What the Fuck is Wrong with Men?
A few days ago, word broke of the impending release of an explosive expose on sausage-fingered vulgarian and longtime Miramax/Weinstein Company kingpin Harvey Weinstein, arguably the film world’s biggest and most unapologetic bully, a blunt instrument of a man notorious for terrorizing filmmakers and coworkers and just about anyone else cursed to have to deal with him and his rages.
What new information could this New York Times story possibly have? How could it harm the reputation of someone already considered one of the biggest, most obnoxious assholes in the history of Hollywood? When I read news of the upcoming revelations I assumed, accurately, that it’s about sex. Because when it comes to cases like these, it’s almost always about sex. With Donald Trump, Woody Allen, R. Kelly, Roman Polanski, Casey Affleck, Bill Cosby, Harry Knowles, and Devin Faraci, to cite a rogue’s gallery of deplorable dudes making headlines this year, it was all about sex.
No, scratch that. With the men I’ve listed above, the issue really at play wasn’t sex so much as power. That’s what all of these men had in common: they each had power. They all abused that power. This invites the question, What the fuck is wrong with men? Why does this keep happening?
The answer, I suspect, has something to do with the lack of real consequences for the transgressors. What does it say to the world when a man caught on tape saying that if you are powerful and famous enough, that you are, in his words, a “star”, then you can grab women by the genitalia, is given the ultimate validation of getting elected leader of the most powerful nation on earth?
What does it say when a majority of white women voted for a serial sexual harasser over a woman who would be our first female president, and who also had the added benefit of not being insane or evil? What does it say to women who find the courage to speak out against their abusers and harassers at great personal costs when they turn on the Oscars and see people like Mel Gibson, Casey Affleck, Roman Polanski and Woody Allen being honored?
What does it say when the message boards on stories like the Weinstein expose are overflowing with victim-blaming and excuses and intimations of a dark, sinister feminist plot to bring down powerful men like Cosby or Weinstein by accurately reporting on decades of nearly identical allegations from women from across the socioeconomic spectrum? What does it say that so many people are inclined to see male victimizer as the victim and the women victimized as greedy, grasping opportunists?
These are clearly not isolated instances but rather ugly and inevitable consequences of poisonous institutionalized sexism. These are inevitable outgrowths of a system that gives men accused of crimes too much power, and the women accusing them too little.
Will the blizzard of allegations have real consequences against Weinstein? I hope so, but I have my doubts. After all, Weinstein’s reputation for bullying, abusive behavior didn’t keep him from becoming one of the most powerful and feared men in Hollywood.
The cringe-inducing official statement Weinstein released provides a fascinating glimpse not only into Weinstein’s delusional psychology but the psychology of abusers in general. It is an astonishingly tone-deaf and embarrassing document full of vaguely New Age therapy-speak it is impossible to imagine the gruff, bull-like Weinstein ever saying like, “My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons.”
Weinstein is a 65-year-old powerbroker, not a sophomore on a road trip trying to find himself.
The most remarkable part of the statement is the final paragraph, which reads, “I am going to need a place to channel that anger so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it in the same place that I had my Bar Mitzvah. I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party. One year ago, I began organizing a 5 million dollar scholarships to women directors at USC. While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year. It will be named after my mom and I won’t disappoint her.”
Hey, you know how you could honor your mother? By not being an abusive, bullying, sexist serial sexual harasser your entire fucking adult life. This statement was widely mocked, particularly the final paragraph, but the mere fact that a man, derided and feared as a brutal, vicious tyrant even before the latest flurry of allegations, could put his name on such a deranged exercise in self-mythologizing is both troubling and telling.
Weinstein may have just been exposed as an even more ridiculous hypocrite than before, but that has not kept him from seeing himself as a hero who will apparently single-handedly end gun violence and take down a corrupt President whose bullying, self-delusion and rampant misogyny renders him a profoundly Harvey Weinstein-like figure, in temperament and personality, if not politics.
Weinstein closes by having the unmitigated gall to present himself as the generous champion of young female filmmakers. That’s the essence of white, male privilege: presenting yourself as a patron and defender of the very group that you prey upon and victimize.
Weinstein acts as if he was blindsided and confused by the changes in the culture, but the core rules haven't really changed that much over the past half century or ever: don't rape women. Don't sexually harass women. Don't abuse your power to pressure unwilling women into sex. Don't treat the people who work for you as your private harem. No means no. These things are immutable. They never change.
There’s something seriously wrong with Harvey Weinstein and his ilk. But there’s also something profoundly wrong with us. We need to convey as strongly and unambiguously as possible that this kind of behavior is unforgivable, and not something that merely calls for a “time out” and period of pretend-spiritual growth before the offender can be welcomed back by show-business with open arms, great gobs of cash and/or Academy Awards.
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