Opinion: Weinstein is no victim in sentencing

Lauren Kirksey, Opinion Writer

On March 11, former entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison on the charges of criminal sexual act and rape. The sentencing comes after testimony from several actresses and other women in the film industry, as well as years of public accusations of sexual assault from at least a hundred women who did not testify in court. Since these allegations first came to light in October 2017, the #MeToo movement has gained momentum on social media and inspired people all over the world to come forward with their own stories of sexual harassment.

Weinstein, however, is worried about what the future of the #MeToo movement could hold, especially for men in our society. In statements made before his sentencing, the full transcript of which can be found here, Weinstein declared the #MeToo movement a “crisis” of which he is at the forefront, claiming “the movement started with me” and that, as a result, there are now “thousands of men who are being accused and a regeneration of things that I think none of us understood.”  He even evoked the Hollywood blacklist of the 40s and 50s, during which entertainment industry professionals were barred from work over accusations of being involved with the communist party.

There are a few holes in Weinstein’s lengthy and often rambling speech. First, to declare that the #MeToo movement began with Weinstein is false. While Weinstein is certainly a central figure of the movement, Me Too was actually started by activist Tarana Burke in 2006 as a way to lend a voice to sexual assault victims. The hashtag was popularized on Twitter by actress Alyssa Milano amidst the Weinstein scandal and has since become a viral social media movement. The purpose of the movement is to show that sexual assault is prevalent in all aspects of society, not just in the entertainment industry. #MeToo didn’t begin with Weinstein, and it certainly won’t end with his sentencing.

Weinstein comparing his situation to the Hollywood blacklist is also a bit of a stretch. While Weinstein cites “lots of men like (himself)” falling victim to the blacklist, including screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, he fails to recognize that plenty of women were also blacklisted in Hollywood. Additionally, his comparison may prove hypocritical in light of allegations that he imposed blacklists of his own during his career as a producer. In December 2017, director Peter Jackson claimed that Weinstein told him to blacklist actresses Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino, both of whom accused Weinstein of sexual assault, from being considered for Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Many of Weinstein’s accusers have cited the fear of hurting their careers as a reason not to come forward about their assault sooner. 

Weinstein’s concerns do highlight the fact that false accusations can happen and that, especially in the age of social media, the court of public opinion can ruin a person’s reputation in life-altering ways. There is also plenty to criticize about coverage of the #MeToo movement, especially it’s large focus on cis, white female victims and relative lack of attention given to male victims or female perpetrators. However, Weinstein’s comments are ultimately a self-serving attempt to paint himself as a victim when the reality is that his predatory behavior had been an open secret in Hollywood for years. Sexual assault has thrived in Hollywood long before Weinstein in large part due to the silencing of actual victims, and the #MeToo movement has at least put an end to that silence and encouraged open discussion.

Both Weinstein and his defense team touted his charitable acts and favors done for friends and colleagues, including his accusers, and one of his top lawyers claimed that he was stripped of his right to due process because of the #MeToo movement. However, Weinstein was given a fair trial, and no act of kindness can erase the fact that, when presented with evidence and testimony, the jury found him guilty on two criminal charges.


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