Hollywood filmmaker Harvey Weinstein (67) was convicted for the rape of two women on Monday. A New York court with a jury of five women and seven men found him guilty of sexual assault in two cases. The victims were a former production assistant and an aspiring actress. The prosecution presented 28 witnesses who had experiences of predatory behaviour by him. Weinstein faces a jail term of at least five and up to 25 years. He shall remain in custody until his sentencing on March 11. He has also been charged of rape of two women in February 2013 by Los Angeles authorities. Whether those prosecutions will also proceed is not known.
The great fall
Having 81 Oscars to his credit including films his company produced or distributed, Weinstein had an illustrious career. This success along with a lavish lifestyle made him one of the most powerful men in industry with contacts far and wide. Bill Clinton is said to be one of his friends. But Weinstein seems to be not only a sex addict but also someone who enjoys inflicting pain upon the weak. His victims have usually been vulnerable and needy women.
He has evaded punishment for over three decades. The first accusations came only in later 2017. From asking women to massage him to asking them to watch him naked and provide sexual favours, the New York Times detailed his predatory actions. Following these, he was indefinitely suspended from Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in October 2017. The Producers’ Guild of America also banned him for life. His wife left him soon after.
The MeToo movement was reinvigorated after the revelation of these harrowing accounts of survivors of sexual harassment and assault. Originally launched in 2006, the campaign kicked off a social media storm. Many survivors began to come forward against powerful men like Weinstein in various fields, be it cinema or academia. Hundreds of powerful people were accused. Those convicted include comedian Bill Cosby and former Michigan State University dean William Strampel. Although there were various sides of the debate, it cannot be denied that the movement encouraged many survivors to speak up after years of trauma.
Power as shield
How could Weinstein go on assaulting women for three decades? He wielded his power in every way possible. He would pay women huge amounts of money for silencing them. He is said to have an elaborate network of lawyers, advisors, and private detectives. Power and abuse cannot and should not go hand-in-hand. As a man of such a tall stature, it is all the more shameful that he engaged in such pervert behaviour. Being powerful does not give anyone the license to grope or force anyone else to engage in sexual activities.
In the world of fashion and films, women are more prone to sexual exploitation. Rich and powerful men who give a chance to aspiring young girls and women assume sexual favours as their right. Victims can neither resist nor report. On the one hand, it is a question of their family and livelihood. On the other, the glitz of the industry is such that there is no turning back. Victims are constantly under the risk of spoiling their careers if they do not maintain silence or refuse to do what is demanded of them. The objectification of women’s bodies occurs not only on screen but also behind it. This is how women are abused and exploited as the weaker sex in one of the biggest industries.
Along with greater awareness and stringent laws, women should also be encouraged not to be submissive to unequal power structures within the industry and to speak up against any forms of harassment. Weinstein’s case reaffirms faith in the judiciary and its institutions. It is hoped that influential men will think twice before committing such heinous crimes and work for making the industry more safe and friendly for women. Any forms of abuse in exchange of an opportunity cannot be tolerated. Women are not objects for satisfying carnal desire. Everybody, especially those in positions of power need to understand that NO means NO and not a feeble yes.