By EMILY WEIKL
The reckoning of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein set off waves of change last year.
It all started with two stories by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kanter of The New York Times and Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker. “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades” and “From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories.” In their wake was the ousting of Weinstein. After him, many other executives, producers and the like, who had used their power to abuse, were exposed. This then led to the thousands of tweets with the hashtag “Me Too.”
Those writers were then awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
“For explosive, impactful journalism that exposed powerful and wealthy sexual predators — including allegations against one of Hollywood’s most influential producers,” according to the Pulitzer Organization, “bringing them to account for long-suppressed claims of coercion, brutality and victim-silencing, thus spurring a worldwide reckoning about sexual abuse of women.”
But it was not just the movie industry that faced a shakeup as a result of these stories. Credible allegations against journalists such as Charlie Rose, showrunners such as John Kricfalusi and chefs such as Mario Batali have proven to be their fall from grace. And women have risen to speak their truth.
For decades, in cases involving some sexual misconduct, it was usually the superior’s word over the subordinate. In the majority of cases, it’s been the woman who is in the lower position. A familiar script was that: the woman’s claims were usually dismissed, and the bosses faced no punishment. The bosses either continued at where they worked or moved on to a new environment. The women continued to face the harassment in silence.
Gloria Steinem, who helped lead a feminist movement in the 1960’s and 70’s, saw something different this time.
“It’s not new except in its numbers, which is very important,” Steinem told the Huffington Post on Feb 6. “So now it’s like a tidal wave. What’s profoundly different: It is a majority movement. Women are being believed for the first time ever.”
More women have been sharing their stories in the months since The New York Times and the New Yorker wrote about Weinstein. Actress Amber Tamblyn is one of them. She shared her account with The New York Times on Sept. 16, 2017.
Tamblyn recounted the time a producer on a TV show she was starring in went into her apartment unannounced and would go into her trailer when she wasn’t there. The producer suggested that there were two sides to the story. Another instance was when actor James Woods tried to get Tamblyn and her friend to go to Las Vegas when they were in Hollywood. Tamblyn told him she was 16. According to her, Woods replied “even better.” Woods claimed this was a lie.
“Every day, women across the country consider the risks,” Tamblyn wrote. “That is our day job and our night shift. We have a diploma in risk consideration. Consider that skirt. Consider that dark alley. Consider questioning your boss. Consider what your daughter will think of you. Consider what your mother will think of what your daughter will think of you. Consider how it will be twisted and used against you in a court of law. Consider whether you did, perhaps, really ask for it. Consider your weight. Consider dieting. Consider agelessness. Consider silence.”
Women still consider silence, though, as shown by a recent “20/20” broadcast called “My Reality: A Hidden America.” Hotel cleaners, truckers and restaurant servers sometimes do not have the resources to call out their harassers. It is too much of a risk when the consequence is losing a much-needed job or tip.
Marie Billel, a waitress from Massachusetts, was facing that struggle when a man 20 years her senior was sexually harassing her.
“The thing that I feared more [than anything] and I think this is true for so, so many tipped workers,” Billel said, “is that I feared being evicted, losing my car, not feeding myself and not being able to go to the doctor.”