I’m not at all surprised that an old, wealthy, powerful, and disgusting white man such as Harvey Weinstein would use his power and privilege to sexually harass and sexually assault over 50 women. But I am particularly disgusted by how he got away with this for decades. Weinstein was not discreet. He was not subtle. He didn’t care that everyone knew. This was Hollywood’s “open secret.”
The reason for his indiscretion is simple. He knew that his behavior would be tolerated. And up until very recently, he was right—he would sexually harass and assault women, and suffer absolutely no consequences. Matt Damon knew. Ben Affleck knew. Brad Pitt knew. Quentin Tarantino knew. Seth MacFarlane knew. It stands to reason that hundreds of other men in the industry, who have remained strangely silent, also knew. And they all did nothing.
As a society, we tolerate this behavior wherever it manifests. We all know a Harvey Weinstein. We all know that guy who takes things a little too far, who makes the women around him feel slightly uncomfortable and icky. And we still hang out with him, we still go to parties with him, we still consider him our friend.
I think about the woman who told me about her male friend and how he would touch her even when she said no repeatedly, how he would press his body against hers in bed and touch her even as she tried to wriggle away, and how he would scream at her for speaking to other men and for not sleeping with him. She cut off her friendship with him, but her other friends continued to hang out with him, as if nothing had changed.
I think about a group of friends who told me about this “really weird guy” they all know who would continually harass one of them. He would touch her inappropriately, make sexual comments about her and her body, and sleep in her bed and try to cuddle with her against her will. I reacted with horror and disgust, and the woman was relieved, saying, “You’re the first person to take me seriously. Everyone else thinks I’m making a big deal out of nothing.” Later, I found out that her friends were going to spend the weekend with him.
I think about the woman who met a man during her travels, a man who made continuous sexual advances towards her and climbed into her bed in the middle of the night to seduce her, even as she told him repeatedly to get out and that she had a boyfriend back home. As she told me this story, and other women concurred, we were sitting barely two meters away from the man in question. He was happily drinking beer, laughing with everyone else—people who had seen him make unwanted sexual advances, and who continued to joke and party with him.
I think about the man who is good friends with someone who multiple women on campus have told me sexually assaulted them. I told him about what his friend had done, and I asked him how he could stand to be friends with a rapist. He shrugged and said, “Well, he never did anything to me.”
And this is exactly the attitude that allows people like Harvey Weinstein to assault and harass over fifty women and get away with it each and every time. The men who protected Harvey Weinstein did so because it was too difficult, too inconvenient to cut off their friendships with him—and besides, he never did anything to them. It was easier to believe that dozens of women were lying than to cut off their relationship with Weinstein.
This is the reason why true allyship is so very difficult. It means cutting off your best friends. It means cutting off your family members. It means being alone. It means being shunned. It means not getting invited to parties anymore. It means being sad because you miss spending time with them and joking around with them, and even though they were a horrible person who did horrible things to some people, you still miss being friends with them.
Men—if you really want to be feminist allies, stop giving TED Talks and stop publishing books and stop writing op-eds about feminism. Stop taking up space in a world that already tells you that you’re entitled to space. Stop amplifying your voice in a world that’s already filled with loud male voices blabbering on and on about things they barely understand.
True allyship means having a small taste of what it is like to be a woman—how it feels to be all alone, how it feels to be betrayed by someone you thought was your friend, how it feels to simultaneously miss someone while feeling disgusted by what a horrible person they are. Allyship is hard. Allyship requires personal sacrifice. But if you truly want to create a world that does not protect Harvey Weinstein, you’re going to have to start by not protecting the Harvey Weinsteins in your own life.
Nian Hu ’18 is a Government concentrator in Mather House. Her column appears on alternate Fridays.