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Harvey Weinstein & Hollywood Privilege

Harvey Weinstein was, by all accounts, a hard man to say ‘no’ to. In a profile of the Hollywood heavyweight in 2001, late New York Times columnist David Carr portrayed how his temper would get the better of him if he couldn’t get his way. And Mr. Weinstein comes across as a man who would hold a grudge, as well as act on it.

These kinds of descriptors can fit almost any of the big names in Hollywood, as well as any of the cultural elite these days, especially when it comes to those recently accused of sexual assault and harassment, from Fox News’ Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly several months ago, to the more recent accusations levelled against Screen Junkies’ Andy Signore.

In the case of many of those being accused – with the possible exception of Mr. Signore – the accusers were in a position to pay-off the majority of accusers. Over a period of almost three decades, Mr. Weinstein for instance, has reached at least eight settlements with accusers, in short paying them to keep quiet. Essentially, he was able to abuse his position for a second time with these women; the first being when he attempted to sexually assault, and in many cases sexually harass, many of these women.

Roger Ailes and Bill 0’Reilly have both been proven to have done the same; Mr. O’Reilly has denied all allegations of sexual inappropriateness, while Mr. Ailes passed away in the midst of a public relations nightmare for both himself and Fox News. In the current case of Mr. Weinstein, he has only released the bare bones of a statement, saying to the New York Times:

“I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”

And the reason these allegations have come to light? Extensive research and accurate reporting on behalf of The New York Times, who allege that, among other things:

“Two decades ago, the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein invited Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what the young actress expected to be a business breakfast meeting. Instead, he had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower.”

The same behaviour was witnessed by Emily Nestor, and possibly countless others, over the following years. The privilege of the powerful, such as Mr. Weinstein, Mr. Ailes and Mr. O’Reilly, is the fact that these allegations have taken decades to become public. The fact that charges against these men were either never filed, nor brought to court, is a testament to their ability to control and twist situations to their advantage.

Even worse, these men have always managed a very professional – and in Mr. Weinstein’s case, a borderline feminist – public appearance; Mr. Weinstein served as Executive Producer of The Hunting Grounds, a documentary focusing on the countless sexual assaults, rapes and incidents of sexual harassments female college students face on an almost daily basis.

The privilege of being in a powerful position – and in most cases, the privilege of being a rich, white man at the head of a company – seems not to have changed at all over the last several decades. And it doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. As the New York Times reports, Lauren O’Connor – one of Mr. Weinstein’s many, many victims – reached a settlement with Mr. Weinstein. And the kicker? As the New York Times reports:

“She also wrote a letter to Mr. Weinstein thanking him for the opportunity to learn about the entertainment industry.”

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