In 2010, I wrote an article that has understandably been making the rounds this week. In this piece, yes, I address the rumors that surrounded Harvey Weinstein, rumors that exploded in truth this week, rumors even as I typed about them I didn’t understand. Because the idea of a man using his power to have sex with women is so commonplace, it genuinely didn’t occur to me that it was anything more than that: sex. Consensual, if under heavy persuasion. I don’t know how else to describe it, but as an ignorantly optimistic naivety. That this terrible abuse of power was at the very least transactional, that the very ’90s misogyfeminist concept of owning and commodifying our sexuality—this idea of “using what we’ve got to get what we want”—was at work here. In the years that followed, my understanding of consent evolved. That in this kind of power dynamic, there can be no real consent. That women in these situations are always victims. That the idea of the willing participant is a lie. And reading these stories now, in horror and gut-wrenched sadness, that this was rape and assault, and nowhere near the imaginary exchange I strangely hoped it was because the reality was and is too much to fathom, and instead wrote them off as “hungry” and willing. I wish I’d known it then. I’m sorry I didn’t know that then.
One person I discussed in this piece was Gretchen Mol. Operating on rumors and whispers that had become understood truths, I included her as one of many discarded by Weinstein. In a guest column in the Hollywood Reporter, Mol addressed these longstanding and career-altering rumors, and says they are untrue, that she was never alone with Weinstein. And while I’m not sure she was specifically calling out my piece, this statement describes it accurately.
The consistent implication was that actresses were eager for the bargain, that we wanted fame and fortune so desperately that we would make this kind of nauseating concession. This is another kind of misogyny, and blame-shifting.
We are raised to distrust women. We are raised not to believe women. We as women don’t even believe ourselves, our own lived experiences. Ronan Farrow’s piece is filled with desperate regrets any woman can identify with. “I tried to get away, but maybe I didn’t try hard enough.” “I felt responsible.” “I am a fucking fool.” It is so ingrained within the fabric of our society and in every cell of our bodies to defaultedly question, because it is more comfortable to believe that this evil has not been inflicted, not even realizing that this means we have chosen a comfort in the idea of the lying female. I’m sickened seeing people steadfast in their victim blaming; I’m sickened by my own history of victim blaming.
Weinstein isn’t alone. He’s far from the only one in the industry, let alone the world. Every survivor who speaks out is a hero.
Believe women. Trust women.