Gender, Race, Inequality

Harvey Weinstein remains silent against allegations, except when it comes from a woman of color

He's picking and choosing which allegations he fires back on, and his choices speak volumes.

In the last few weeks, more than 40 women have spoken up and out about film producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassing them. Assistants, models, and actresses claim he’s done everything from asking them for body massages to requesting they take baths with him, to raping them. Weinstein recently completed a week of rehab for sex addiction, but that’s clearly not enough to change his predatory lifestyle or give justice to those he’s violated. It seems like his rehab stint was just to try to calm the raging shit storm around him since his victims stepped forward and an attempt to add some credibility to his already severely damaged, disgraced image.

Interestingly enough, he’s stayed mum when it comes to addressing specific accusers. Except when Lupita Nyong’o, a Kenyan-Mexican actress who is well-known for her role in 12 Years a Slave, recently told her story about Weinstein asking her for a massage in his bedroom while she was a student at the Yale School of Drama. He had invited her to his home in Westport, Conn., to screen a film with his family but had requested she leave the room alone with him before the movie ended. She says that his harassment continued over the years, and he even told her that her career would suffer when she turned him down.Weinstein responded directly to Lupita Nyong’o’s accusation, even calling her by her first name.

A representative for Weinstein issued a statement to E! News, asserting, “Mr. Weinstein has a different recollection of the events, but believes Lupita is a brilliant actress and a major force for the industry. Last year, she sent a personal invitation to Mr. Weinstein to see her in her Broadway show Eclipsed.”

Weinstein’s rebuttal of Lupita’s statement is disturbing on several levels. Many people have pointed out the fact that she is the first black woman to publicly denounce Weinstein, and coincidentally (or not), she is the only woman he has directly confronted. Since she’s black, Weinstein and his reps think she has even less credibility than the dozens of white women who have accused him of sexual harassment, and therefore, her personal account is fair game for him to challenge and dismiss. She is “less than” because of her skin color. America often ignores, refuses to believe, or demonizes black women’s truths. Weinstein felt so threatened by a black woman standing up to him that he publicly declared that she must have a “different recollection” of what happened, because sexism and racism against black women are so ingrained in society that white men think they have literally no validity in their thoughts, actions, or life experiences.Additionally, Weinstein’s claim that they have “different recollections” of what he did to Lupita Nyong’o is gross victim blaming wrapped in what attempts to be a suave, civil disagreement with a “compliment” thrown on top to make Weinstein appear to be respectfully countering her claims while still giving her some sort of credit. It is a manipulative attempt to blame Lupita while making Weinstein seem cordial and supportive of her career.He further tries to discredit her by claiming she invited him to see her on Broadway. He delegitimizes her assertion of sexual assault by making her appear complicit in her relationship with Weinstein; he paints her as the one who initiated some sort of contact with him. He tries to shut her down by suggesting she was friendly toward him.

Unfortunately, Harvey Weinstein is not the first powerful white man to make disgusting remarks to a woman of color and then retaliate when she publicly shares her experience.

Earlier in the fall, House actress Charlyne Yi alleged that comedian David Cross, a decade earlier, made racial slurs to her and made fun of her Asian heritage by asking, “You don’t speak English?? Ching-chong-ching-chong.” Cross later issued a note on Twitter, claiming, “I do not remember it like she remembers it (and clearly we’re quite a bit far apart on this) but…perhaps we are both misremembering *exactly* what happened that night.”

In the cases of both Lupita Nyong’o and Charlyne Yi, white men directly challenged their accounts of racism and sexual harassment simply because women of color are thought to have less validity and are easier to disregard. White men may take criticism from white women silently, but when a black or brown woman accuses them of severe misconduct, they see an opportunity to further degrade and diminish women of color.