense-blunting titillation at the expense of truth and fact; the megaphone here, though, is one that magnifies the outcry against Weinstein. It is alert, it is angry, it is deliberate. It is armed with truth, and its reverberations are shaping the way this narrative unfolds.

WE found out. Women spoke and the engine of the internet’s outrage machine listened — then whirred to life. Weinstein was rightfully terminated. This series of consequences goes to show that in the ongoing campaign to support victims of sexual harassment and condemn their abusers, there is no such thing as too much noise.

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  • fortinbras

    I don’t believe Meryl Streep should be the “face” of this article. Her complete statement had a defensive tone, and seemed almost naively unaware, which is hard to believe, given her experience in the industry.
    One thing can be clarified. Not everybody knew. Harvey supported the work fiercely, was exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally. I didn’t know about these other offenses: I did not know about his financial settlements with actresses and colleagues; I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom, or other inappropriate, coercive acts. And if everybody knew, I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it.
    That was the majority of her statement, not the two sentences in her introduction and conclusion. I’m not saying she knew exactly what was going on, and I’m not blaming her for anything, but does she really believe that the media neglected to write about it? It was an open secret. Her statement was not for the women who were hurt, but for her own defense. Not a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be hailed as something it’s not.
    And everyone going after Meryl for not saying anything had better go after some of those men as well. I’m not going to name anyone because this isn’t a gossip site, but there are tens of people in the same situation, perhaps even worse than Meryl Streep and people choose her as a scapegoat because it’s convenient.

    • Lil

      I don’t think Streep believes that the media neglected to write about Harvey. She’s saying that not everyone was aware of Harvey’s crimes since he forced his victims to be silent.

      • fortinbras

        And if everybody knew, I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it.
        That’s exactly what she’s saying. She’s disregarding the power he had over media and chalking up to ‘not everyone knew’ to defend herself.
        Anyway my point wasn’t that she shouldn’t defend herself, it’s that her statement shouldn’t be held up as an example of something it’s not.

        • Ny2La

          Thank you for putting into words what didn’t sit right about her “statement”.

    • Yue

      To add onto this, there’s a report that Matt Damon and Russell Crowe helped kill a report about his harassment the NYT tried to run in 2004. (http://www.vulture.com/2017… Lots of people are coming out to say that it was common knowledge in the industry and something that young women were warned of. Meryl Streep is just trying to defend herself because during her last awards season speech she called him “god” and now she’s trying to damage control. I really wish that we would admit that actresses are businesses unto themselves and not necessarily the crusading moral individuals they sell themselves to us as—nor that they necessarily should be expected to be that.

    • Greenborough

      I agree with fortinbras. HW’s behavior and reputation with women was an open secret in Hollywood. The NYTimes killed their first article about it in 2004. Meryl had nothing to do with naming him as an abuser of women. She’s just defending herself with working with him.

      Also HW is not the first Hollywood predator, he’s not the only one, and he’s not the last one. Aspiring or current actresses shouldn’t be asked to meet privately in a hotel room with a producer or director or agent or whatever about a possible role. Business practices in hollywood need to change.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hi fortinbras, came here to let you know we changed the photo to Ashley Judd as this is really about her voice and her words and the voice/words of those women who were victims of Harvey Weinstein

  • silla

    Wow. Reading this article and these quotes made me tear up! I love being a woman. We are so, so fucking strong, especially when we come together. As someone who prosecutes sexual offences, this gives me more confidence to say to the victims that I deal with that people WILL listen and it’s NOT your fault. It’s something that I always say but sometimes feel guilty for saying it because it’s with a seed of doubt in my heart that people actually do care. But they do! Thanks for a wonderfully uplifting article about such a deeply depressing issue.

    • Harling Ross

      Thanks so much for this comment, Silla. And thank you for what you do for victims of sexual offenses.

    • Alexandra Queiroz

      Silla, your words are perfect and I congratulate you on doing such an important job, something that makes the whole difference in people’s lives – many times, the kind of support victims need in order to keep going, to actually have the will to live. Wish you all the best!

      • silla

        Thanks gorgeous ladies! You’ve made my day. But the most important person in the courtroom is the victims themselves – I just try to see myself as a conduit for their strength and compassion. You would be amazed at how many women come forward not for themselves but because they don’t want their offender to have the opportunity to hurt OTHER women. It never ceases to inspire me xx

  • Alexandra Queiroz

    Harling, thank you so much for writing this!

    • tinygoldenpins

      Yes, Harling. You’re my role model and I’m in my 60’s!!!!

      • Alexandra Queiroz

        I’ve just turned 47 and also love what she writes.

  • Cilli

    Is Meryl Streep claiming Dino Immunity?

    • ApocalypsoFacto

      I find it disgustingly hilarious that so many women who benefited personally and financially from working with Harvey Weinstein – and apparently weren’t harassed by him – are now just APPALLED, APPALLED I tell you! that he was doing these things. Like they didn’t know. This was an open secret in Hollywood for years, but a critical mass of other famous people had to talk about their experiences before anyone reacted the way they should have years ago. It’s shameful.

  • spicyearlgrey

    Would have liked to see some tweets about respected male actors as well. This is not an offence against (just) women, but a violation of HUMAN rights.

    • Ciccollina

      Pretty sure that in this particular instance, the offence is quite literally against women. I don’t love the All Lives Matter undertones of your statement.

    • Aydan

      agreed. I think the point is to stand up with your other gendered counter parts and be an ALLY! because we all need allies, regardless of who’s rights are at stake (women, LGBTQ+, racial, etc. etc. etc.)

  • tmm16

    What is everyone’s reaction to what Donna Karen said about the story? Basically saying that women should be more aware of how they dress and what they are “asking for”

    https://www.thecut.com/2017/10/donna-karan-defends-harvey-weinstein-comments.html

    Thoughts on this?

    • HW’s behaviour runs so much deeper than just the way women dress or how they present themselves – but I think Donna Karan’s comments are reflective of a whole other (not entirely unrelated) issue in Hollywood, which is the sexualisation of women. Both of these problems have come from a deep misogyny that cannot be excused – especially not in an argument about how females dress. I’ve never once seen a man looking sharp in a suit and thought that in finding him attractive that gave me any licence to intrude on him physically, and I don’t know another woman who has.

      • tinygoldenpins

        Yes, but as someone showed in a tweet yesterday to Donna Karan, her ads for her clothing line were deeply sexualized just like Hollywood. The model was maybe 17 and the clothing was quite suggestive as was the positioning of her thighs with the (older) man’s body before her. She can’t say that she hasn’t made her money on the sexualizing of very young women.

  • Not sure if this was just the way the tweets fell, but I’m a little hurt by how few (if any) men of Hollywood spoke out against him. Unfortunately, we’re still in a society where men have to validate our issues as issues before they’re truly considered by society.

    • ApocalypsoFacto

      They didn’t tweet support because they did deals, got jobs and went to parties with this guy for years, probably knowing what he was doing to women, or at least having an inkling of it. They were benefiting; why rock the boat? Why expose one of their own and risk the spotlight turning to them when it was done with Harvey Weinstein? The same thing happened with the Bill Cosby allegations. We didn’t see a large chorus of male voices speaking out about him; we got apologia from people like Dave Chappelle, who tried to claim in a comedy special that Cosby should be cut slack on the whole “rape thing” because of his good deeds. One thing you can count on in situations like this is that men stick together to protect each other. Sad but true.

  • Robin

    Even Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie have spoken out against him now. It is giving me spotlight kind vibes, where they start with 13 and are in complete shock, and end up with hundreds and hundreds these priests. This once again proves the terrifying depths of Hollywood

  • tinygoldenpins

    Here’s the thing, Harvey. I, a woman, came of age in the 60s and 70s too — in fact, I’m a couple of years older than you. And, you’re right. That was the way a lot of men acted. But, when they acted that way I was disgusted and so were most of my male colleagues. And, sometimes men like that managed to hurt me. But, you know what, Harvey? None of the men I worked with had near the power you had and I could mock them and look at them disgusted and tell on them without getting screwed. And none of those woman felt that they could. So, while you were thinking to yourself, hey, it’s the 70s man, hordes of women were talking about you behind your back, making wretching noises about you, and fantasizing stringing you up and if they thought they could enact revenge on you without ruining their careers they would have. Yeah, man, it was the 70s but did you notice that it was only you enjoying it and getting away with it. I always think that the way people are is evident in their faces and there you are. To say you have the face and demeanor of a pig is to debase pigs, who are really sweet beings. You are a monster.

  • Perspephone

    Tales of the Hollywood casting couch go way back. It is part of Silver Screen lore. The current scandal is a blockbuster itself–it features an ogreish bad guy who despoils a host of innocent damsels surrounded by countless see-nothing bystanders. At the close of the movie, said ogre is slain, innocent damsels are rewarded with settlements and/or lucrative publicity, and bystanders are absolved of all wrongdoing.