Belfast Telegraph

Harvey Weinstein expected Hollywood to protect him ... why wouldn't he? It always had before

By Holly Baxter

Harvey Weinstein sent a last-minute pleading email to some of his friends in Hollywood, begging them to protect him from the dismissal he knew was coming. "My board is thinking of firing me," he wrote, according to people who said they had read the email. "All I'm asking is let me take a leave of absence and get into heavy therapy and counselling. A lot of the allegations are false, as you know, but given therapy and counselling, as other people have done, I think I'd be able to get there. Do not let me be fired. If the industry supports me, that is all I need."

How true that final sentence is. Weinstein was well-acquainted with the fact that, so long as enough influential people continue to support you in the Hollywood film industry, then you can be protected from almost anything.

Weinstein wasn't a fool to believe that the help of his well-connected friends could quash the scandal. It's been claimed that a 2004 article exposing multiple sexual harassment allegations against him was prevented from running in The New York Times after pressure from Hollywood stars, including Matt Damon and Russell Crowe.

The journalist who says she was writing the piece, Sharon Waxman, said this week that she had travelled to two countries and overcome "immense challenges to confirm at least part of the story", but then was contacted "directly" by Damon and Crowe and had her article spiked shortly after.

Why would people like Matt Damon and Russell Crowe protect someone like Harvey Weinstein? The reasons why men may have worked to keep allegations of Weinstein's sexual harassment out of the media are most likely the same reasons why so many women who have now shared their stories didn't do so before: fear.

Read just a few of the accusations against Weinstein and you get the picture. The one made by Zoe Brock, for instance, a model from New Zealand, who was 23 when she claims a naked Weinstein asked her for a massage and she had to lock herself in a hotel bathroom to escape.

Or the one made by Romola Garai, who was 18 years old when Weinstein made her do a private audition in his hotel room while he wore only a dressing gown.

If the problem is systemic, of course, you have a lot to lose from calling out one individual - you run the risk of the whole system turning against you in punishment.

The question comes up every time multiple women make allegations about a man being a serial sexual predator: how could he really have gotten away with being so brazen? Surely, if it was really going on, everyone would have known and someone would have said something?

But everybody did know. And people did say things. They just weren't the right people - they were women, they were young, they weren't big players in the industry. And the men higher up the ladder had nothing to gain from corroborating the rumours.

Then, there are the other points of view, like the ones put forth by fashion designer Donna Karan in the Daily Mail: "I think we have to look at ourselves. How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?"

She has since claimed that her words were taken "out of context" during the red carpet interview (personally, I find it hard to imagine when ruminations about women "asking for it" might be appropriate in context), but they are nevertheless a good summary of the victim-blaming misogyny which is still a steady undercurrent throughout society and Hollywood in particular.

There is one thing Donna Karan mentioned in that extremely confusing interview which rang true. "I don't think it's only Harvey Weinstein," she said with a tight smile. "I don't think we're only looking at him. I think we're looking at a world much deeper than that."

Of course, we must be - because if it had only been Harvey Weinstein, it wouldn't have taken us so long to see it.

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