Featured Image via New Yorker
Powerful men are perceived differently based on their positions, but the common thread between the publicised men who have recently been accused of sexual harassment is their grasp on power. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump is recorded saying he can grab women “by the pussy,” and is elected as president one month later. In 2017, dozens of prominent actresses come out with allegations against entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein, and he’s sacked, divorced and universally condemned.
BUT WAIT – WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED?
Over 30 women come forward with allegations that Weinstein forced them to massage him, watch him naked, and complete sexual favors in return for advancing their careers. In response, Weinstein states he “caused a lot of pain”, and later announces he’s taking a ‘leave of absence’ from the affluent Weinstein Company, but is later sacked by the Board of Directors. Lists of women accusers are published in publications such as the New York Times, and male colleagues such as George Clooney condemn Weinstein’s acts as “indefensible.” His wife files for divorce five days after the initial accusations.
The ‘grab her by the pussy’ recording (see below), obtained by the Washington Post in 2005, is publicized internationally in October of 2016. Women worldwide and grassroots American advocacy groups erupt in anger and disbelief, and many believe this scandal will hand the election to Hillary Clinton. Melania Trump stays with Donald Trump. November of 2016 it is announced Donald Trump is the next President of the United States. As of one year later (November 2017), some 20 women have accused him of sexual misconduct.
The following is a dictated (and edited-down) recording of a dialogue between Donald Trump and Billy Bush, commonly know as the ‘grab her by the pussy’ tape.
Unknown: She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful.
Donald Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and fuck her. She was married.
Unknown: That’s huge news.
Billy Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple. Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!
Trump: Yeah, that’s her. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
Bush: Uh, yeah, those legs, all I can see is the legs … How about a little hug for the Donald? He just got off the bus.
Trump: O.K., absolutely. Melania said this was O.K.
Bush: How about a little hug for the Bushy? I just got off the bus. … Soon as a beautiful woman shows up, he just, he takes off. This always happens.
SO – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
These two men (Weinstein and Trump) have become symbols of a new movement. Their vitriol against women was equally publicized, but the American public reacted by immediately condemning Weinstein while the electoral college announced that Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States.
Was Weinstein taken down immediately because he’s in Hollywood? I, personally, can’t help but wonder if the result is due to a history of people perceiving the entertainment industry as less respectable;.
Leading up to the U.S. Presidential election, in the midst of sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump, numerous news sources surveyed voting Americans, asking them what they hoped for in a candidate. Many replies focused on employment, taxes, reviving industry, and other economic focuses. Is this why Donald Trump maintained a support base, even after essentially admitting to being a sexual predator? Because there were other things at stake? He faced the same quantity of vitriol as the men of Hollywood, including Weinstein, but did not face comparable consequences.
Though this is largely speculative, the perception of Hollywood is mostly based on character, or image. In politics, there are always other things to focus on. So, I believe the variance in reactions to Weinstein and Trump is symbolic of the American people’s priorities; of course we have to hold our celebrities to high moral standards, and of course there will always be ‘controversy’ in politics.
Especially in 2018, there is disinterest and cynicism in politics. The ability to compartmentalize issues is more available. Whereas the entertainment industry seems to infiltrate every aspect of American life, only 61.4%. of the American public voted in the 2016 Presidential election. I’m sure many of the 65,853,516 Trump voters believe that rape is wrong, but is it enough to not vote for a candidate? That is a question every American has to answer for themselves.
SO – WHERE TO FROM HERE?
I know I’m mainly focusing on Trump and Weinstein, but these two men are representative of many others, and act as a larger metaphor for business & politics versus Hollywood, and how the perceptions of these men and positions vary. Although sexism is systemic and transcends all fields, it’s different in Hollywood than anywhere else.
Gretchen Carlson, one of the first accusers against the late Fox CEO Roger Ailes, explained on the GirlBoss Podcast that while researching for her book, many women told her that their experiences with sexual harassment often involved a powerful male executive offering professional promotions or other benefits.
And this prevalence of sexual harassment is not always subtle. It was not subtle in the cases of Trump or Weinstein, and it is not subtle in the thousands of other cases in which women were held hostage by a man with professional power over them. Many of these women were prevented from coming forward truthfully due to risk of unemployment, slander or legalities.
We are approaching an era in which individuals feel empowered to speak up, and the bond that is forming due to this mutual empowerment is fueling a movement. The fearless women that came out against Harvey Weinstein should be honored for their truth and veracity, but hopefully soon, even outside of Hollywood, women everywhere can publicly unravel the systems validating harassment from powerful men like Weinstein and Trump.
Emily Blake is currently 17, and from Phoenix, Arizona. She’s the founder of The Wednesday Zine, member of the Phoenix Art Museum Teen Art Council, and is involved in Planned Parenthood. As a writer, she focuses on the intersection between art and activism, underrepresented ideas and experiences, and analysis of how media impacts our lives.