One of the standard complaints about the #metoo movement is that it treats ordinary men, men who may have said or done something inappropriate but clearly aren’t bad people, like they were Harvey Weinstein, destroying their careers and crushing their lives. They do not, however, offer much in the way of examples, and the examples are usually wrong: an in-depth investigation by the employer gets treated as a he said/she said situation (more here). I’m beginning to think “he’s being treated like Harvey Weinstein!” means something along the lines of “he got fired, Weinstein got fired, ergo they’re treating him like Weinstein!”
Now it turns out even Weinstein, the poster boy for absolute rock bottom, has his defenders too. Weinstein recently showed up at Actors’ Hour, an event in NYC for young performers (there’s some debate whether he was invited or just showed). Comedian Kelly Bachman cracked jokes (“I didn’t know we’d have to bring our own Mace and rape whistles.”); some audience members booed. A male comic got up and mocked her. Another woman confronted Weinstein at his table, with profanity hurled on both sides (not by Weinstein but by some of his entourage); the woman was asked to leave.
So why not ask Weinstein to leave? I’s a private space and the organizers could certainly have told Weinstein he wasn’t welcome. The organizer said she protected the women by letting them have “freedom of speech” — the comics were free to mock him — but then why ask the one woman to leave?
Partly it may just be that Weinstein wasn’t actually doing anything other than being there. Admittedly with his record that’s pretty alarming but it wouldn’t surprise me if the event organizers just didn’t want any confrontations. A lot of us (myself included) tend to be confrontation averse. Though that’s not a good reason: women have good reason to scream at a guy who preys on them.
And part of it, undoubtedly, is that we seem to have a reflex to forgive sexual harassers. They’ve suffered enough by being criticized and shunned for a while; surely we should forgive and move on. As Weinstein’s spokesperson put it, he was at Actors’ Hour “trying to find some solace in his life that has been turned upside down. This scene was uncalled for, downright rude and an example of how due process today is being squashed by the public.” Of course it ain’t an issue of due process; it’s true he hasn’t been convicted of anything, but private citizens outside the jury box are free to believe the victims. And if his life has been turned upside down — well, given the reasons, why should we feel sympathy for him? Yet somehow people do, far more than for the many women he allegedly assaulted, or whose careers he ruined for refusing him.
Similarly we have one Heather Mac Donald arguing that Placido Domingo’s alleged history of sexual assault (apparently one of those open secrets in the opera world) should be forgiven because Domingo’s that awesome. We cannot punish a singer of such caliber merely because he assaulted a bunch of nobodies! Which is not a new thought: Rebecca Traister has written about being told “That’s just Harvey being Harvey” when she heard stories about his behavior; simply being a powerful man is held up as an excuse.
Of course, we don’t know what the women whose careers Weinstein allegedly destroyed (I believe the women, but I think sticking with “alleged” covers my butt) might have accomplished without his interference. Or how good the women who left opera rather than stay around Domingo and people who supported him might have been. We’ll never know. But somehow their careers dead-ending, their lives turning upside down, isn’t as important as the suffering of powerful men.
We have a long way to go.