...from The Weinstein Company he co-founded and owned with his brother. Amid the recent sexual allegations that have rocked the Hollywood movie industry, Megan Twohey’s New York Times article “Harvey Weinstein Is Fired After Sexual Harassment Reports” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/08/business/harvey-weinstein-fired.html) reveals a decade of alleged sexual harassment.
Historically known as a film producer who has shaped the American and global film industry and championed liberal causes, Lance Maerov, one of the company’s four board members, announced that Harvey Weinstein “had violated the company’s code of conduct” and his employment would be terminated with immediate effect. Ironically his brother Bob Weinstein was directly involved in his firing, both as a board member and co-owner, arguing that the negative press “threatened the studio’s ability to continue to attract top talent and to release film and television shows”.
As Twohey explains “For decades, Mr. Weinstein had cultivated an image as a liberal power broker, raising money for Hillary Clinton, briefly employing Malia Obama as an intern and calling himself an advocate for women.” However, due to an extensive New York Times investigation, Ann Hornaday reports that Harvey Weinstein, ’“has become simply the latest in a string of men whose toxic behaviour points to how structural inequality plays out, not just among the people who make movies, but in what the rest of us see on screen.”
Pivotal of this outcome has been New York’s former news anchor reader Lauren Sivan’s story that Weinstein trapped her in the hallway of a restaurant and masturbated in front of her. Whilst the decade old incident has only recently been published because of “a fear of his power” over employment opportunities, it has ignited a growing list of accusers who are now sharing their stories.
Within a week of these sexual allegations surfacing, the New York Times identified that at least eight out of court settlements had occurred, and prompted by former actress Rose McGowan’s “Ladies of Hollywood, your silence is deafening”, new cases of sexually harassed actresses, secretaries and script readers, have emerged daily. Alleged victims include Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Heather Graham, Cara Delevingne, and Zoe Brock.
As the crisis worsened, an internal email from his brother revealed “The Democrats are giving Harvey’s money back,” referring to politicians giving his political contributions to women’s groups and “Women’s rights organizations are offended by his actions and are now calling for him to be fired.” The fall out has already included Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer and legal adviser resigning along with one-third of the company’s all-male board.
Meryl Streep labelled Harvey as “disgraceful” and his actions “inexcusable”. This opened a floodgate of further condemnation from leading actresses such as Glenn Close (“I’m angry”), Kate Winslet (“disgraceful and appalling”) and Judi Dench (‘horrifying’), leading to BAFTA suspending his membership.
Collectively these allegations, and they are only allegations, do build up a disturbing history of this powerful man exerting pressure on young women to potentially make or break their career. The horror of the film casting couch dilemma, where dream makers possess a very hierarchical power dynamic over ambitious young actresses, clearly must be eradicated.
Harvey Weinstein, a six best-picture Oscar winner who was once described as ‘God’, has “struggled with forming a coherent response, veering from contrition to combativeness”. More recently though he has offered an attempted apology suggesting ‘‘I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it. To anyone. I realised some time ago that I needed to be a better person, and my interactions with the people I work with have changed.” (http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/women-in-hollywood-criticised-for-deafening-silence-after-weinstein-sexual-harassment-scandal/news-story/b73b809f2adf1e09084f9604b2152640)
Whilst Ms. Konner, an Executive Television Producer, suggested that Harvey’s firing “is going to scare any man in Hollywood using his power for anything but making movies and television”, it also raises a further question relating to the company’s power distribution. In particular it highlights a conflict of interest from his brother, who was both involved in the firing process and benefits immensely from him now officially leading the company. In addition, what will happened to the shared 42 per cent of the company that the two Weinstein brother’s own?
Consider the following tasks/questions for discussion…
- In terms of power, what is sexual harassment and how is it different to consensual sexual behaviour in the workplace?
- What are the potential consequences of alleged and/or proven sexual harassment to The Weinstein Company?
- How could a manager prevent sexual harassment in the workplace?