Ronan Farrow’s recent piece in The New Yorker, the culmination of a 10-month investigation, tells the stories of 13 women — some named, others not — accusing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault, including three who charge he raped them. Their accounts are supported by interviews with 16 current and former executives and assistants at Weinstein’s companies, showing how Weinstein’s abuse of women was systematic, facilitated with the cooperation of a team of producers and assistants who knowingly deposited young women into the hotel room of a despicable predator. As Farrow notes, the allegations “corroborate and overlap with” those published by the New York Times last week.
Like most serial predators, Weinstein had a pattern that the recent exposés have made clear. He or a producer or assistant lured women to his hotel room, where Weinstein would either be in or change into a bathrobe and then attempt to make the woman massage him or watch him shower. In some instances, as with actress Asia Argento, he would forcibly perform oral sex on them, force them to perform it on him, or force himself inside them.
The fact that Weinstein was addicted to power, not sex, is evident, particularly in listening to an audio recording Farrow obtained, in which Weinstein panics when model Ambra Battilana Guttierez balks at entering his hotel room. He wheedles, cajoles, pleads and threatens. “Don’t embarrass me,” he whines. “I’m a famous guy.” Then: “Don’t ruin your friendship with me.” It’s a conversation uncomfortably familiar to any woman who has ever rejected a man only to be met with a shocking display of entitled anger mixed with self-loathing. It’s possible, though it seems physically impossible, that Weinstein hates himself more than we hate him. How could he not?
Weinstein also preyed on the insecurities of young women, creating them if they weren’t already there, making overt comments about their weight. Generally, I don’t believe in attacking the appearances of bad people — their actions and words should be fodder enough — but there’s something galling about someone who resembles Jabba the Hutt as much as Weinstein does telling women who rebuff him that they need to lose weight to succeed in Hollywood. He was proof enough they’d do fine with mountains of money and a penis.
Men addicted to power who secretly hate themselves often see themselves as victims when anything doesn’t go their way. Weinstein displays this in his comments after his outing. “In the past I used to compliment people, and some took it as me being sexual, I won’t do that again,” he said petulantly. “I will go anywhere I can learn more about myself,” he said, self-absorbed as ever. He boasted of organizing a foundation for women directors at the University of Southern California. “It will be named after my mom and I won’t disappoint her.” Harvey, I promise you: You already have.
It’s hard not to feel anger towards the employees who helped Weinstein abuse women, especially when Farrow describes how they would give women a false sense of safety by showing up to meetings at the start before trapping them alone with Weinstein. The employees told Farrow they feared retaliation by Weinstein as much as the women did.
Lisa Bloom, an attorney who is Gloria Allred’s daughter, has already abandoned Weinstein, after previously agreeing to take his money to help him better his image. His current spokesperson, identified in Farrow’s piece, is also a woman, which is undoubtedly strategic. Sallie Hofmeister, former business editor at the New York Times and assistant managing editor at the Los Angeles Times, is now accepting Weinstein’s money and letting her name be used with such statements as “with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual,” which is essentially an insanity defense. Weinstein wants “a second chance,” Hofmeister tells us, which would have been relevant information sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s.
For the record, public relations is not like law. People are entitled to a legal defense. No one is entitled to a spokesperson.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking and enraging part of Farrow’s story is the consistency with which women blamed themselves for what he did. From Lucia Evans, a former aspiring actress who was scared off from pursuing that as a career because of her encounter with Weinstein:
“He forced me to perform oral sex on him.” As she objected, Weinstein took his penis out of his pants and pulled her head down onto it. “I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,’ ” she said. “I tried to get away, but maybe I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t want to kick him or fight him.” In the end, she said, “He’s a big guy. He overpowered me.” At a certain point, she said, “I just sort of gave up. That’s the most horrible part of it, and that’s why he’s been able to do this for so long to so many women: people give up, and then they feel like it’s their fault.”
And Asia Argento:
When he returned, he was wearing a bathrobe and holding a bottle of lotion. “He asks me to give a massage. I was, like, ‘Look, man, I am no fucking fool,’ ” Argento said. “But, looking back, I am a fucking fool.”
Argento, who insisted that she wanted to tell her story in all its complexity, said that she didn’t physically fight him off, something that has prompted years of guilt.
“If I were a strong woman, I would have kicked him in the balls and run away.”
She said that she told Weinstein, “I am not a whore,” and that he began laughing. He said he’d put the phrase on a T-shirt.