In the hours and days since The New Yorker and the New York Times posted respective bombshell investigations of numerous allegations of sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein, there have been many subtweets and backroom, private-message conversations by and between women: Who is the Harvey in media? Who aren’t we talking about? It’s inevitable, right? The badly behaved media men are everywhere, it’s only a matter of time until their names are spoken in broad daylight. You’ve probably already heard their names whispered across Slack chat rooms.
The patriarchal structures we all live and work in, which is to say, just about everywhere, unless you happen to live in a shipping container the wilderness of New Zealand with Holly Hunter (in which case, send me your coordinates)—exhibit the same patterns over and over and over again. For every old, established, wildly successful “lion” like Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein, there are dozens if not hundreds of men whose names we don’t know who’ve made shocking and unwanted sexual advances. Indeed, what about these small-time motherfuckers? The ones who live in our neighborhoods and work in our newsrooms and date our friends? They may not make or break our careers with one phone call to a casting director, but they do damage all the same, with each awful encounter creating a tiny fissure in the grand facade of “the industry.”
There’s the prominent news editor known for sticking his tongue down your throat when his girlfriend isn’t looking. There’s the married guy who tells you over DM that his wife won’t fuck him anymore, and he’s thinking of leaving her. There’s the byline you meet at a publishing party, who gets handsier and handsier after each pint. I’m not saying that any of these situations are quite the same as one of the most fearsome producers in Hollywood presenting you, a twenty-three-year-old actress, with his Vienna sausage from inside a Peninsula Beverly Hills robe and then forcing you into sex acts, but they are of a kind.
That is because the compulsion that drove Weinstein to keep barking up the massage tree for thirty years, unfazed, and then, when called on his bullshit, say he’s sick and wants a second (????) chance (???????????) is the exact same kind of cognitive dissonance and manipulative bullshit on display by those repeat gropers, “sex addicts,” and non-consensual chokers who tweeted and posted links to the Weinstein allegations with what I assure you they believe is not mock horror (“Wow”, “Disgusting”, “Spine-chilling”).
What these men have in common is that they have repeatedly and regularly crossed the lines of propriety, whether intoxicated or not, without consequence. You know when you’re sixteen and first alone at the wheel of a car, and you wonder: what is it that keeps me going over the double yellow line? Once you swerve over and come back without a scratch: what’s going to keep you from trying again? It’s you, buddy. Only you. You should know that we know who you are, we know what you do, and it’s not gonna work anymore.
That’s because times have changed: media jobs no longer come with a clothing allowance, a black car, and the ability to sexually harass with impunity. The explosive Weinstein accusations have opened all kinds of floodgates, men and women everywhere are coming forward with their own stories. Every industry from food service to the art world to the field of Antarctic geology has its own Harvey Weinstein, and we’re not keeping quiet about it anymore. So let this serve not a vague threat but rather an explicit notice: the whisper networks have officially become shouting conference calls. Our truth is that your power is no longer as great as you think it is. It’s not over exactly, but everything is different now.