‘Why the deafening silence?’
From the editors of People
Words by David Canfield
Lena Dunham has called out men in Hollywood for their ‘deafening silence’ in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations made against Harvey Weinstein.
In a New York Times op-ed, the Girls creator and star claimed that Weinstein is the most ‘powerful man in Hollywood to be revealed as a predator’, and explained how his alleged behaviour is ‘a microcosm of what has been happening in Hollywood since always and of what workplace harassment looks like for women everywhere.’
‘A liberal-leaning industry, we have been quick to condemn Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes and, yes, the president. We do not accept sexual abuse as “locker room talk,”’ she wrote, citing President Donald Trump’s defence of his graphic, sexist comments in a 2005 Access Hollywood video. ‘So why the deafening silence, particularly from the industry’s men, when one of our own is outed as having a nasty taste for humiliating and traumatising women?’
While actors Seth Rogen and Mark Ruffalo and directors James Gunn, Scott Derrickson, and Kevin Smith have spoken out about Weinstein in recent days, much of the criticism against the former executive has been expressed by prominent women in Hollywood, including Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Judi Dench, and Julianne Moore.
Late-night comedy shows hosted by men avoided the topic on Friday, and reports surfaced that Saturday Night Live cut Weinstein references from Weekend Update and a sketch because they weren’t playing well in dress rehearsal.
‘The reason I am zeroing in on the men is that they have the least to lose and the most power to shift the narrative, and are probably not dealing with the same level of collective and personal trauma around these allegations,’ Dunham explained in her op-ed. ‘But here we are, days later, waiting for Mr. Weinstein’s most powerful collaborators to say something. Anything. It wouldn’t be just a gift to the women he has victimised, but a message to the women who are watching our industry closely. They need a signal that we do not approve of the abuse of power and hatred of women that is the driving force behind this kind of behaviour.’
Dunham concluded by noting the continued silence is a reason why women still struggle to come forward and speak out: ‘Hollywood’s silence, particularly that of men who worked closely with Mr. Weinstein, only reinforces the culture that keeps women from speaking up. When we stay silent, we gag the victims. When we stay silent, we condone behaviour that none of us could possibly believe is O.K.’
Last week, the New York Times published an exposé of Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment, which included on-record comments from actress Ashley Judd. Weinstein issued a statement to the Times in response to the report, saying in part, ‘I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it. To anyone. I realised some time ago that I needed to be a better person and my interactions with the people I work with have changed. I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologise for it.’
In response to the Times story, Weinstein lawyer Charles Harder said he was preparing a suit against the publication. ‘The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein. It relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by 9 different eyewitnesses. We sent the Times the facts and evidence, but they ignored it and rushed to publish. We are preparing the lawsuit now. All proceeds will be donated to women’s organisations.’
Since last week, other women have come forward with allegations against Weinstein, including reporter Lauren Sivan, who claimed Weinstein exposed himself to her.
Speaking to NBC’s Megyn Kelly on Monday, Sivan said she was compelled to speak out after reading Weinstein’s statement.
‘His apology was the final straw for me,’ she said. ‘Enough is enough with this guy. There was no remorse, there was no even acknowledgment of the type of behaviour that was going on. If he did this with me, who’s just a stranger, who is not an actress in Hollywood and doesn’t need anything from him, I can only imagine how many other women this has happened to.’