Harvey Weinstein is not responsible for all this.
Let me be clear. I don’t know Weinstein. But I’m comfortable saying he’s a gross, immature, emotionally stunted, insecure, manipulative, bullying rapist. He needs to go to jail.
But he is not responsible for all this.
By “all this,” I mean, the phrase, “Me too,” that I’m seeing all over social media. The suggestion is for women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to write, “Me too,” on their social media feeds as a way to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem of sexual assault and harassment.
And women have posted that. In tremendous numbers. Black women, white women, Native women. Straight women, lesbian women, transgender women. Women in Texas and Illinois and California and New York and Maryland. Millions of women.
Harvey Weinstein seems to have assaulted or harassed dozens of women. Maybe more. He’s disgusting and pathological. He’s responsible for his actions.
But Harvey Weinstein did not assault millions of women by himself. Donald Trump did it too. (He said so himself.) And Bill Clinton did too. (If you believe the women who he assaulted; and I do.) And Bill Cosby did as well. It’s not just famous men who have assaulted women. It’s strangers in movie theaters. Co-workers on business trips. Neuroscience professors. And preachers. Millions of men did this. Do this.
I know the story of a woman who went to her pastor for counseling. During their conversations he hugged her and put his tongue on her ear. When confronted, he said he knew how to console women. His church board quietly let him retire. (That church board is responsible for this too.)
Harvey Weinstein's name in the news now. He’s an ass of a man. But he’s just one man doing wrong. Misogyny, sexism, and violence toward women is a larger cultural failing. Weinstein has been fired. His name has been stripped from films he produced. The Academy of Motion Pictures deleted his name from membership. Maybe he’ll go to jail. But that won’t solve the problem.
The problem is that women are treated as second class humans. Women are paid less than men for the same work. Women are talked over by men. (I’ve been watching that in a group I’m leading these and it’s driving me crazy.) Women are underrepresented in elected offices. (Women make up 21% of the U.S. Senate for example, while they are 51% of the population.)
As hard as it is to imagine, both of my grandmothers were born into a world that didn’t allow women to vote. That has changed, but attitudes of discrimination remain. Until 1981, a male spouse could take out a second mortgage on a home that he owned jointly with a female spouse without telling her.
Harvey Weinstein’s twisted thinking that he could force women to have sex with him? Donald Trump saying he “doesn’t even wait” to start kissing women and that he grabs ‘em by the genitals? Those are new verses in old, old, very long, nasty song of men thinking of themselves as superior. It’s been embedded in our laws and in the way we relate to each other.
It’s got to change. It will, I hope. But it will take more than Harvey Weinstein’s downfall.
For now, from me, four things.
First, I apologize. I’m sorry (and appalled) that women have to put up with this.
Second, I’m also spending some time wondering about the ways in which I have been complicit in such acts and behavior. In what ways have I ignored or dismissed harassment and discrimination?
Third, I’m glad to be part of a progressive faith tradition (the United Church of Christ) and a local congregation (Westmoreland UCC in Bethesda, MD) who offer to children and teenagers a broad-minded, body-positive, sex education curriculum grounded in facts and respect (Our Whole Lives).