If this week has shown me anything, it's that women are still a long way from equal.
The news this past week has been rife with Hollywood's Shame. One of its most beloved producers, Harvey Weinstein, has been accused of sexual harassment and fired by his own production company. The allegations, that he promised to further young womens' acting careers in exchange for sexual favours, date back three decades. He is accused of paying off sexual harassment claims for years and now, unsurprisingly, story upon story is emerging and everyone is asking the same thing: who knew about this? Was it ignored? Have Harvey Weinstein's crimes been common knowledge for years and just accepted as 'one of those things'? Sitting on Twitter at the moment I feel like the wool has just been pulled from our eyes. Hollywood's biggest cover up has just had its cover blown.
And it's taking out everyone in it's path. Celebrities are coming forwards by the dozen to disassociate with the man. Picture upon picture has surfaced of Weinstein with every A-lister that ever lived and they are quick to denounce him, to explain themselves, to assure the world that they knew nothing, that they would never have associated with him had they known. Meryl Streep, who dubbed him a 'hero' in 2012 has been incredibly quick to disassociate, to promise that she had no idea what he was doing. There is no doubt in my mind that the hordes of actors and actress' coming out now to label his behaviour as 'inexcusable' knew nothing of it. Or at least, they couldn't see it. Didn't see it. Chose not to see it. Whatever. They also, I suspect, have had a kick up the arse from their agents who have just remembered that thousands of photos of the two of them together exist online. The Daily Mail cannot believe their luck. Finally, a chance to use all those pointless photos they commissioned. Everyone jumping to defend themselves. To pass the hot potato. Plausible deniability.
'I didn't know. No one knew.'
He has been defended, most shamefully and notably by a woman, Donna Karen, DKNY head, who this week praised 'wonderful' Weinstein and suggested that the women he targeted were probably asking for it by dressing the way they did. Yes, a woman, a fashion designer, said that. Of all the people to victim shame. And then there has been silence. A handful of celebrities, Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham to name a few, who have come out and spoken against him. In part they are defending themselves and the picture they had taken with him, in part they are talking about something incredibly important, standing together to say: this is not acceptable. But the silence cannot be ignored. Because we've lived in silence. It's been widely reported, at least in Weinstein's case, that the 'inner circle' knew. Of course they did. Dirty old man, that's just what he is. No real harm. That's probably what they said to themselves. Either that or everyone was too shit scared to stand up to him. A bit of both I suspect.
People knew about this, of course they did. And now the bubble is burst and yet again we are forced to stare the overwhelming injustice that is sexism in the face. The easiest thing to do here would be to look at what has happened and assume that these were the actions of one rich man who abused the position of power that he had. That's a very small part of it. The crux of this issue is that these were the actions of a man who got away with sexual harassment for three decades because society allowed him to.
At some point the world got it into their heads that we were equal, men and women, and we've been plodding along in a haze of unwilling acceptance since then. Women who are prepared to stand up and say 'no we're not' must be prepared for a string of violent and abusive messages from men who perceive their observations to be a direct and personal attack on them as individuals. Equally they are going to need to accept that they are going to be perceived as butch, shrill, bossy and man-hating. They are going to point out injustice and then have to argue their point time and time again.
We found out this year that the British Broadcasting Company was severely underpaying their women workers. And now we find out that Hollywood have been harbouring and potentially protecting a man guilty of sexual harassment. And people are still here and prepared to argue that we are equal, that this was an anomaly. Great, thanks Weinstein, you've really pissed off the feminists. We can't even get women to stand unanimous, the Donna Karen's of the world are standing with the men, throwing sticks, blaming other women for the decisions that we are supposedly free to make.
And I don't want it to be an 'us and them'. There are countless men ready to fight the good fight. This behaviour is not, to most, considered remotely acceptable. Fathers, sons, boyfriends, brothers, they know that this isn't right. And Hollywood is full of fathers and sons and boyfriends and brothers. It's also full of women, who are vulnerable. The two things should not coexist, they should not be possible. One bad egg should have been broken and removed by the hundreds of good ones witnessing it's behaviour. And yet it sat there rotting. There are millions of people who are just sitting in silence. Accepting this. All of this.
People have turned a blind eye to this in the same way that they have done to similar stories for years. Out of sight, out of mind. People have never said anything. About anything. And the ones that do, are silenced. In an industry as fickle and precarious as Hollywood, no one wants break their silence, least of all against a man who has the power to end you and your career faster than you can say the word 'no'. No one wants to be the one that pops the bubble, no one's brave enough to pop that bubble. And then, one day, the bubble bursts. And we're quick to demand equal pay. And even quicker to demand that film producers don't sexually harass us anymore. How long would we have waited had that bubble not popped?
We should not be sitting here waiting for the bubble to pop. We need to be the ones popping it.