Weinstein sparks national “me too” movement

Allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein prompt backlash

Claudia Levens

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Since the New York Times published reports accusing prominent movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and coercive bargaining on October 5th, dozens of other women have come foreword with similar claims against both him and other well-known public figures.

“It’s shined a spotlight on fact that for so long, so much bad stuff has been allowed to live under the surface,” said Junior Sophie Beitel. “The accusations have only just come out now, but it’s always been a reality and will continue to be unless we change it,”

Weinstein was a well-respected American film producer and studio executive who has been recognized with numerous accolades including multiple Oscar, Tony, and Emmy awards, an appointment as an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and as a knight of the French Legion of Honor.

That is until the fallout of the accusations led him to be fired from his own company and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In addition, steps are being made to revoke many of his accolades and remove his name from projects he’s been involved in which include Shakespeare in Love, My Week With Maryland, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kids, Good Will Hunting, Air Bud, The Hateful Eight, Carol, Silver Lining’s Playbook, Spy Kids, The Scary Movie Franchise, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Inglorious Bastards and just last year, a film about sexual assault against a Native American girl called Wind River.

The full list of women who’ve come foreword with claims of having been sexually assaulted or harassed by the movie mogul sits at 82 as of Oct. 31 and includes actresses Lupita Nyong’o, Cara Develigne, Heather Graham, Eva Green, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Mika Kelly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Mendoza, Rose McGowan, and Lena Heady.

Weinstein’s response to all the allegations has been conflicting, ranging from denial to acceptance to threats of lawsuit to apology.

Also following in the wake of the events, a social media campaign highlighting and empowering victims of sexual assault and abuse under the hash tag #metoo has taken over Twitter and other social media platforms.

However, there’s no more appropriate time for hope than the present. Though much of this behavior has reportedly been going on for years, the reaction in its wake has been swift and decisive. In addition, Weinstein’s fall, has initiated a domino effect: since the first story broke, numerous other men have lost prominent positions in the industry due to allegations of sexual misconduct or a history of behavior that demeaned women. This list includes Roy Price, Mark Halprin, Chris Savino, James Toback, Ben Affleck, Lockhart Steele, John Besh, and Kevin Spacey.

In another sense, the fall of Weinstein himself could be part of an even larger domino effect. “We can’t forget the litany that led up to Harvey Weinstein and could very well have played a significant role in causing it,” said Elizabeth Blair in her NPR article titled Women Are Speaking Up About Harassment And Abuse, But Why Now? “Bill Cosby. Bill O’Reilly. Roger Ailes. And now, Harvey Weinstein. They’re are like sequoias falling in the forest. They’re epochal moments.”

As this international dialogue occurs, it is just as important to extend the discussion of sexual assault to our smaller communities such as the one at New Trier. Just as in the case of Harvey Weinstein where the public has played the most imperative role in holding Weinstein accountable for his actions- through rallying support for the victims, taking legal action, and placing pressure on corporations to take actions against him- it is just as important on a microscopic level for all of us to recognize our responsibility of holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and providing relief, support, and validation for the victims.

Tiffany Meyers, New Trier’s Social Work Department Chair, stressed the critical role of a bystander/bystander and said that while the general public seems to be coming more aware, she and her colleagues “have been very aware for a long time, since we provide support and help to students who are victims of these circumstances- especially after big events like homecoming and prom.”

On another note, in an article published in the May 22 issue of the New Trier News about the screening of “Hunting Ground,” a documentary about sexual assault on campuses, a now-graduated senior Ben McCormick expressed frustration over the lack of students who attended the screening and described the disrespectful and sexist culture he witnessed at New Trier: “instead of sex being a consequential thing and relationships being healthy, it’s about conquest and dominance which only contributes to the culture that enables people to get away with sexual assault.

Junior Girls Advisor Kim Hafron acknowledged the cultural predisposition to silence, echoing Beitel’s same senitments. She commented on a striking statistic from the documentary: that 1 in 4 women will be victims of sexual assault in college.

“Looking around at my advisees… that’s 6 out of 24 of them. And they aren’t the ones who should be responsible for fixing it; it should be the perpetrators, yet it so often ends up being that way. All I can do is my best to ensure they have access to and are aware of resources and support.”

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