Just once, I’d like to hear the men speak up first. Just once, I’d like to see at least one man step away from the pack, and break the bro code on behalf of women who’ve been silenced by power and shame. The power and shame which drive untold numbers of women to keep quiet about sexual harassment and rape. Especially painful when the perpetrator is a man like the influential Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. It took decades to bring down the now-former head of The Weinstein Company; years when the cowardice and cover-ups apparently provided ample cover for him, leaving a sexual predator to hide his assaults in plain sight.
Reporting from the New York Times and the 10-month investigation by the New Yorker prompted A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan and dozens of other women to go public with their personal experiences. Perhaps none so grotesquely compelling as the taped exchange Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez recorded as part of a New York City police sting. We hear her desperation as she refuses Weinstein repeatedly, finally asking him why he touched her breast. His matter-of-fact response, “I’m used to that,” is in some ways more sickening than accusers’ graphic descriptions of other Weinstein encounters.
In a head-spinning statement, the board of The Weinstein Company, whose members include Harvey’s brother Bob, claimed that the “allegations came as a complete surprise.” What? How is it that none of them ever heard anything? Where were they when Harvey Weinstein was luring ingénues like 23-year-old Gwyneth to his hotel suite? Young Paltrow told then-boyfriend Brad Pitt about Weinstein’s unsolicited touching and comments. Pitt confronted Weinstein, but the incident didn’t stop him from later working on Weinstein’s films. Actor Ben Affleck posted he was “saddened and angry” about the revelations, but actress Rose McGowan said his response was a lie, recalling the time he told her that he had asked Weinstein to stop his inappropriate behavior. (And there are even more damning allegations about Affleck.) Others are calling out men like Affleck’s producing partner and friend, Matt Damon. Online poster Melissa asked, “What are you going to say to your daughters tonight when they ask you why you protected a predator?”
How many of the men who worked with Harvey Weinstein willfully refused to acknowledge what they either knew or suspected? How many avoided eye contact with the women they knew had been assaulted? And how is it that they were too gutless or self-absorbed even to leak the details to people who would put a stop to it?
I wonder because I know there are good guys. Guys like actor Terry Crews, who posted his own experience being groped by another Hollywood executive in support of Weinstein’s accusers. And far from tinsel town, I’ve witnessed men who have intervened in public and behind the scenes for their loved ones, and for women they did not know. Gwyneth Paltrow told the Times, “This way of treating women ends now.” But we all know it doesn’t — not without the strong vocal support of men joining the chorus of women who keep having to reprise the same old song about sexual harassment and rape. It’s past time, fellas, for you to step up.