In the wake of a New York Times article that alleged movie mogul Harvey Weinstein paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades, Hollywood has expressed its outrage. Many women have come forward with their own claims of harassment and assault by the since-terminated founder of The Weinstein Company. (Weinstein has denied rape allegations.) Now, Grey's Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff wants to remind the entertainment industry that Hollywood's sexism problem did not start with Weinstein — nor will it end with his takedown.
In a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Vernoff, who co-runs Grey's Anatomy with Shonda Rhimes, detailed her own experiences with sexism in the workplace. She included an anecdote about a male showrunner who asked if she was "good in bed" while in the writer's room. When this particular showrunner made more lewd comments in the ensuing weeks, Vernoff tried to politely tell him his comments were inappropriate.
"I finally 'joked' that those were lawsuit comments he was making. I said it with a smile," wrote Vernoff in her THR column. "He received it angrily and our work relationship was never quite the same. Because we pay when we speak up — even when we do it with a smile."
She added that while people are rightfully angry, their anger towards the women who didn't speak up "sooner" about Weinstein is misplaced.
"People wanting to point fingers at those who have been 'complicit' with Harvey Weinstein over the years. They are angry, understandably, and looking for specific targets. There are also those — as there always are — who want to point fingers at Harvey's female victims for not speaking up sooner. As if by sacrificing their lives and careers, they could have single-handedly turned the tide of systemic misogyny upon which this town is built," wrote Vernoff. "'Gwyneth has so much power! She should've spoken up sooner,' they say, in the painfully naive belief that had Gwyneth spoken up sooner, she would ever have gotten so much power."
In a culture that often blames the victim for sexual harassment and assault, Vernoff's words are a reminder that the game has been stacked against women from the start, and that the Weinstein scandal is a symptom of an insidious problem in the industry.