I have been a publicist and part of Hollywood for over 20 years. I have always been proud of this community for standing up to injustice, but we really missed the mark on Harvey Weinstein. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hear stories about Harvey and his behavior as a sexual predator.
Harvey was a large figure in the Hollywood community. He nurtured and provided opportunities for undiscovered talent, he had an eye for films that changed the way people felt, he understood the history of movie making, he was a genius marketer and Hollywood wanted to be in his orbit. That orbit created one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. Unfortunately, that power translated into a cone of silence engulfing Weinstein’s sexual harassment of women.
As someone who has worked, and sat on a board to stop violence against women, I am ashamed at my complicity in this matter. And don’t fool yourself, because you were likely complicit too.
The stories about Harvey have been around for decades. Why has our community remained silent? Why in the face of a predator has Hollywood looked the other way, when we are so quick to point out the mistakes of others? Why has there been no self-reflection until The New York Times pulled the curtain down?
Since this story broke last week, I have been struggling with my shame. It shouldn’t matter what my place was, my level of success, my degree of power, it should only matter that I knew this was happening and I stayed silent. We all stayed silent.
Harvey is a complicated man. He can be charming, as well as being a captivating conversationalist on topics such as film, politics and fashion. But none of that should allow him to overpower women, intimidate them and sexually harass them. THIS BEHAVIOR SHOULD NEVER BE TOLERATED.
Sexual assault is defined as any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under this definition is forced sexual intercourse, fondling and attempted rape. The women that have come forward, sometimes decades after these assaults, deserved our support in real time. They deserved a community where they would be believed and embraced. We have failed them by our silence.
Why has this community remained silent for so long? Why have we all turned the other way when we knew what he was doing? Power vs. Ambition. The powerful, like Weinstein, holds all the cards for the ambitious. To be ambitious in Hollywood means you put up with anything you can tolerate to get ahead. You close your eyes and your mouth as long as the powerful moves you up the ladder. And it’s not just the women in question, but their representatives, the studios, the networks and the Weinstein Co. themselves.
The Hollywood community has rolled their eyes, brushed it under the rug and laughed it off, but Weinstein’s behavior was no different from Trump’s on the “Access Hollywood” bus. Our community couldn’t run fast enough to call out that behavior as unacceptable and disgusting, but Weinstein’s was the same: Men using their power to sexually harass women.
Hollywood is where the world comes to be entertained, to escape, and to help people and communities in trouble. We have a long proud history of coming to the defense of the less fortunate, but why couldn’t we help our own?
My heart goes out to every women that suffered at the hands of Weinstein, and I want to offer my sincerest apologies for staying silent. We must do better moving forward. On Sept. 11, I lived in New York, and the message was clear: See something, say something.
The conversation about sexual harassment by powerful men changed, when in July 2016 Gretchen Carlson, from Fox News, spoke out about her experiences with Roger Ailes. She was extremely brave and opened the door for others, like herself, to feel safe in coming forward. I applaud Carlson, and the women that spoke out in her wake. They brought down powerful men, who had been abusing women for decades, and made it acceptable and necessary for women to speak up!!
The women’s march, in January of this year, announced to the world that women are a force to be reckoned with. We are powerful, we are smart, and we are going to speak up when our rights are being threatened and our voices are being silenced.
Hollywood as a whole must examine their role in the Harvey Weinstein case, and own up to our complicity in this matter. Moving forward, we must look at the brave women who have spoken out and support them from the beginning, not 20 years after the fact. We can do better, we must do better.
Cari Ross is the founder of Balance Public Relations.