Today’s perpetrator just happens to be one of the most powerful movie executives in Hollywood: Harvey Weinstein, a man who has been thanked more times than God at the Academy Awards. The same man who has had rumors of sexual assault surrounding him for over twenty years. And as we’ve all recently been made aware, these allegations are finally coming to light, as the list of offenses continues to grow.
Long before I decided to pursue my studies and eventual career in film, I had a vague idea of Weinstein as ‘the man who would fund my movies someday.’ I equated the Weinstein name with success, both commercial and financial. And maybe it was my naiveté, lack of experience, or age, but I never once stopped to consider that he—or anyone for that matter—might want something out of me in return. I was raised to believe in fairness, honesty, and merit-based reward.
Work hard, be kind, and reap the benefits.
And then I joined the entertainment industry….
Fresh to Los Angeles at 23, I auditioned for a local theater production. I received a phone call the next day from the director, not to offer me a callback, but because he had seen something in me—untapped potential, talent, promise. He wanted to personally mentor me. I looked up his credentials and discovered that he was a popular character actor with years of experience.
David (name changed) insisted that I meet him at a Starbucks between our two neighborhoods. That morning, giddy with excitement at being “discovered,” I called my mom with the news.
The first words out of her mouth were, “Well, that’s what people thought about Bill Cosby.” I dismissed her paranoia but her statement still lingered.
When I got to Starbucks, I noticed how David openly stared at women and mentioned how attractive they were. As a woman, every time a man mentions how attractive another woman is, my knee-jerk reaction is to clock all the ways in which I’m not and to compare myself to them to see where I’m lacking. But then I thought, who says that at a business meeting? Red flag.
We passed a table where a woman was sitting with her phone on a cordless charging station. He leaned over her and asked, “Did you know that the closer those things are to your crotch, the more they can cause reproductive damage?”
Both us girls politely laughed, but I became extremely self-conscious. Was this how my potential boss was going to act? Or worse, did that woman think I was with him?!
Red flags, plural.
Finally, while waiting for the drinks, David told me to go grab a table outside. RED. FUCKING. FLAG. “Bill Cosby” was ringing in my brain like alarm bells. David returned with my coffee, which I did not touch for the duration of the meeting.
A fact he noticed and commented on.
But, in another effort to avoid pissing off the industry professional, I laughed it off and made up an excuse.
The rest of the meeting felt like a very uncomfortable first date, complete with him telling me about his divorce, the subsequent women he banged, how I was close to his children’s age, and—cherry on top—putting his hand on my thigh. The day ended with him giving me a copy of a script he brought and me walking two blocks out of my way so he wouldn’t see my car or try to follow me home.
This the first time I’ve ever spoken about this meeting, and I still beat myself up about not calling him out when I had the chance.
But at 23, I was afraid of being impolite.
Women in all industries have been subjected to varying degrees of this rampant sexism. Like me. Like my friend who was roofied at a wrap party by the show’s producer. Like Kesha. Like Taylor. Like the other 321,496 victims who will be assaulted this year alone.
The Hollywood Reporter tweeted earlier this week how Ben Affleck, among many male celebrities, was horrified at the Weinstein accusations.
Hey Ben, are you also horrified by your brother? Because if it’s not Harvey, it’s Casey. And ‘David’. And Roman. And Woody. And Donald. And countless others.
And it is unacceptable.
To support victims of sexual assault, donate to Planned Parenthood or learn about ways you can volunteer your time.