WE WOULD ALL LIKE TO BELIEVE that the “casting couch” in Hollywood had vanished over time as a relic of a less-enlightened age. People in the entertainment industry, particularly certain men in power, minimized this tradition of abuse, likening it to a rite of passage. But as a former lawyer who has handled sexual harassment cases, I can affirm that this “ritual” of men in power taking advantage of the powerless and vulnerable with unwanted sexual advances or unpermitted touching and verbal and physical abuse is entirely unacceptable and illegal, and in some cases constitutes criminal sexual assault.
This goes way beyond Harvey Weinstein or Bill O’ Reilly or Roger Ailes. A man who has been called the “Groper-in-Chief” was named to the highest office in our country even after admitting to a series of aggressive sexual acts against unsuspecting women. (See Video of the Day below for disturbing images and conversation by President Donald Trump.) It is pervasive in society and the time has come to change this paradigm. The courageous women who are breaking their silence have reminded me of all those brave souls who came before them, paving the way for future generations to fight oppression in all its forms.
And make no mistake about it, I am not talking about regular interactions between men and women. There are many men who respect women and present great role models of masculinity to uphold. There is a vast difference between that and toxic masculinity. What we rail against is the inequality of power that allowed the perpetuation of toxic masculinity—that aggressively negative conduct of social, psychological and/or sexual dominance of powerless victims, resulting in misogynistic or bullying behavior, leaving the victim fearful and afraid to complain. That contract is over! This is the dawn of a new day.
As we approach the rise of the Age of Feminine Consciousness, this fight is being waged in myriad ways. Leveling the playing field is one of the main ways to eradicate the inequality of power and wages that telegraph to the world that women and girls are worth less and can be treated in a discriminatory manner. A recent USC study by Dr. Stacy Smith found rampant gender bias in Hollywood. And it is no surprise that this bias against women exists in corporate boardrooms across America and on technology campuses in Silicon Valley.
Paying women what they are worth, hiring them in numbers equal to their representation in society, appointing them to seats on boards, giving them speaking roles on screen and stage, electing them to office in higher numbers, allowing them to wear religious collars and preside over congregations—these are ways to challenge outmoded stereotypes and reverse decades of the devaluation of the role of women in our society. (See the Representation Project link here.)
Following is a round-up of articles showing men behaving badly and women saying we are mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.
“Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades“: The landmark report published at The New York Times by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Related: Harvey Weinstein is fired after sexual harassment reports, as confirmed by Twohey; while Kantor and Rachel Abrams reveal that Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and others say Weinstein harassed them; and at The Daily Beast, Marlow Stern reports on George Clooney’s response to the scandal.
“Two decades ago, the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein invited Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what the young actress expected to be a business breakfast meeting. Instead, he had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower, she recalled in an interview. ‘How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?’ Ms. Judd said she remembers thinking. In 2014, Mr. Weinstein invited Emily Nestor, who had worked just one day as a temporary employee, to the same hotel and made another offer: If she accepted his sexual advances, he would boost her career, according to accounts she provided to colleagues who sent them to Weinstein Company executives. The following year, once again at the Peninsula, a female assistant said Mr. Weinstein badgered her into giving him a massage while he was naked, leaving her ‘crying and very distraught,’ wrote a colleague, Lauren O’Connor, in a searing memo asserting sexual harassment and other misconduct by their boss. ‘There is a toxic environment for women at this company,’ Ms. O’Connor said in the letter, addressed to several executives at the company run by Mr. Weinstein. An investigation by The New York Times found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company. During that time, after being confronted with allegations including sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact, Mr. Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. Among the recipients, The Times found, were a young assistant in New York in 1990, an actress in 1997, an assistant in London in 1998, an Italian model in 2015 and Ms. O’Connor shortly after, according to records and those familiar with the agreements.”
“Fox News Sexual Harassment Scandal Grows to Include Political Hopefuls“: Harriet Sinclair of Newsweek tracks the scandals that led to the ousting of Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes. See also: The Daily Beast‘s Lloyd Grove details how Gretchen Carlson’s new book paints Donald Trump as the Sexual Harasser in Chief.
“Fox News’ sexual harassment scandal is gaining momentum, with politicians as well as TV personalities and executives potentially implicated in the allegations. The network is facing a deluge of allegations amid a federal investigation, having already lost its CEO and one of its best-known stars over the claims, some of which date back over several decades. In one of the lawsuits filed against the network, Fox host Andrea Tantaros claimed: ‘Fox News masquerades as a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny.’ Indeed, figures at Fox including CEO Roger Ailes, who resigned in July 2016 following allegations of sexual harassment, and former host Bill O’Reilly, faced allegations of sexual harassment from a number of women including former host Megyn Kelly, who claimed Ailes harassed her, and Andrea Tantaros, who claimed she was harassed by both Ailes and O’Reilly. But beyond the network’s corridors, the scandal is threatening to grow, with several politicians already seeing their names dragged into the fallout. ‘The question in the Fox scandal is not, ‘Who did what?’ It’s, ‘How close were you to anybody who did anything?’’ Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf told Politico. ‘This is the boiling hot pot of politics. … Anybody who touches it is going to be get burned.’”
“Hadrian Belove Resigns from Cinefamily After Anonymous E-mail Alleges Sexual Harassment“: According to Indiewire‘s Dana Harris and Eric Kohn.
“Hadrian Belove has resigned as executive director of Cinefamily, the independent Los Angeles-based theater he co-founded in 2007, after an anonymous email circulated this week detailing sexual harassment allegations against him and the Cinefamily board. The anonymous email, which went to hundreds of members of the independent film community and the media, said Belove ‘has been accused of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse by former employees and volunteers. It is a deep seated behavior pattern that many in the community are already aware of.’ The email included excerpts from a 2014 lawsuit filed against Belove and Cinefamily by a former employee that cited sexual harassment as well as work-rule violations. That case was settled out of court. In addition to Belove, the Cinefamily board accepted the resignation of board vice president Shadie Elnashai, whom the email accused of ‘raping multiple women, all verbally threatened and scared into silence after the assaults.’ Cinefamily – also known as the historic Silent Movie Theater – was co-founded 10 years ago by brothers Dan and Sammy Harkham along with former Cinefile Video founder Belove. It has blossomed into one of the most popular independent theaters in Los Angeles. The venue is known for its programming of first-run features from boutique distributors in addition to wide-ranging retrospective programming.”
“How Film Nerds Gone Wild Scandal Shows Corporate Powers of Inaction Against Sexual Harassment“: Powerful commentary from Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr. and Dino-Ray Ramos.
“Harry Knowles, the founder of Aint It Cool News — the website that first became Hollywood relevant back when it aired reviews from readers who sneak into studio test screenings months before movies got released — has announced he will step away from his website for a leave of absence, with his sister taking over. This comes after the Austin Film Critics Association booted him, and after the abrupt exits of several longtime contributors said to be the site’s backbone in spearheading its genre film coverage. All this came days after our sister publication IndieWire bared a report — flatly denied by Knowles — that nearly two decades ago he had groped a woman, one who said it happened more than once. Multiple women have since come forward with harassment claims of their own. Meanwhile, Alamo Drafthouse chief Tim League, who co-founded the genre film festival Fantastic Fest with Knowles, has twice been forced to issue apologies for bad behavior by Knowles and Birth.Movies.Death film blogger Devin Faraci. Faraci was quietly kept on the payroll after it was believed he had been banished after a woman claimed he had assaulted her on a dance floor. Faraci responded with an explanation that he didn’t remember it. Acknowledging a past as a blackout drinker, he apologized and subsequently went into a 12-step recovery program.”
“One of Cosby’s 60 accusers says mistrial is why victims ‘don’t come forward’“: An emotional interview conducted by Suzette Parmley of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Lise-Lotte Lublin cried when she heard Bill Cosby won’t be going to jail. The middle-school teacher, 50, who came forward 25 years after she alleges Cosby drugged and seduced her, said the announcement Saturday that Cosby’s jury had deadlocked and couldn’t decide sexual assault charges against him is the very reason victims like her don’t report their assailants. ‘This is a serial rapist and considering that two women testified and a judge testified, and the jury deadlocked – what does a victim have to say or do to be believed? This is why people don’t come forward,’ she added. ‘For victims of rape, it is an emotional trauma and the victim is victimized over and over again because they have a relationship with that person.’ Cosby has not specifically responded in detail to many of the claims from Lublin and other accusers, but he and his lawyers have insisted he has never had sex with a woman without her consent. In an emotional phone interview from her Las Vegas home, Lublin said she reported Cosby to Nevada police in 2014, becoming one of 60 accusers who said they were sexually assaulted by Cosby. With her was lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents 33 of those women.”
“Casey Affleck’s Dark Secret: The Disturbing Allegations Against the Oscar Hopeful“: Detailed by The Daily Beast‘s Amy Zimmerman.
“In December 2008, Amanda White agreed to serve as a producer on an untitled documentary headed by Affleck and Flemmy Productions, which ultimately became ‘I’m Still Here.’ She had a decade-long history of working with Affleck. Over the course of filming, White alleged in the complaint that she was repeatedly harassed. On one occasion, she claimed that Affleck ordered a crew member to take off his pants and show White his penis—even after she vehemently objected. She claimed that Affleck repeatedly referred to women as ‘cows,’ and recounted his sexual exploits with reckless abandon. In her complaint, White recalled Affleck asking her ‘Isn’t it about time you get pregnant?’ once he learned her age, and suggesting that she and a male crew member reproduce. White’s accusations go on, ranging from incredibly unprofessional behavior to actual physical intimidation. She described an instance where she was prevented from returning to her bedroom during shooting, because Affleck and Phoenix had locked themselves in her room with two women where they had sex with them (Affleck was married with two children to Phoenix’s sister, Summer, at the time—though the couple recently split). She also alleged that Affleck attempted to manipulate her into sharing a hotel room with him. When she resisted, White claimed, he grabbed her threateningly and attempted to scare her into submission. Affleck then allegedly proceeded to send White abusive text messages, calling her ‘profane names’ for refusing to stay with him. White filed a $2 million lawsuit against Affleck in Los Angeles Superior Court on July 23, 2010.”
“Silicon Valley’s Sexual-Harassment Crisis Keeps Getting Worse“: A staggering report from Vanity Fair‘s Maya Kosoff.
“The soul-searching isn’t limited to firms that were engaged in litigation. Even tech leaders who haven’t been accused of sordid harassment are grappling publicly with their complicity in an industry culture that has too often treated women as sex objects instead of equals. Still, it says much about Silicon Valley that so much of its self-reflection has been extracted at knifepoint. Venture capitalist Chris Sacca apologized in a nearly 3,000-word mea culpa for contributing to that culture, but only as The New York Times went to print with a story in which a female entrepreneur alleged that he ‘touched her face without her consent in a way that made her uncomfortable.’ As women finally feel empowered to speak out about the alleged malfeasance of their male colleagues and other high-profile incidents involving diversity and gender bias, these reckonings will continue, hopefully in a constructive way. But the Valley’s overdue existential crisis has also fueled resentment among tech’s more fragile male egos. James Damore, a Google engineer, was famously fired last month after writing and sharing a 10-page anti-diversity memo with his coworkers, in which he criticized his employer for devoting resources to hiring and retaining more female employees. (He argued, among other things, that women are less biologically suited to work in technical fields.) He’s since retained a veteran Republican lawyer to defend him.”
Image of the Day
The Representation Project was founded by Jennifer Siebold Newsom, and with features such as “Miss Representation” and “The Mask You Live In,” the organization seeks to use film and media as a catalyst for cultural transformation. Click here to visit the official site.
Video of the Day
The Washington Post‘s David A. Fahrenthold reports on our Groper in Chief’s “extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005.”