What do you say to your neighbor when he has been publicly accused of rape, sexual harassment and in general, just being a pig?
Do you shun him? Do you say that you ‘re not surprised? Do you act as if nothing has happened?
On the tiny island of Martha’s Vineyard, just off the coast of Massachusetts, Harvey Weinstein was a major player. He was a partner in a restaurant, donated to charities and was thought of as a regular mensch. He loves the island and its historical “New England” heritage. His wife loves it, so do his kids. It is their second home. When you’re as rich as Harvey, you have a lot of choices as to where to make your second home and Martha’s Vineyard was his. The sad little boy from Brooklyn actually thought that “they” would let him “in” and that with enough money, he could do no wrong. Harvey, who once was a celebrity, is now a pariah.
It is never “ok” to break the law; not even jay walking, yet, how many of us come to a full stop at five corners in the middle of the night in January? (A local bottle neck)
Treating women like chattel has been around since day one. AT LAST, we are doing something about it in the courts.
In 800 B.C. ish, when King David sent Uriah off to be killed in the war so that he could shtoop Bathsheba; was that harassment? If so, why would so many people name their sons after him?
In the 1920’s, when Frank Crowninshield, the editor of Vanity Fair, asked my mother, Helene Johnson (the Harlem Renaissance poet), to have sex with him, she refused. When he said that if she did not have sex with him, he would see to it that none of her poetry was ever published in Vanity Fair again, she said: “But, I’m only 17” and he said, “all the better”. Vanity Fair never published another word of hers.
In the 1940’s, When my friend Annie’s mother was told that she would be given a better shift at the garment factory if she let the foreman touch her, she said, “no”. When he said that he would fire her if she did not come across with the goods, she changed her mind.
In the 1960’s When my buddy Nawana went out with a wealthy guy that she met at Max’ Kansas City, she assumed that she would have to repay him at the end of the evening. As the evening became more and more extravagant she realized that a black leather mask in the closet was probably the least of his kinky desires.
Sexual harassment is about power as much as it is about sex. I’m not saying that the actual groping doesn’t feel good or that it is a minor part of the picture, it is a great big part of the picture, but it is only a part of the picture.
For the most part it is men who harass women because they are bigger and stronger than we are. The person with the strength and power gets the person without the strength and power to yield to their needs.
If we take sexual harassment to be creating an uncomfortable sexual atmosphere, then, we are in a whole new ball of wax when it comes to judgment. It is difficult to separate out the fine line between a joke and an uncomfortable situation. People are often coming up to me and saying: “Abby, you’ll appreciate this…” then they tell a joke that is demeaning to black people or to women or to both. They think they are being liberal and funny as all get out, if they could jump into my head, they would see just how out of touch they were.
Uncomfortable is the key word here. Now, here’s the rub…sometimes those jokes are funny. All jokes are at someone’s expense so why not the underdog? Knowing the difference between funny and insulting requires thinking.
So, what was our friend and neighbor Harvey Weinstein thinking? Did he realize that what he was doing was against the law?
Harvey Weinstein, like it or not, is one of us. He is a Vineyarder. True, he is a first-generation summer resident, but let’s face it, we never shunned him. He has chosen to spend a good deal of his life on this island and, like the rest of us, wishes only good things to happen here. Clearly, he loves it here.
Okay, he’s a pig, but he’s “our” pig. One could say that he was only exercising his droit de seigneur as a big shot Hollywood guy which was part of the package of being a success. Along with the trophy wife, the trophy mcmansion and the trophy ride, the trophy shtoop was just another notch on the trophy belt.
I have a casting director friend whose major job was procuring good-looking blonde women for him.
BUT, Harvey wasn’t the only one he did it for. They don’t call it the casting couch for nothing.
Harvey brought a lot of wonderful things to Martha’s Vineyard, those things are still here.
Can a bad man do good things? Clearly, he can. Do we accept those good things? Obviously, we do. Are we bad for accepting them? What excuses will we have for not giving them back?
There is no need to ponder as to what would happen to Harvey if he were black. The man would be under the jail right now. If he were black and asked the judge for a respite to go to some self-help program, the judge would be falling off his seat, reeling with laughter. Harvey isn’t black, and they are still throwing the book at him.
Harvey went too far, but we all have a long way to go. “The times, they are a changing”. What was acceptable yesterday is no longer acceptable today. Ten or twenty years from now, eating meat may be against the law. Does that mean that we meat eaters are criminals today?
Women no longer have to wear push up bras to get the job. We now have the courage to say “no more” Now we can say;” No more, I have had enough and if you continue, I will put your ass in jail.”
It will be interesting to see how much jail time Harvey, the poor little boy from Brooklyn is going to do.