American producer Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of two of five sex crime charges against him. After the verdict was handed down, the judge said that he would be immediately sent to jail to await his March 11 sentencing. He faces anywhere between five and 29 years in prison.
While the circumstances of the attacks and the nature of Weinstein’s relationship with the women varied, what was established was a clear pattern of predatory behavior. For far too long, Weinstein was considered one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, who could make or break careers. He offered tremendous opportunities for those he found promising, and dashed the dreams of those whom he did not.
His lawyers argued that the women who accused Weinstein simply used him to get ahead in their show business ambitions. The trial, however, showed how Weinstein used this power in getting what he wanted from the many women who came his way.
The issue looms larger than the jailed producer. Sure, it was accusations against him that sparked the #MeToo movement, a global cause that sought to prompt women who have been preyed upon to come forward, because there is no shame in doing so. But this has been happening, long before the terms “hashtag” or “sexual harassment” had been coined. It will likely still happen for generations to come.
The idea behind #MeToo is to point at the predators that abound in every industry, everywhere. It is the perpetrators, not the victim, who must feel shame.
But often, the situation is hardly in black and white. Sometimes, accusers have their own agenda, and they bring down other people out of pure spite. There are many cases where the women are tormented by the possibility of their own complicity. Victims are blamed and maligned, and are told they should have dressed less provocatively, or voiced their objections more vigorously, or fought back forcefully, or stopped speaking to their attacker as soon as their intentions were known.
Weinstein is most certainly going to be in jail for a long time—perhaps until the end of his life. This does not end the worldwide malaise, borne out of prejudice and bias. It’s not even about sex but power; about whether one would even dare complain. It’s also often not just between two individuals, but an environment that could be encouraging such behavior by looking the other way.
Let us neither be the individual who takes advantage of other people, nor be part of the environment that does not raise hell in the face of abuse and injustice.