This post discusses distorted media coverage of the #MeToo movement. The focus is on two sets of articles. Part One and the Postscript deal especially with articles in the New York Times and The New Yorker; Part Two discusses an article in Time.
At this moment in late 2017, there is a movement afoot. Known as #MeToo, this movement arose from a wave of sexual misconduct accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. The “Me Too” concept is that many other women can say — and, especially on social media, are saying — that they, too, have been victims of sexual harassment and abuse.
The initial story on Weinstein was critical but somewhat undecided. As expressed by the New York Times (Kantor & Twohey, October 5, 2017),
An investigation . . . found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades . . . . 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 . . . .
[On the other hand,] Charles Harder, a lawyer representing Mr. Weinstein, said it was not unusual to enter into settlements to avoid lengthy and costly litigation. He added, “It’s not evidence of anything.” . . . Many women who worked with Mr. Weinstein said they never experienced sexual harassment or knew of anyone who did, and recalled him as a boss who gave them valuable opportunities at young ages.
It did soon appear, however, that at least some of the allegations had substance. Just a few days later, the Times (Twohey, October 8) reported that The Weinstein Company, co-founded (like Miramax) by Harvey and his brother Bob in 2005, had fired Harvey in the wake of his apology for “the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past.” In a later piece in The New Yorker (November 6, 2017), Ronan Farrow reported that
In the fall of 2016, Harvey Weinstein set out to suppress allegations that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women. He began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations.
Weinstein’s alleged behaviors included some of a patently sexual nature. Examples included asking if not compelling women to watch him take a shower or masturbate, and to give him massages while he was naked. There were also allegations of more forcible sexual behavior, including rape. Though it was possible that a detailed investigation would conclude otherwise, the trail of Weinstein’s private investigatory efforts and settlements did seem to confirm that he had a long history of using his position to obtain sexual favors from women.
That did not surprise me. I had often encountered the phenomenon of the alpha male who abused his power and position. To cite just a few examples, in other posts, I have written about the administrator at Indiana University, directly responsible for the termination of my PhD, noted for predatory behavior toward men and women alike; about Jewish moguls in Hollywood, like Weinstein, whose thuggish behavior gave ammunition to Jew-haters everywhere; and about the haremization of women at the top of the social pecking order, as females craving liaisons with powerful men ultimately leave a shortage of potential partners for guys further down the ladder.
The Rest of the Story:
Part One: Women
While the Times and other sources rightly explored sexual harassment, they wrongly failed to explore the other two-thirds of the story, even when some of that unmentioned material was palpable in their own reporting. One part of the unreported story involved what certain women were getting out of the deal, and one part involved less-prestigious males.
First, about the women. From the coverage in the mainstream press, you’d think that Weinstein had herded a bunch of tearful females into a prison compound in some remote desert location, and was keeping them bound there as sex slaves. It was ludicrous. This was London; this was New York; these were women who, collectively, had virtually inexhaustible access to lawyers and media, sufficient to expose any such operation many, many years ago. That didn’t happen. Why not?
The Times (Kantor and Twohey, October 5) proposed that “Mr. Weinstein enforced a code of silence”; that the silence was preserved because eight women signed confidentiality agreements; that “board members were assured there was no need to investigate” and that they simply accepted that assurance; that women were only “talking about Harvey amongst ourselves” (and yet that “Most women who told The Times that they experienced misconduct by Mr. Weinstein had never met one another”); and that these women had the naivete of pre-adolescent girls (e.g., “We were so young . . . We did not understand how wrong it was”).
That was a crock. For one thing, there are no indications that Weinstein attempted to deceive anyone as to his marital status. Were these women, all in their twenties or older, unaware that Mr. Weinstein was married — and did they really “not understand how wrong it was” to sleep with some woman’s husband? Was there really a “code of silence”? It seems not. Kantor and Twohey said that Weinstein boasted of “a series of famous actresses he claimed to have slept with,” and they quoted a former assistant to Harvey’s brother Bob: “It wasn’t a secret to the inner circle.” Multiple sources (e.g., The Playlist, Deadline, CNN, Mashable, the Daily Mail, the Daily News) quoted a Facebook post by screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, who produced movies distributed by Miramax. Rosenberg’s post emphasized, “Let me be perfectly clear about one thing: everybody-fucking-knew” about Harvey’s “pattern of overly-aggressive behavior.” Rosenberg said, “[T]here were many who actually succumbed to his bulky charms. Willingly.”
That last word was telling, and it seemed accurate. Most if not all of the women had choices. As a preeminent example, Maureen Dowd (New York Times, October 14, 2017) believed that Gwyneth Paltrow, for one, refused Weinstein’s advances and yet, far from being punished, was able to “put aside qualms to become ‘the first lady of Miramax'” — saying essentially nothing about Weinstein’s behavior, when she knew what was going on. Rosenberg went on to say,
[I]f Harvey’s behavior is the most reprehensible thing one can imagine, a not-so-distant second is the current flood of sanctimonious denial and condemnation that now crashes upon these shores of rectitude in gloppy tides of bullshit righteousness.
And do you know how I am sure this is true?
Because I was there.
And I saw you.
And I talked about it with you.
You, the big producers; you, the big directors; you, the big agents; you, the big financiers.
And you, the big rival studio chiefs; you, the big actors; you, the big actresses; you, the big models.
You, the big journalists; you, the big screenwriters; you, the big rock stars; you, the big restaurateurs; you, the big politicians.
I saw you.
All of you.
God help me, I was there with you. . . .
Rosenberg’s account was corroborated by Emma de Caunes, quoted by Farrow in The New Yorker (October 10): “I know that everybody—I mean everybody—in Hollywood knows that it’s happening.” In his Facebook post, Rosenberg didn’t take the path of false denial. Instead, he pointed out that abusers like Weinstein develop positions of power, within which they can get away with it — positions heavily dependent upon the complicity and support of corrupt others:
And this is as pathetic as it is true:
What would you have had us do?
Who were we to tell?
Harvey owned the press.
Kantor and Twohey of the Times did not explore the patent contradictions in their reporting. This was not surprising: Weinstein was a big Democratic Party donor, and the Times has often been disappointingly partisan. The contrast between the silence before, and the outrage after, did seem to support Rosenberg’s claim: Harvey owned the press. It was also not surprising that Rosenberg’s Facebook post was later deleted or at least removed from public view. Would the Times investigate that? As of this writing, the answer was no, apparently not.
Consistent with my earlier post about Hollywood thugs, Rosenberg contemplated the consequences for those who did speak up: “That old saw ‘You’ll Never Work In This Town Again’ came crawling back to putrid life.” Apparently Rosenberg was right on that score, Paltrow notwithstanding. The New Yorker (Goodyear, October 19) quoted a Miramax alumna: “I always thought it was interesting that a lot of people who left Miramax either ended up running shit in Hollywood or became social workers.” Weinstein was big, but he wasn’t that big. He didn’t own Hollywood. He couldn’t have enforced that sort of reward-or-punishment system without reliable assistance from other moguls.
It appeared the situation was this: people at Weinstein’s companies saw; they knew; but — in the manner of my easily bought classmates at Indiana University, dealing with our own much smaller but still destructive predator — they taught themselves not to see or hear, but rather to reinterpret what they were experiencing, in terms that would allow them to continue in their own selfish projects, essentially throwing their colleagues under the bus. Goodyear (sometimes quoting others) said this:
[These actresses’] desire for professional advancement demeaned them—even after he’d made some of them into stars. . . . [H]is predation went on, hiding in plain view. No one ever asked, Did he? That was the given . . . .
I consider many people at the Weinstein Company to have suffered some sort of Stockholm syndrome. You’d say to them, ‘Hello, in the real world this is actionable.’ . . . And what about his staff? People say, ‘Did they know?’ Of course they knew. . . .
There were things you knew. . . . He could be flamboyant in his ‘People can know I’m a womanizer.’ . . . [T]he unspoken message we were being given from the powers that be across media, Hollywood, and politics is that he can get away with this shit.
The Stockholm Syndrome analysis could generate sympathy, but for the fact that (unlike real Stockholm Syndrome) it was self-inflicted. Goodyear quoted a statement from Weinstein Company employees who insisted, “We did not know we were working for a serial sexual predator.” Come on. Short of self-induced blindness, how could you be the only ones who were not seeing what Goodyear describes as “a philanderer . . . surrounded by beauties” — a philanderer whose appeal was obviously not his own movie-star looks? The statement said, “We did not know that he used his power to systematically . . . silence women.” Ridiculous. What about the claim, by Kantor and Twohey of the Times (October 5), that “Dozens of Mr. Weinstein’s former and current employees, from assistants to top executives, said they knew of inappropriate conduct while they worked for him”? What about Farrow’s report in The New Yorker (October 10) that “Other employees described what was, in essence, a culture of complicity at Weinstein’s places of business, with numerous people . . . fully aware of his behavior but either abetting it or looking the other way”?
The reality, I think, is that these staffers signed the contracts (described, again, by Kantor and Twohey) forbidding Weinstein Company employees from making any criticisms that would harm “its business reputation or any employee’s personal reputation.” The real question seemed to be this: Are you still lying to us, even now, because that’s the Weinstein Company’s price for your own continued profit from Harvey Weinstein?
Rosenberg appeared to be right. We found ourselves inundated with what he described as a “flood of sanctimonious denial and condemnation.”
Let’s get real. Prostitution exists, and it is not limited to the street. To be sure, many marriages and liaisons are about love rather than money. But many others are not. It is not a coincidence that many of the most beautiful women seek out the richest men. As Kantor and Twohey admit, “[P]lenty of [Weinstein’s] former assistants have risen high in Hollywood.” Do you think Weinstein was a victim of a wild imagination, when he believed that these complaining women might be willing to take advantage of what he was implicitly offering? What’s likely — what seems to be supported by the evidence — is that he had many years of experience in successfully propositioning women who were willing to make the tradeoff of sex for personal career advancement.
Farrow’s New Yorker account (October 10) cites repeated instances where the women themselves admitted that they went along with Weinstein — not just once, but as an ongoing fact. Case in point: Asia Argento, who admits to dining with Weinstein, meeting his mother, and engaging in “consensual sexual relations with him multiple times over the course of the next five years” for personal career and financial reasons. She now claims it was a “horrible trauma” that left her so extremely victimized that “oral sex is still ruined for her” and that, “Just talking to you about it, my whole body is shaking.” And yet there were those years of continuing relations, and her eventual success as a director. She was no Emily Nestor, who told Farrow, “I actually decided not to go into entertainment because of this incident.”
The bottom line is not that Weinstein was any less a pig, or that women didn’t have mixed feelings. It is that Harvey Weinstein’s so-called victims were not uniformly innocent and vulnerable. No doubt many of these women would have preferred not to have to sell themselves. But, unlike their comparably aspiring male peers, at least they had the opportunity — and apparently, for the most part, they went with it.
In this regard, the Times and other mainstream media became part of the problem. They perpetuated the myth that men are predators and women are victims. One needed only to speak this unspoken truth, in order to begin to see. One could begin to ask, where is this perspective, in those articles in the Times and the New Yorker? Where is the frank attention to the fact that many women sought out and exploited this opportunity?
To be sure, there were glimmers. There were the contradictions in the report by Kantor and Twohey (above); there was Goodyear’s (October 19) quote of an unnamed woman who said, “[T]here had to have been enablers, men and women, perpetuating the bullying culture.” That’s exactly right. There are always the cronies — the other Hollywood bigwigs, in Weinstein’s case; the other administrators, in the case of Indiana University’s corrupt destruction of my PhD — who are often but not always male, in charge of other companies or departments, providing cover. And there most certainly are the assistants and the advisors and the executive secretaries, generally female, who (in exchange for a good paycheck) prepare the confidentiality agreements, arrange the meetings, file the papers, and know exactly what’s going on. For instance, the Times (Twohey, October 8) reported that Lisa Bloom, Weinstein’s legal advisor, was prepared to release “photos of several of the accusers in very friendly poses with Harvey after his alleged misconduct”; The New Yorker (Farrow, October 10) described how women on Weinstein’s staff facilitated instances of his sexual predation; Farrow quoted Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, for patently false statements supporting him; and Farrow also described energetic spying efforts on Weinstein’s behalf by an Israeli investigator who variously called herself “Anna” or “Diana Filip.”
Dowd of the Times asked, “How many times do we have to go through this before things really change?” The answer appeared to be another question: How long will it be until beautiful and/or successful but corrupt women stop using powerful men to elevate themselves above — and, sometimes, to facilitate and even join in the predation upon — less beautiful, powerful, or corrupt women and men?
Goodyear provided, perhaps unwittingly, an explanation of why, after all these decades, Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment was suddenly getting all this attention. The answer seemed to be that, in this year of the pussyhats, it was still not really about moral purity or defense of women. What it was really about was politics. Goodyear quoted an unnamed woman as saying,
“Please, may this empower people to step forward about Trump, and we can bring him down . . . . Trump women can come through and throw him down. That would be the biggest play women can make.”
Twohey likewise (October 8) quoted a female HBO producer for the view that Weinstein’s firing, by his own company, would “scare any man in Hollywood [from] using his power for anything but making movies and television.”
The Rest of the Story:
Part Two: Men
Goodyear, Towhey, and other women might have cherished the hope that the Weinstein case could be leveraged into an end of Hollywood piggishness and/or an impeachment of Donald Trump. They might have sincerely believed that they were warriors in the cause of Good and Right, and that victory over these big, abusive male players would lead to a better, kinder, more equal society.
If that was what these journalists believed, then they were nearly as self-deluded as the women who claimed not to see the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse that everyone else could see. Because it was clear, within a month or so after the Weinstein story broke — indeed, it had already been clear for years previously, to readers of this blog — that some powerful women were going to exploit the Weinstein story for its real or imagined leverage against ordinary men who were not remotely like Harvey Weinstein.
Susanna Schrobsdorff, Chief Strategic Partnerships Editor at Time (November 9, 2017), exemplified this abusive overreach. Schrobsdorff said that, “Over the past few weeks . . . [men had begun] asking me if something they did a decade ago or last year upset me or made me uncomfortable. . . . Or they’re in fact apologizing for some comment I’d blocked out.”
Schrobsdorff said, “It’s good that men are asking questions.” And I agree with that. People generally should be more inclined to question themselves, and less sure that they are always right in what they say and do. The missing part in this equation was that, once again, it was only the men who were supposed to be doing that. The women were assumed to be purely innocent if not pathetically victimized.
That perspective emerged immediately, starting in Schrobsdorff’s first paragraph. As just quoted, she alluded to a male comment that she said she might have “blocked out.” Not “forgotten.” Simply forgetting a comment would suggest that it was minor and/or unoffensive. “Blocked out” brings forward the pseudopsychology of repressed memory. The implication was that Schrobsdorff experienced it as traumatic at the time, but her brain automatically covered it over, so as to protect her. On that subject, however, Pendergrast (2017) brings us up to date:
[T]here is no good evidence for the concept of repression. People sometimes forget single or limited incidents of childhood sexual abuse and remember them later, but the incidents were apparently not perceived as traumatic at the time. These are examples of ordinary memory retrieval, not of repression.
Psychology Today (Ehrenfeld, 2015) quoted the American Psychological Association for the same conclusion. This was the conclusion even with cases of actual sexual abuse, never mind minor remarks that Schrobsdorff alleges she might have “blocked out.”
But there was a larger problem with Schrobsdorff’s introductory paragraph. In her description, men now feel compelled to revisit the past ten years or more, in search of anything they might have done that made her “uncomfortable.” Schrobsdorff endorsed this behavior. In that, she was wrong. This was not something that people, male or female, should be doing. This was excess.
Again, in this life, there certainly are many instances of wrongdoing that need to be revisited. I don’t know that one sex owes it to the other to be the first to ask or complain about such instances. But, one way or the other, yes, if abuses occurred, whether old or new, if for credible reasons they still bother someone, they should at least be potentially subject to sincere dialogue.
But should that be taken to justify an inquisition into every male action that might ever have made any woman “uncomfortable”? I don’t think so. Exercise makes a person uncomfortable. So does being awakened by the alarm clock. Childbearing, enormously uncomfortable, is a profoundly important part of life for many women. It is not at all clear why men should be singled out as an unwelcome cause of discomfort when so many other things in life, from the electric bill to the taste of some cough medicines, are accepted as ordinary parts of the frequently uncomfortable experience of being alive. I mean, it’s not as though women always make men comfortable.
Sadly, Schrobsdorff was not responding to those male inquiries by saying, “You, make me uncomfortable? You silly boy. Life is discomfort. If something bothers me, I’m a big girl. I’ll tell you. You can’t be expected to read my mind.” She was definitely not saying that. To the contrary, she was citing a survey that asked a question having to do with “unwanted” male invitations to go out on a date. So we had a mystery: in a world where women often send mixed signals, how are you supposed to know your invitation is unwanted, except by making the invitation?
Schrobsdorff clarified that her concern was only with repeated unwanted invitations. Yet here, again, a mystery: why, exactly, was the invitation unwanted? Consider a few possibilities. Susie did not want to go out with Sam because:
- Sam did not have enough money; but then Sam got money, so he thought he’d try again.
- Susie previously held an incompatible religious belief; but Sam observed a change in her behavior, and believed she might have dropped that reservation.
- Sam invited Susie to the ballgame, which didn’t interest her; but then Sam scored tickets to the ballet, which he knew she loved.
You get the idea. Schrobsdorff seemed to think that repeated unwanted invitations were a matter of Sam pestering Susie every night of the week. There probably are men and women who behave that way. At a certain point, that would be harassment. In that case, generally speaking, Susie has both the option and the responsibility to make her views clear, if necessary threaten to call the cops, and be done with it. Otherwise, she’s complicit.
But in most cases, it’s not like that. One person is attracted to another, male or female. They try to think of ways to make themselves more appealing. They try something; and if it doesn’t work, they watch to see if maybe something else would. This is not exactly a criminal enterprise. To the contrary, it is how a great many relationships begin. It is bizarre to treat it as though there were something wrong with it.
Some women are extraordinarily beautiful. No doubt they attract interest from many would-be suitors. This may be the situation for Schrobsdorff and others in her elite circles. Maybe they get sick of all the attention — at least until fame and good looks abandon them. Maybe, in their ignorance of the lives of ordinary people, they assume that most women are in a similar situation. Most women aren’t. For most of us who are single, male or female, there’s the perpetual contrast between the relatively undesirable people who want us and the relatively desirable people who don’t. If that grows burdensome for the most attractive women, that may be an issue of access to protection. It does not automatically compel restructuring of relationships among hundreds of millions of men and women throughout the entire society, subjecting every elderly janitor to the innuendos of every battleaxe.
Of course, the situation may be different for people who are in a committed relationship and have zero interest in ever receiving invitations from anyone of the opposite sex. Until just a few generations ago, we did have an arrangement that afforded legal protection to people in such conditions. It was known as marriage. In older times, it included actual laws against interfering with the marital relationship. Feminists didn’t like marriage, in its traditional form, and in some cases with good reason. Their solution was to throw out the baby with the bath water.
In that spirit — as if to demonstrate why she was a senior Time editor while I was the unemployed white male whose Indiana PhD was terminated on grounds of race and sex — Schrobsdorff based her argument on an unscientific online survey conducted by a non-research website. Information uncovered in a brief search suggested that the author of that writeup, Brionna Lewis, took some undergraduate courses at Cal State Northridge, but may not have graduated.
I guess Schrobsdorff couldn’t find real research supporting her beliefs. But that’s OK — let’s go with it. In her view, this survey “found that 2 out of 3 men don’t think repeated unwanted invitations to drinks, dinner or dates is sexual harassment.” Neither Schrobsdorff nor Lewis gave us the actual percentage. They didn’t tell us what question was asked. (The reporting site offered no links; a search turned up nothing.) So here were some possibilities:
- Suppose you run into an acquaintance and ask her out on a date. You ask again, a few weeks later; and you ask a third time, the following year. Each time, she declines, offering an excuse involving other duties or social engagements. In effect, she did not really, badly want to go out with you. Do your repeated, possibly unwanted invitations constitute sexual harassment?
- Suppose you and some woman are the first people to arrive at happy hour, 5 PM on Friday. You start talking. You seem to be hitting it off. You invite her to a movie on Saturday. She smiles but declines. Both of you remain at the happy hour. You ask again around 7 PM, when you’ve both circulated through your groups and have wound up at the bar again. She smiles and declines again. You ask again at 2 AM, just before she heads out the door with another man. She smiles and declines. The man, who turns out to be her husband (and who was to know? she wasn’t wearing a ring), does not punch you. Do your repeated, possibly unwanted invitations constitute sexual harassment?
Again, you get the idea. It would not be terribly surprising if two-thirds — or three-quarters, or nine out of ten — men, reading any such question, would be quite certain that sexual harassment was not intended and did not occur.
So let us explore that. Let us leave aside the silliness of Schrobsdorf’s survey, to focus particularly on the concept of “sexual harassment.” Because, after all, nine-year-old Mark, who pesters Amber to sit with him in the cafeteria, may not really know what that is.
As it turns out, those men who do not think that “repeated unwanted invitations to drinks, dinner or dates is sexual harassment” are right. Evidently Schrobsdorff, the senior Time editor, did not check the law before staking out her position. Consider:
- Wikipedia: Sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors.
- American Association of University Women: What constitutes [workplace] sexual harassment can vary depending on the situation and people involved. It might include behaviors like unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, direct or indirect threats or bribes for sexual activity, sexual innuendos and comments, sexually suggestive jokes, unwelcome touching or brushing against a person, pervasive displays of materials with sexually illicit or graphic content, and attempted or completed sexual assault. . . . [On campus, similarly,] sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual conduct. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
A mere invitation to go to the movies, from one student to another? I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that, even in today’s hypersensitive America, that’s probably not (yet) a crime.
It was hard to know what Schrobsdorff had in mind; she did not explain her reasoning. It seems she may have drawn, not upon the law, but rather upon vague assumptions within her social circle. At best, her beliefs may have been traceable to something like what Page et al. (2015) characterized as a “tripartite model” categorizing “sexually harassing behavior” into “the broad domains of gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion.” In that model, the focus here would be on “unwanted sexual attention,” which those authors described as consisting of “sexual and romantic overtures” including “pressure for dates” that “are perceived by the recipient as “unwanted, unreciprocated, and offensive.” Plainly, this dimension of the tripartite model was problematic: was the request offensive under the circumstances? Page et al. provided some hint of what is needed to rise to this level, referring to “severe or pervasive” behavior that was “likely to be socially sanctioned and considered offensive by the recipient and bystanders.” So here, again, Schrobsdorff struck out: asking a woman out on a date three times was not per se sexual harassment.
As with other arrogant and demeaning female writers critiqued in this blog, Schrobsdorff looked squarely at the evidence — and got it exactly backwards. We have already seen that, as she admitted, men were the ones who were demonstrating the ability and willingness to review and reconsider their past behavior — asking themselves, for instance, “Was that text suggestive?” Schrobsdorff apparently could not grasp the thought that women should likewise question themselves. For instance, she accused men of trying to “turn the tables” if they suggested that “Women are just as clueless about the effects of tight sweaters, cleavage.” It was a double standard.
Not that I, myself, entirely agree with those men. Generally, I don’t think the ladies would dress that way if they were “clueless” about it — if they felt that doing so would have no effect upon men. The cluelessness was, rather, in people like Schrobsdorff, who were ideologically blinded to the possibility that both men and women have responsibilities, not merely to point fingers at one another, but to deprecate abusive behavior in themselves and their peers — including particularly (in this context) the hypocrisy of using sex appeal to manipulate men, and then faulting men for responding to that appeal.
Not to overstate the point: Schrobsdorff did acknowledge that “some of us haven’t been telling” sexually harassing men about “their effect on women.” Unfortunately, her acknowledgement was twisted. She made that remark in connection with “ordinary men who have been rattled by the barrage.” But then, shortly thereafter, she mentioned the man “who thought he was being bold when he was really pushing a woman too far.” Well, what was the matter with the woman in that latter situation? Why weren’t women sending a clear message to that kind of overly aggressive man, who supposedly did not have a correct understanding of the situation? Certainly Schrobsdorff was not claiming that women did consistently notify Harvey Weinstein that he was going too far. She couldn’t claim that because the sources seemed to agree: a substantial percentage of women went along with Weinstein’s deal. It seemed, in other words, that women like Schrobsdorff did not want to prevent women from having the option to take the Weinsteins up on their offers. Instead, Schrobsdorff’s concept seemed to be that they should be angry about those opportunities, not generally open to men, and, years later, should try to assuage their consciences by punishing the rattled ordinary men who had not been involved.
For some years now, people like Schrobsdorff have been leading women astray. They exploit these sorts of events, where the original focus was on a power-abusing male like Harvey Weinstein, as opportunities to attack masses of men who may not be abusing power at all. For instance, Schrobsdorff imagined that, in her words, a man was “heading backward” when he concluded that his only safe solution was to “begin completely ignoring women” who might attack him without cause or warning, because that was “better than being unemployed or in jail.” Rather than attempt to understand that perspective, and to do or say something constructive, she chose to simply dismiss the fact that some women do make false sex-based accusations against innocent men — and people believe them.
A few months earlier, Schrobsdorff (Time, June 29, 2017) offered an observation that, at this point, applied to her: “Online, someone who’s influential in a particular ideological group can . . . turn one corner of the Internet into a virtual mob.” She, herself, was trying to turn women into an unreasoning mob, lashing out at men in general for the misbehavior of a pathological few.
I am quite sure that not all women are lying, or revising history, when they claim to have been intimidated by someone like Harvey Weinstein. Regrettably, feminists like Schrobsdorff have compounded the difficulties facing such women: they have taught them that they must look to other women for their salvation — when, as various writers cited in this post make clear, those other women may actually be enabling the abuser, riding his stagecoach as far as it will take them, and only denouncing him when they’ve already gotten what they can from him.
The more sensible solution would be to drop the sexism — to lose the outdated second-wave feminist assumption that male = bad — and look, instead, for allies where you can find them. If you are a woman working for a Harvey Weinstein, it’s a fair bet that there are Scott Rosenbergs nearby, seeing what’s going on, and speaking up in support when some of the women do finally decide to do something about it. It’s also a fair bet that there are other guys in the vicinity, who are also working for this sort of predator, or who were fired or never hired because they were not the right sex, or because they were not sufficiently intimidated. To these ladies, I say this: contrary to what people like Schrobsdorff tell you, these guys may be your best friends in this fight. Certainly I was a good “friend” candidate for those sexually harassed female friends at Indiana University. It was their fault, not mine, that they opted to go along for the ride. I did speak up. They left me twisting in the wind.
In my post on thugs in Hollywood, I cited several examples of people who dared to speak the truth to, or about, the powers that be, and who got punished for it. Those people were all male. That was the situation at Indiana too: the ones who spoke up and got punished were male. The women all went along with it — and then, as with Weinstein, they complained, in effect, that their own behavior was serving to keep an abusive male administrator in power. Ronan Farrow, the NBC reporter who had been researching the Weinstein story for “months” before publishing a version in The New Yorker on October 10, was male. According to CBS News (November 29, 2017), Farrow was having the same experience as reporter Ken Auletta, 15 years earlier: he “couldn’t convince [Weinstein’s female] accusers to go public” — even when the New York City police conducted a sting operation with potentially incriminating recordings. CBS quoted attorney Gloria Allred as admitting that she had known about accusations against Weinstein for what she would only characterize as “a significant period of time” and that she, too, had advised clients to remain silent in exchange for a payout. Allred said, “I will not sacrifice my client for any cause, even a cause that I believe in.” That concept of legal ethics had destructive effects for women — because, so far, the cause in question has been precisely a cause to benefit women.
Schrobsdorff concluded her article by describing what happened when a friend asked whether she had experienced the kinds of things being reported by other women under the #MeToo hashtag. She said, “I started listing various incidents and every time I thought I was finished, I’d remember another.” You’d think she was describing a rape prison, but no; she was just rendering a “litany of subway gropes and creepy jokes.” Creepy jokes, eh? Let’s get some perspective here. There are a lot of males in this country — black males, poor males, males with disabilities, even just males who are too honest — whose treatment at the hands of these predators is a hell of a lot worse. You have to listen to a crude joke. That’s terrible. Meanwhile, we are getting driven out of our careers, or not given the opportunities for careers in the first place; we are being left to shoot ourselves in the privacy of our homes. Schrobsdorff actually seems to think that being groped by some low-life on the subway puts her on a par with women who have had to endure real, continuing sexual predation as a condition of survival. The point of commonality seems to be simply that a man was involved. God forbid that people like Schrobsdorff should ever have brothers, boyfriends, or sons.
Sophie Gilbert, at The Atlantic (October 16, 2017), almost got it right. She described a seminar where the leader asked everyone — about 200 people — to close their eyes. Then, with eyes closed, he asked them to raise their hands if they had ever been sexually or physically abused. When they opened their eyes, she said, almost every hand was raised. Not just every female hand. Like the other female writers discussed here, sadly, Gilbert dropped the ball. Her divisive ideology compelled her to ignore the implications of her own tale, and to return instead to the myth of generalized female brutalization by males. For her, too, #MeToo remained largely a feminist movement, more hostile than supportive toward comparably victimized ordinary men.
The Harvey Weinstein episode provided an opportunity for men and women in America to rethink where we are and how we got here. The women responsible for articles reviewed in this post were, by and large, not assisting us in that rethinking. To the contrary, they were feeding us the same old crap about male dominance and female victimization. The reality is that, as always, certain women know how to play the game, and they play it at the expense of others. They milk the men for power and money; they lord it over other women; often they are complicit in the damage done to those other women, and to men who lack the means to buy their ersatz support. This is known as corruption. It is something that each of us can and should oppose, not as a special favor to women, but in pursuit of a more equal society.
After finishing the text of this post (above), I came across links to a few female writers who attacked the #MeToo campaign for the reasons advanced here, including (a) trivialization of real sexual victimization, by giving the microphone to every woman who wants to complain about catcalls and “creepy jokes,” and (b) indifference to the situations of relatively powerless men. I found those writers at the Daily News (Sommers, November 26, 2017), at the New York Post (Peyser, November 17, 2017), and at Chicks on the Right. These women warned that the liberal #MeToo hyperventilation could prove counterproductive.
On December 6, 2017, the Times (Twohey et al.) published a follow-up article. This article contributed additional information to the case against Harvey Weinstein; it buttressed the argument that he was a bully and an abuser. At the same time, regrettably, the article continued to make excuses for women, while encouraging indifference if not hostility toward men. For example,
- Twohey et al. quoted Amy Israel, a former Miramax employee, as saying that “the Weinstein brothers used ‘fear, intimidation, psychological and emotional abuse’ on their executives, male and female” — and yet, despite that specific acknowledgement that men were targeted, Twohey et al. perpetuated the message that men count for less, failing once again to report on abuse or exploitation of male employees.
- As quoted by Twohey et al., Ms. Israel complained that “The only alternative” to the risk of becoming a target of Weinstein’s advances “was to quit — to throw away everything you had worked so hard for and walk out the door.” Well, yes, that — and reporting what happened — could be the price of doing the right thing. Israel wasn’t going to do that, on behalf of any other woman, but she expected other women to do it for her: she went on to complain that “no one had ever bothered to warn me.” Implicitly endorsing that ethic, Twohey et al. did not blame Israel for choosing to prioritize her own career advancement. Israel was promoted to a position of “stature” within the organization — realizing, she admitted, that she could become “the next target” of Weinstein’s attention. That did happen, in 1994. And yet we have a fact that Twohey et al. neglect to mention: Israel stayed on at Miramax for another ten years, finally leaving for a senior position at Paramount Vantage in 2004. Once again, we have a woman using Weinstein for all he’s worth. She might never have said anything — even her departure was 13 years ago — if it hadn’t lately become advisable or advantageous to join Weinstein’s accusers, with an old story that may or may not be true.
- Twohey et al. continued to say almost nothing about the likelihood that the large majority of women played along with Weinstein — “willingly,” to use Rosenberg’s word (above). This is particularly notable when Twohey et al. quote a report that (in a practice that apparently continued for years) numerous women were flown in “from all over the world for 1-2 lines of dialogue,” acquiring movie acting credentials in a rather obvious quid pro quo. What, aside from second-wave feminist ideology, would prevent Twohey et al. from reporting the news that’s fit to print, on the women’s role in that tradeoff? How do women, or the Times, or the country as a whole, benefit from reporters who avoid such obvious leads?
- Once again, as in their previous article, Twohey et al. made lame excuses on behalf of women who facilitated Weinstein’s behavior. For instance, Twohey et al. said, “The top agencies are among Hollywood’s most male institutions” and “It is impossible to say how many women might have been spared Mr. Weinstein’s alleged sexual aggression had more agents responded.” And yet Twohey et al. described how one such powerful male at an agency did respond: Sandy Gallin, boss of Mia Kushner’s agent, urged her to record a meeting with Weinstein, so as to catch him in the act. In that episode, it was the woman who failed to follow through: Kushner “concluded she should drop the matter” because, for her purposes, “it was pointless to do anything about this.” Other women disagreed; they did do something about it.
- As another example of lame excuses, Twohey et al. accepted at face value Gwyneth Paltrow’s claim that she refused to have sex with Weinstein, as well as her allegation that he was lying about it. Instead of asking why Paltrow did not do anything about Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment, Twohey et al. weakly reported that an agent “did not suggest discussing the episode with the agency’s leaders” — as if Ms. Paltrow were too weak and brainless to think of doing that herself. Again, the material provided by Twohey et al. emphasizes that Weinstein punished those who didn’t play along, and made careers for those who did. That tends to imply that Paltrow played along. Indeed, for her, Weinstein didn’t just create a career; he made her the so-called “first lady of Miramax.” The reporters made clear that Weinstein was in the habit of bragging about sexual conquests that he had, in fact, achieved. They did not document a pattern of inventing conquests that didn’t happen.
- Twohey et al. reported that, from 2008 to 2016, Hillary Clinton’s campaigns had repeatedly ignored multiple warnings of Weinstein’s record of sexually abusing women. And yet — even though Twohey et al. reported that Hillary participated in multiple high-profile public appearances featuring or arranged by Weinstein, and continued to work on projects with Weinstein right up until the Times published its article on October 5 — our intrepid reporters chose to drop that line of inquiry with a doe-eyed reliance on Lena Dunham, who admits “an incredible allegiance to Hillary.” The reporters wish for us to accept the assurance that Dunham “does not believe the reports [about Weinstein] ever traveled to Mrs. Clinton.” This wish was simply embarrassing, in light of subsequent disclosures that Clinton also overlooked sexual harassment claims against Burns Strider.
- Twohey et al. said that women in Weinstein’s employ “stayed quiet because they felt like they shared a shameful secret.” That was correct: they did. For example, Sandeep Rehal reported that she became “more and more aware of everything going on, then you realize what it is you’re cleaning up, and you don’t ever want to tell anyone that — friends, family, my parents — what kind of job this is.” Why didn’t Ms. Rehal report this, or at least quit? She claimed to have been blackmailed by a Weinstein threat to retaliate against her sister. But, again, this was happening in a city with lawyers, not to mention very compact tape recorders and transmitters, and Ms. Rehal was not alone; the article says she was accompanied by Lauren O’Connor, who did document allegations against Weinstein — and who, predictably, was discouraged from speaking out to protect other women, thanks to yet another personally gratifying private settlement.
To their credit, Twohey et al. did report that a man named Irwin Reiter began to speak up in 2015, having worked for Weinstein for 30 years and having heard “the outlines of a few alarming episodes with female employees over the years.” Reiter serves as a case study of the kind of male whom someone like Weinstein would keep around. The reporters indicate that, when Reiter did very belatedly grow a spine, Weinstein threatened him. Reiter was reportedly moved to act only when he saw what was happening in the Bill Cosby sex abuse case. It appears Reiter feared that things were going to blow up at Miramax and that he should be on the right side when they did.
On such matters, my remarks here are much sharper than anything in the Times article. But with or without Reiter, the fact remains that, in this most recent article, Twohey et al. once again used their New York Times pulpit to perpetrate a remarkably uncritical and sexist interpretation of the Harvey Weinstein saga.