Is Harvey Weinstein the final straw for sexual harassment?

Lessons we're learning from people coming forward

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Photo illustration by Josh Granovsky
Sexual harassment is something that’s sadly been somewhat normalized in our culture —catcalling, sexist comments and inappropriate touching is engrained and often overlooked in society.
 
Over the past few weeks we’ve been shown just how prevalent this behaviour is, in Hollywood, and in our own lives.
 
The sexual harassment case against Harvey Weinstein seems to be growing exponentially, and has led to a wave of assault accusations. 
 
While people are only speaking out now, stories of the Weinstein Company founder calling young actresses into his hotel room where he badgered them to perform and engage in intimate acts have been surfacing for years. 
 
According to The New Yorker, various publications have been trying to uncover this for years, but struggled with an initial lack of people willing to come forward and talk openly about Weinstein because of his power in the industry. 
 
The new investigation — that took 10 months to compile — was finally released in the New York Times on Oct. 5 documenting the several people who have recently come forward. Actresses like Ashely Judd, Angelina Jolie, and Gwyneth Paltrow have all spoken up about the open secret in Hollywood. 
 
This open secret has been alluded to in several jokes and comments that have been made at past award shows, TV shows and red carpet interviews. In 2005, Courtney Love gave the advice to young actresses that “if Harvey Weinstein invites you to a party at the Four Seasons, don’t go.” Seth MacFarlane joked at the 2013 Oscars, saying, “congratulations, you five women no longer need to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”
 
Rose McGowan is one of more than 30 women who have come forward accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault or rape since the 1990s. 
 
McGowan has been very vocal, calling out Ben Affleck for inertly knowing about Weinstein and James Corden for making jokes about the case. She accepted a settlement from Weinstein 21 years ago after she was allegedly raped, and declared she was threatened to be blacklisted if she spoke about it. 
 
McGowan’s Charmed co-star Alyssa Milano renewed the hashtag #MeToo on Oct. 15, tweeting, “If everyone who has ever been sexually assaulted or harassed posted #MeToo to Twitter we might get a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” The hashtag quickly started trending and was used more than 500,000 times in the first 24 hours. 
 
This case against Weinstein along with Milano’s tweet has encouraged other sexual assault and harassment allegations against people like Andy Signore from Defy Media. 
After the release of the Harvey Weinstein cases, Emma Bowers came forward about Signore, tweeting, “So [yeah], it’s not just Weinstein. I wish I fought more, wish I’d screen-capped his messages, but I was young, scared, and dumb. So I didn’t.” 
 
I think it’s important to learn from Bowers and understand the need to stand together so that people like Weinstein and Signore can no longer hide behind their power . 
Additionally, Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor Terry Crews has spoken about a sexual harassment that he’s suffered and how he was afraid to come forward because of how it would look as a male. Allegations like this show the problem isn’t just restricted to women, and can happen to anyone. 
 
Many have been asking why so few people have come forward until now, but we’ve seen time and time again that there’s strength and safety in numbers. How many times have we seen someone come forward about sexual harassment or assault, just to have people say they’re lying or doing it for attention? These allegations and the #MeToo campaign show us the numbers and magnitude of the problem. It gives us the chance to take the next step and hold people like Weinstein accountable for their actions.
 
This exact campaign was launched 10 years ago by activist Tanara Burke but unfortunately failed to gain momentum until taken on by Milano thanks to her large following on Twitter. Social media gives us the power to connect with others. It’s important that we don’t take this tool for granted and we don’t waste this opportunity to challenge and break down the status quo. 
 
Seeing Harvey Weinstein, someone who was a major supporter for Hillary Clinton (who was extremely vocal about the need for consequences for sexual harassment) and someone who is incredibly powerful in Hollywood, be forced to take responsibility for his actions, is, I think, going to be the start of so much more. With the help of social media and the support of such high profile figures, I think we, as a society, will start to understand that we’ve been normalizing these actions for far too long. 
 
Although it’s so incredible that people are coming forward, still some are refraining from naming their perpetrators. The only way we’re going to truly make a difference is if we continue to support the victims and survivors and hold accountable those who perform these inexcusable actions. 
 
With the progression of the #MeToo campaign, the many exposures and efforts of solidarity we’re currently seeing in the media, we’re hopefully getting closer to seeing the downfall of this system of abuse and the “Weinstein’s” of the world finally brought to justice.
 

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