The Harvey Weinstein scandal has split the Internet apart–for better and for worse. Many sexual assault survivors have been engaging in the #MeToo movement, coming out about their experiences and traumas as a way to create solidarity–while also holding their abusers accountable (even if they remain unnamed).
In many ways, the scandal is changing the landscape when it comes to power dynamics–and allowing people who are often the subject of abuse (women, people of color, queer people) to take their power back, or gain it in the first place.
The dark side (because there is always a dark side) is the fact that among the solidarity, there is still victim-shaming and blaming. For instance, Maureen Dowd wrote a piece in the New York Times called “Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood’s Oldest Horror Story,” in which she called Gwyneth Paltrow, a Weinstein accuser, “the first lady of Miramax,” and said that she did not “put aside her qualms” about Weinstein’s behavior in order to bolster her career. The incident it should be noted took place 20 years ago, when the star was 22. Paltrow revealed that Weinstein put his hands on her sexually and tried to lead her into his bedroom for a “joint massage” after a meeting in his suite at The Peninsula Hotel, which had been set up by her agents.
As if Paltrow should have done anything at all. As if there was only one way to respond. It’s nonsense, implying Paltrow should nix her own career because a man tried to hurt her. It doesn’t mention how many victims, as Paltrow stated herself (“I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified”), are terrified of coming out, and often blame themselves and don’t know what to do.
This is why I really loved Paltrow’s mom, actress Blythe Danner’s response to Dowd’s article, in a Letter to the Editor at the New York Times.
As Danner pointed out in her response to the editor, Paltrow did report the incident. But it also emphasizes the fact that we should focus on the abusers and preventing abuse, rather than focusing criticism on the survivors:
“After her initial shock, Gwyneth left the room immediately, and, despite the fact that Mr. Weinstein threatened her if she ever spoke of what happened, she reported it to her agent and to her boyfriend at the time, Brad Pitt, who confronted Mr. Weinstein.
Gwyneth did not “put aside her qualms to become ‘the first lady of Miramax’ ” back then, as Ms. Dowd would have it. She continued to hold her own and insist that Mr. Weinstein treat her with respect. She had learned from her father, the producer and director Bruce Paltrow, how to stand up for herself. Bruce received the first Diversity Award from the Directors Guild for helping women and minorities in our business. His daughter wasn’t the only woman he taught to fight for herself.
I suggest that the pundits stop casting aspersions on the women who have confronted unwanted sexual advances in the manner each sees fit and concentrate on the constructive ways to prevent this behavior in the future.”
Danner says it all with that last sentence. It’s one we should all remember–and also remember to support survivors by listening with kindness, empathy, and care. While someone may not have made the choices you would, it doesn’t mean they are wrong.
Misogyny, and its effects, run deep–so deep that many who think they are on the feminist side are still stuck in its snarly web. Dowd’s attempt at a retrospective shaming and critique, while it may seem part of the conversation as a way to help each other and call out bad behavior, only diverts the attention from the perpetrators and abusers themselves. It’s an unhelpful dialogue. Rape, theft and hate crimes are all the fault of the perpetrator. It’s simple, really.