CHAMPS Charter High School of the Arts

Op-Ed: The Silencing of Rape Culture

Harvey Weinstein, an American film producer and former film studio executive, has been accused of sexually assaulting multiple women.

“Harvey Scissorhands,” a name given to Weinstein by multiple directors, has given women opportunities in film, but has asked for more in return.

Men have been abusing their power and forcing women to do the unthinkable in order for them to get their big break. From Hugh Hefner to Donald Trump, Americans have been cradled into a society where men can do what they choose and not be held accountable for their actions

Women are over the oppression they face in American society. Men need to be held accountable for their actions even if they hold a position in the public eye.

“The men of Hollywood need to know they own no woman,” Rose McGowan, an American actress, told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview.

It would make sense if it were the 1920s and women had just been given the right to vote, but this is 2018. The idea that men have the final say in what goes and how it has to happen still has not changed. We must continue to fight for either gender’s fundamental rights.

In a society so seemingly open to change, it is shocking to think that women are still valued and objectified based on their body and not what they have to offer, something that Weinstein has been doing since the 1970s, when he and his brother, Bob Weinstein, created a small film company named Miramax. From 1979 to March of 2005, the Weinstein brothers led Miramax, but later that September, departed and founded The Weinstein Company.

The casting couch, the trading of sexual favors by an employee to a superior in return for career advancement, became prominent and standard. Sex for fame became common.

Weinstein had not been directly accused, but his sleazy reputation became notorious in Hollywood. In 1998, Gwyneth Paltrow, an American actress and singer, came forward on “The Late Show with David Letterman” that Weinstein “will coerce you to do a thing or two.”

Paltrow only being 22 at the time, had no other choice but to follow her advisor. Her discomfort is visible and after saying what she went through, it was all swept back under the rug when Weinstein was praised and applauded for his remarkable films.

In 1999, Asia Argento, an Italian actress, singer, and model, wrote and directed a scene in her film Scarlet Diva based on her experience with Weinstein.

From 2005 to 2016, Weinstein had been referenced and alluded to with tales of misconduct and yet nothing happened. This shows how a white man with power can do whatever he wants and yet nothing will happen.

The idea that if Weinstein was a man of color, the whole concept of rape or abuse would be taken more seriously, is quite concerning. We have stereotyped and dehumanized people of color in films and in their day life. The outcome is that when they are sentenced or accused, they face harsher conditions.

In “Unequal Sentences for Blacks and Whites,” by the Editorial Board of the New York Times, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigated sentencing disparities in Florida. As a result of the investigation, the fact that African-American defendants get more time in prison than caucasians with identical criminal histories, was exposed.

We as a society need to face reality and not let white privilege be the reason why these abusers are given a second chance. They need to face the consequences and be held liable because abusing women and stripping them of their rights is not something that should be taken lightly.

On Oct. 5, 2017, the first eight rape allegations against Weinstein were published by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in The New York Times. Ashley Judd, Emily Nestor, and six other women were the first to inspire many others.

On Oct. 18, 2017, the list of eight rape allegations had grown to forty. A movement inspired by women for women, the idea that women are able to talk about their experiences has caused a ripple effect and allowed others to do the same.

“The fact that these women are starting to speak out about the gross misconduct of one of our most important and well regarded film producers, is incredibly brave and has been deeply shocking to hear. The way Harvey Weinstein has treated these vulnerable, talented young women is NOT the way women should ever, ever deem to be acceptable or commonplace in any workplace,” said by Kate Winslet, an English actress, in a statement given from Variety.

More and more women have felt comfortable with being able to share their experiences. A campaign known as #MeToo was started in 2006 by Tarana Burke, a woman who experienced sexual assault and wanted to help other women and girls who had gone through similar circumstances.

Alyssa Milano, an American actress, producer, activist, and former singer has brought #MeToo to social media when she tweeted an image on October 15 that read, “If all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘#MeToo’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” As a result, there have been more than five hundred thousand social media post with the caption.

The Me Too campaign is the starting point, opening a discussion about sexual harassment and abuse that prevents the culture of silence, not only in Hollywood, but throughout the world.

Women are speaking up and they will be heard. They will be liberated and allowed to live in peace knowing they are not the only ones.

Our generation has the choice to continue moving forward or to remain stagnant. Let us be the generation that is not afraid to speak up and hold people accountable for their actions. If we work together we are capable of achieving great things.

If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).