Harvey Weinstein: Sexual Harassment and Assault in Hollywood

Stefano Amador ‘19

In public, Harvey Weinstein was a golden mega producer who made huge cultural impacts with his movies such as Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Pulp Fiction and Good Will Hunting. He saw himself as a remarkable liberal and humanitarian who helped women succeed by launching the careers of many actresses in Hollywood.

In October, the New York Times published a story about the powerful Hollywood producer and reports of sexual harassment from recognized actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan and other former employees. In the investigations by the Times they discovered emails, legal records, and undisclosed allegations of Weinstein throughout his agency Miramax and the Weinstein Company over the past three decades. The Weinstein Company’s board fired him after these allegations first appeared.

Known for her starring role in Kiss the Girls and Double Jeopardy, actress Ashley Judd was the first woman to accuse Weinstein of these allegations. In 1997, he invited the young actress to his hotel room at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel. Judd expected to talk business with Weinstein regarding her movie Kiss the Girls. However, according to an interview with the Times, she recounted that Weinstein appeared that morning in a bathrobe and asked Judd to massage him and watch him shower. Times stated that Judd’s concern was “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” While in an interview, Judd also asserted that “women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”

Weinstein made sexual advances towards multiple colleagues in the same hotel, while offering promotions in their careers. Emily Nestor was a temporary employee for Weinstein’s company in 2014. After her first day, she was invited to Weinstein’s hotel room. While he was naked, he harassed her to massage him. Another colleague Lauren O’Connor wrote in a memo to the Weinstein’s Company about the sexual misconduct she has undergone from Weinstein. After being confronted with these allegations, Harvey Weinstein reached out to O’Connor as well as the seven other women. He gave them settlements to hide the allegations. However, being silent left O’Connor feeling unnerved that she would be letting the toxic masculinity affect more women. In her memo she included, “I am just starting out in my career, and have been and remain fearful about speaking up. But remaining silent is causing me great distress.”

Because of the bravery from these women, more than 60 other women came forward about reports of sexual assault and harassment from Weinstein. Highly-esteemed actress, Gwyneth Paltrow shared her experience with Weinstein while making the Jane Austen movie adaptation Emma. The movie launched Paltrow’s career as an actress and won her an Academy Award which consequently led Weinstein to take advantage of her. Like the other women, Weinstein invited Paltrow to his hotel room and insisted she massage him. Paltrow told her boyfriend at the time Brad Pitt, but Weinstein warned her about telling anybody else, leaving her worried about the status about her career.

Among Paltrow, many more successful women in Hollywood like Angelina Jolie and Rose McGowan accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. These women helped expose the boys club that make up Hollywood’s elite. Weinstein’s mistreatment against women became an ‘open-secret’ throughout Hollywood because of the actors like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt, who acted complicit to this issue.

Throughout the month, women and men confronted this by reporting their own experiences of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry.

Film actor, Anthony Rapp revealed how Kevin Spacey known for his role in House of Cards made sexual advances when Rapp was 14-years old. Spacey attempted to excuse his sexual misconduct by coming out as homosexual. His career was quickly terminated afterwards.

With the recent revelations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood, the culture of toxic masculinity and female harassment in the workplace and society has become more widely acknowledged. Sexual assault can be an unpleasant, difficult, or even an embarrassing topic, but it is also an important one. As more and more cases come to light, it is probable that the reputations of more prominent figures will be changed.