Relationships Women

Me & Harvey Weinstein

XY_161956414There were four ten-year-old girls playing in a field in Bosnia in the early nineties. A Serbian jeep pulled up with four soldiers in it. The soldiers got out of the jeep and called the girls to come over, in a strong soldier kind of way. Three of them stepped toward the men. Their obedience was immediate. It was a reaction to years – generations, actually – of men telling women to do something, and the women doing it without consideration. Reaction. The fourth, the one I met, turned and ran into the woods. She is the only one who survived.

Flash-forward to Harvey Weinstein. “Wait,” I hear you ask. “Are you seriously equating the raping and murdering of Bosnian women by Serbian men to Harvey Weinstein?” Yes. Yes, I am. I think the tenets of how women react to men’s directives are all part and parcel of our DNA – and something we can and must program out for future generations.

So women went up to his room for meetings. At last count, more than ninety women have now told this story, and as far as I can tell, the ending is mostly the same: they ran away, got away, pushed him off, or put him off with a delayed promise of succumbing after an Oscar win. Not one has said they did as asked. Without judging these accounts, would it have changed the way you viewed their stories if they had? If some of the women said, “I did what he asked, and I don’t know why. But I didn’t think about it, I just did it.” Is it possible the ones we’re hearing from are the ones who knew to run? Like the one young girl in Bosnia who was the only one to react against what she was told to do? Is it possible there are so many others who didn’t, and because of the ‘shame’ of their actions, aren’t speaking up?

Repulsive as this might sound in this particular context, is it possible that there could be something in the female DNA – the same DNA that inclines us towards nurturing – that when called upon to obey (do we have to re-visit hundreds of years of marriage vows?), we might just do it? If I’m honest with myself, and I’m truly not proud of this, but if I’d been in the shoes of these women (thank God I wasn’t), no matter how disgusting it would have been, I fear I would have done it. I would have watched him take a shower. I would have done it. I would have then put it out of my mind and tried very hard to not “go there” and evaluate my own behavior, let alone his.

I had a high-powered job at one of the big eight accounting firms in the early eighties. I had an affair (thought I really loved him) with my boss, a partner. He was being audited by the firm for his expenses (he was fired… we are talking felony avoiding fired) and he asked me to go to a hotel room and help him create the back-up for his expense accounts while they were auditing him. I did it. I never once stopped to think about it. I just did it. I did it because he told me to. He didn’t ask me; he was a mess. He told me. Forcefully. Firmly. And, I did it.

A few weeks later, he asked me to put that hotel room on my company American Express. I refused. My brain kicked in then – putting the expense on my card triggered something that made it feel different (versus my earlier complicity, where I was reacting).

Looking back, I felt no responsibility for my “accessory to a bad thing” status. I had zero ownership of that night in my own head. It belonged to him, and I was another pair of hands. I see now that it’s worth exploring, and that there are oh so many other examples in my life of the same reaction in me to things I don’t wish to own.

We women have really been dealt a psychological blow, forced into playing defense for far too long. Centuries of self-preservation, love for the male species, and/or a desire to be liked, accepted or… considered for a well-deserved role in a movie we worked our whole life to get to, make us react, without thought. Turns out, sometimes, the best offense might just be a good offense.

And just to clarify: whether we act or react, the true shame belongs to the perpetrator. Let’s not forget that.

What I’m interested in is mentoring the generations who’ve come after mine to stop, look, and listen before they act – in a way that might diminish the power of a perpetrator. When I think back to that night in the hotel, my biggest regret stems from the ground I gave in the self-esteem department – a loss multiplied by the possibly hundreds of times I didn’t use my power, or my voice, around men like Harvey Weinstein. I’d like future generations to be spared those kinds of regrets.

That young ten-year-old girl who ran into the woods in Bosnia? Her shame, she told me, was that she didn’t wait for the others to follow – or go back to help them. That they didn’t get away, and she did. So even the one who acted courageously was consumed by guilt, assuming responsibility for the others’ reactions. Over the years, I saw how she punished herself. I believe she never felt that she deserved her survival, when in fact, in my opinion, she should have taken to the rooftops celebrating it.

So, women of today, may the women speaking up serve as the inspiration to us all. Let’s vow from this day forth to obey the better angels of our own voice and power. We might just change the trajectory of those who come after us. And, Heaven knows, there’s no shame in that.

5 replies on “Me & Harvey Weinstein”

Hi Chris
This is such an important time for women. We are supporting one another by sharing our experiences and shifting the weight of these heavy traumas to where it needs to be. I’m so proud.
Your piece does a beautiful job of addressing a core issue.
I’m feeling deep hope for change.
Best to you – and thank you!
Sandy F – forwarded your blog on and I’m so glad.

Leslie, Thanks for your kind words and I’m so pleased my piece moved you. These are challenging times on so many fronts… I was struck by Longfellow…

…for it is the fate of a woman
Long to be patient and silent,
to wait like a ghost that is speechless,
Till some questioning voice dissolves the spell of its silence.

I think that voice was last year’s elections. Changed everything. Flattened the playing field of my notions of my country and now voices will be silent no longer on many fronts. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Again, thanks for your thoughts.

I received this from a college student in an email today. Thought it was worth a share… My comments back to her are below.

In regards to your article, my initial reaction to it is simply “wow”. There wasn’t much I could say other than that and I really couldn’t think of anything to say back, I agreed with everything you had to say. However. as I sat here pondering a better response, I realized that I didn’t believe that I had ever been in a situation where I felt like I had to listen to a man (Accept maybe my father, however he has always given me a chance to speak my mind and if we’re being honest, I have always been bad about challenging his authority). Then I really thought about the fact that I’ve never actually been employed by a man and or had to work in an environment that I felt a man had power over me. Every job I have had has been beneath a woman. Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago we had a professional development seminar with my sorority about the differences between working under a man vs. a woman. Basically it came down to how when you’re working under a woman you’re generally treated more as an equal while under a man, your beneath them. It was interesting reading essentially the same idea from another woman. Then I thought a little more about past relationships I have had. One stuck out in particular as to this idea of prey vs. predator. I had always blamed what happened between the two of us on myself. My personality, things I’d said, but recently I’ve come to terms with the fact that, no it wasn’t my fault, which is relieving and probably why this didn’t come to my mind right away. Another thought I had was a nature vs. nurture question. Is this really in our DNA or is it how we are raised and our society? Maybe its both. Personally I’ve always been an advocate for the nurture side of things. Like you said, we need to program it out of our future generations. Your environment shapes who you are and how you think. Maybe its a change in the idea that women are prey and men are predators. Maybe this starts with issue that start at such a young age with school dress codes and the idea of “rape culture” that seems to be ever so prevalent. Just food for thought.

Dear SE… First I hope you never work underneath anyone, woman or man. And, please always remember you have to take a moment to think about what is being asked and how you feel about it. Then make a decision, based on the answer to that question. You will shine I’m sure. Your thoughtful responses prove it. And, fault? Such an unattractive word. I go to Maya… I did the best I could, and when I knew better, I did better. Great mantra for life. CM

Another email from reader Marvin…

Beautifully written, Thanks to the women that are coming forth. The whole paradigm must change. The sexist nature. Yes, the years and generations of Patriarchal mind control. Imbedding young girls from the start with self confidence honor and resolve. I thought in the 70’s we were making a great impact and changes which I know we did but the old ways of Patriarchal control fused with new technological mind control needs to be demolished. That is one of the things that is so scary about this so called tolerance and inclusiveness of backward regressive ideologies like Islam that cement females as slaves to men and an ideology. It is a psychological way to keep regressive violent ideologies and actions in power. The 60-70’s feminist movement was to create a new way of acting being relating but the power and mind control has never changed. More women then ever as sex slaves work slaves and adopting to patriarchal values and actions.

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