In the weeks since The New York Times report "Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades" published, more and more women have come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against the film mogul. In a powerful essay published in The Atlantic today, The OA star and co-creator Brit Marling shared her own Weinstein story. But she didn't stop there — Marling delved into Weinstein's control over women and what she refers to as "the economics of consent."
Marling, who left a job at Goldman Sachs to pursue acting and filmmaking, writes that she met Weinstein at Sundance in 2014. Her account will sound depressingly familiar to anyone who has been following the Weinstein scandal. Marling says she agreed to meet Weinstein at a hotel bar, but instead was sent up to his room. She recalls becoming "paralyzed by mounting fear" when Weinstein suggested they shower together.
"What could I do? How not to offend this man, this gatekeeper, who could anoint or destroy me?" Marling remembers thinking.
She says that she was able to pull herself together and leave the room, but she returned to her own hotel room and sobbed. "I wept because at other times in my life, under other circumstances, I had not been able to leave," Marling writes.
Marling explains that she felt she had the power to leave because she had already co-written and starred in multiple films prior to her 2014 meeting with Weinstein. She knew that, even if Weinstein blacklisted her, her career wouldn't be ruined. For the vast majority of Weinstein's accusers, that wasn't the case.
"[I]t's important to think about the economics of consent. Weinstein was a gatekeeper who could give actresses a career that would sustain their lives and the livelihood of their families," Marling writes. "He could also give them fame, which is one of few ways for women to gain some semblance of power and voice inside a patriarchal world. They knew it. He knew it. Weinstein could also ensure that these women would never work again if they humiliated him. That's not just artistic or emotional exile — that's also economic exile."
She goes on to explain that this power imbalance is present in every industry and that's why men like Weinstein are able to get away with sexual harassment and worse. Therefore "'Consent' cannot fully capture the complexity of the encounter" when this power imbalance is present. As Marling points out, heterosexual white men wield the power in Hollywood. She cites the statistic that, as of 2017, women make up only 23 percent of the Directors Guild of America and only 11 percent are people of colour.
"Consent is a function of power. You have to have a modicum of power to give it," Marling writes. "In many cases women do not have that power because their livelihood is in jeopardy."
Many have been quick to blame Weinstein's alleged victims for not speaking up sooner. It's incredibly difficult for any survivor of sexual violence to come forward but, as Marling so eloquently points out, the power imbalance in Hollywood and myriad other industries leaves women vulnerable to abuse at the hands of men like Weinstein.
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