Predators and Power: Breaking the Silence


By Dr Dhanpaul Narine

It’s about men, money and power. Someone will definitely make a movie about Harvey Weinstein. The story of Weinstein and his fall from glory will win many Oscars. His abuse of women, the pack that brought starlets to his hotel, his army of attorneys across continents that did the cover-up, a machine that kept his unkempt appearance to bully and seduce, and his downfall, is a riveting script for Hollywood. The movie ‘The Naked Producer’ will sell.

The irony is that there will be no shortage of directors or actors to put the Weinstein story on celluloid for the right price. Emma Stone calls Harvey Weinstein a predator. Weinstein was, until recently, a kingmaker in Hollywood that had enormous power. One word from him could make or break a career.

Over the years, he subjected women to various forms of abuse as they suffered in silence. Sophie Dix was on the brink of a successful career in Hollywood. In 1990, Weinstein made his move on her. He invited her to his room and made an unwelcome sexual advance as he ‘tugged on her clothes.’

The impact on Ms. Dix was devastating. She was depressed and traumatized and she ‘took to bed for six months.’ She decided to give up her acting career as she could not go through with another Weinstein ordeal. The unwanted advances of Weinstein were known in Hollywood for years. They became material for sit-coms but no one did anything.

Since the publication of Weinstein’s excesses by a leading newspaper more women have come forward with tales of his inappropriate conduct. Lea Seydoux is a French actress who said that the cinema is her life. She reported that, ‘I had to defend myself when Weinstein jumped on me’.

Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Donald Trump

The question is: why was Weinstein allowed to get away with abusing women? Why is it that no one did anything? Seydoux says that it is because of the power that people like Weinstein wield in the industry. ‘ Everyone knew what Harvey was up to and no one did anything. It’s unbelievable that he has been able to act like this for decades and still keep his career. That’s only possible because he has a huge amount of power.’

It is emerging that Weinstein was able to exert this power because his ‘pack of hyenas’ did the dirty work. It was a movie in a movie, a grotesque version of Hollywood that spawned continents and resulted in sexual abuse and methods to bury evidence by offering money to the victims and promises of stardom.

Power drives fear and leads to guilt. Powerful men are allowed to get away with abuse; the victim often thinks that if she speaks out she will lose her job. She may have spent years building a career. Who does she complain to anyway? Men in power often have people covering up for them with the excuse that ‘boys will be boys.’

The revelations of Weinstein’s abuse led many women to break the silence. Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jane Fonda, among others, have spoken out. Fonda said that she should have spoken out earlier. According to her, “I admit that I should have been braver, and I think that from now on I will be when I hear such stories.” How many men in Hollywood have condemned Weinstein? Surely, they must have heard of his excesses as well.

Quentin Tarantino asked for time to process his pain and emotions before he speaks about it publicly. Tarantino is a Hollywood director and a close friend of Weinstein for over 25 years. Did he have prior knowledge about Weinstein’s disgusting behavior? He is so far one of the few males that has openly commented on Weinstein. Barack and Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton have added their voices and Clinton has promised to return Weinstein’s campaign donations.
The response of Oliver Stone was most interesting. At first he said that the attacks on Weinstein was part of a planned vigilante group but later recanted and criticized Weinstein for being irresponsible. The Academy of Motion Pictures has expelled Weinstein calling his behavior “deeply troubling that has no place in our society.”
Emma de Caunes rebuffed the advances of Weinstein in 2010. She said, “I know that everybody — I mean everybody — in Hollywood know that it’s happening. He’s not really even hiding. But everyone’s too scared to say anything.”

What is really scary is when people are afraid to speak up for fear that they will lose that part in a movie, or their jobs, or be ostracized because of their stand. Breaking the silence takes a monumental effort but it has to be done in order to put the predators behind bars.

Dominique Strauss Kahn could have been the President of France if he did not allow power to get into his head. Kahn was the head of the International Monetary Fund which is one of the most powerful jobs in the world. He propositioned a maid in a New York hotel and allegedly tried to force himself on her. She fought off his advances and took legal action. There was a private settlement for an undisclosed sum.

In a shocking twist to Americans many prominent persons in France supported Kahn and even a pimping charge against him couldn’t stick.

The comedian Bill Cosby found himself answering a slew of charges that were leveled against him for sexual assault dating back to a number of years.

More than 60 women have come forward with stories that Cosby sexually assaulted them but he was charged in only one case as the statute of limitations ran out in the others.

In recent years the assaults on women have increased and society has done little to address them. Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Elloit Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, and others, have used their celebrity status to assault women. In many of the cases, it is the same story: women are reluctant to come forward because who would believe them?

Respect is the key in any worthwhile relationship. Treating women with respect is a good start. We are lucky that our mothers, sisters, wives and partners are around to help hold up the sky. We should let them know everyday that we are grateful.
Dr. DHANPAUL NARINE IS AN INDEPENDENT COLUMNIST. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.