The rush of sexual assault claims made against Hollywood producer and executive Harvey Weinstein is emblematic of what many deem to be a problem within the greater film industry. Long have rumors of studio executives luring women into sleeping with them in return for movie roles run rampant, yet there is still resistance each time it comes up.
Every time a new celebrity gets called out as a sexual predator, more allegations often continue in the weeks to come. The New York Times reports that 30 women have come forward about Weinstein so far. With numerous allegations comes speculation on the motivation of the accusers, whom some might believe are just trying to catch a moment in the limelight.
Tammy Bruce, a writer for The Washington Times, stated that "the feminist bar is very low these days" if women can be applauded for coming out against Weinstein only after he has attacked other women and was fired for those actions.
"Is it acceptable for rich, powerful and successful women (and men!) who know what’s happening, to say nothing for years, because it allows their work to proceed unencumbered?" Bruce questions. "Are these people, who know what’s happening, abandoning untold numbers of other women to the monster, brave and heroic and feminist to come out once the charade is exposed?"
Bruce also criticized former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for waiting five days to speak out against Weinstein. She alleged that her response was inauthentic given the rumors that Clinton covered up her husband's extramarital trysts for years.
"No wonder Mr. Weinstein’s Hollywood and Hillary’s Washington so frantically turned to deflection by painting Donald Trump as the singular menace for women. Because, you know, locker-room talk," Bruce wrote, referring to the 2016 scandal that featured Trump saying lewd comments about women on an Access Hollywood tape.
According to Gears of Biz, actor James Van der Beek had a different take on why victims of sexual assault wait to speak out against perpetrators. The celebrity wrote on Twitter: "I understand the unwarranted shame, powerlessness and inability to blow the whistle. There’s a power dynamic that feels impossible to overcome."
Van der Beek shared a link to Liz Meriwether's article on The Cut, urging "anyone judging the women who stayed silent, read this for perspective."
Meriwether states in her article that she is a coward. She claims that a "powerful man" made unwanted sexual advances to her when she was young, causing her to become uncomfortable and leave. Looking back on the incident, she doubted her perception of the man's true motivations and feared that he would sabotage her career if she claimed he harassed her. So she kept working with him.
Meriwether lauded the people who were brave enough to say they had been assaulted, but noted that those who stayed silent also made a difficult choice.
"This kind of thing doesn't only happen to heroes," she wrote. "It happens to normal women -- women who are cowards, ambitious jerks, talented artists, lonely girls, girls who put out, girls who don't, girls who don’t like being called 'girls,' wonderful and complicated and still-forming creatures who are forced to make impossible choices that follow them forever. Life isn't a Miramax movie. Life is a mess. Yes, I am a coward, but let’s be clear: The man in the hotel room is to blame."
As Meriwether acknowledges, it's not just celebrities who fall victim to sexual assault. Mashable reports that stories of sexual harassment have come to light in numerous industries such as agriculture, tech, trucking, health care, finance, journalism and law enforcement to name a few.
Addressing sexual harassment is even controversial in schools. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is planning to roll back Title IX protections for victims of sexual assault on campuses, prompting backlash from those who consider the guidelines essential to the protection of students.
Huffpost reports that a group of Democratic congresspeople unveiled a bill on Oct. 12 to codify some of the rules that DeVos is trying to repeal.
Like every issue that affects people in all industries, talk of sexual assault is political. The allegations in Hollywood only push these issues to the forefront. Yet, not everyone wants to hear about it from a celebrity.
According to a January survey of 1,608 readers of The New York Times, 83 percent of people support celebrities using their fame to announce their political opinions. A July survey by SmartBrief found one-third of responders to be supportive, while another 42 percent said that it depends on the individual. The remainder of people either didn't support celebrities getting political or simply didn't care.
Should the women assaulted by Weinstein worry about the political repercussions of speaking out for themselves? Or is it us who should worry and wonder why sexual abuse is so politically controversial in the first place?
Maybe, instead of worrying, we should all be proactive in learning how to prevent further abuse. Listening to those who have been assaulted is one way to start.
Sources: The New York Times (2), The Washington Times, Gears of Biz, The Cut, Mashable, SmartBrief / Featured Image: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Lenhardt via Incirlik Air Base / Embedded Images: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales, U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denise M. Nevins via Ellsworth Air Force Base, Max Pixel