Unfortunately, we cannot yet say that the dust has settled on the Harvey Weinstein scandal that has rocked the media and entertainment industry, even though it shouldn’t have. Earlier this month, reports from the New York Times and the New Yorker revealed that the producer had allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted numerous women for decades, using his power, privilege, and money to cover it all up. Most of his accusers are actresses whom Weinstein is said to have taken advantage of at the beginning of their careers. Since the stories broke, other women have come forward to share their experiences with sexual assault, harassment, and coercion in Hollywood. Other celebrities who have worked with him over the years have been scrambling to condemn Weinstein’s behavior, both women and men alike. The latter group has found themselves in the middle of a broader conversation about the role they play in preventing sexual assault and showing up as allies.
I’m going to be honest, some of the statements that I have seen from men in Hollywood have left me unmoved and unconvinced about their commitment to the issue at hand. The outing of Weinstein as a predator has created a separate image crisis for the people who have publicly championed him and his work. Now they are trying to distance themselves from his actions, and they should. But I’m not sure I’m ready to call this allyship. Many of the statements feel intentionally set up to talk about how women should not have to endure such treatment, and that the ones who spoke up are brave. And while this show of support is a great, not nearly enough of them talk about ways to move forward and stop this from happening to other women.
One of the shining examples of allyship came from an actor who has yet to even speak out about the issue: Brad Pitt. Gwyneth Paltrow shared her own troubling experience with Weinstein, who she says touched her inappropriately and suggested they get massages, with the New York Times. She noted that she told Pitt, who was her boyfriend at the time, about the encounter, and he confronted Weinstein about the incident. Both actors continued their working relationship with the producer, and I think we can assume that they did so without anymore predatory behavior, either.
To be honest, I could give a damn whether or not Weinstein ever makes another movie or another dime. I’m not interested in shaming him or making sure that he knows people are mad at him. I’m invested in making sure that not another woman finds herself at his mercy trying to get work in her field of choice. Most of us agree that sexual assault is bad and should not be accepted. But what are we willing to do about it? Allyship involves action, not a theoretical position on a moral issue.
Pitt was a great ally for Paltrow because he was willing to put his own career opportunities on the line to make sure that his partner was safe. We need men to be speaking up when it happens, not when their PR teams call for a statement. When there are rumors about powerful men, it’s the responsibility of their peers to hold them accountable, not the women who want to avoid being victimized by them. More men need to start putting their asses on the line, plain and simple. This is the kind of allyship that could have stopped Weinstein years ago.