When the average person looks at the Hollywood film industry, celebrity, parties and even sex are often seen as just part of the lifestyle. But a recent Hollywood sexual harassment scandal is showing that when it comes to movie mogul Harvey Wienstein, much of that sexual energy was non-consensual. News reports show the scandal has spanned over 20 years and include some of the industry’s most famous actresses.
In this blog post I will review the New York Times investigation into sexual harassment claims against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. I will address how the news spread to Twitter and other social media outlets in the form of the #MeToo movement. And I will explain how the victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment can get help from employment discrimination attorneys.
Harvey Weinstein and the 20-Year-Old Hollywood Sexual Harassment Scandal
On October 5, 2017, the New York Times released its investigative report “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades”. The report by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey uncovered how Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had been sexually harassing women in his industry for more than two decades. The story was told by now-famous famous actresses, including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie, as well as assistants like Lauren O’Connor and interns and temporary employees like Emily Nestor.
Several women described how Weinstein would invite them to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel on the pretext of a business meeting. When they arrived, they would be greeted by Weinstein, nude, or nearly so, who asked them to do everything from give him massages to watch him shower. He would promise to bolster their careers and help them make it in a highly competitive industry. Judd told the New York Times she remembered thinking:
How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?
The problem was that Mr. Weinstein was such a powerful player in the Hollywood film industry. His films won Oscars, his company was flourishing, and he had a business reputation as a “liberal lion”. But behind closed doors, women in the industry, even his own advisor, described him more like a “old dinosaur” caught up in the ways of the past. And that included a lengthy pattern of sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment Awareness Hits Social Media in the #MeToo Movement
When the Hollywood sexual harassment scandal went public, it got far more attention than other recent allegations within the tech industry or among California venture capitalists. Because of the celebrity names involved, the matter quickly caught fire on social media in the form of a hashtag: #MeToo.
The “Me Too” movement was started by Tanara Burke, a public speaker and community organizer in New York. It was intended to “support and amplify the voices of survivors of sexual violence, assault, and abuse.” But the movement hadn’t gained much traction until Actress Alyssa Milano responded to the Weinstein Hollywood sexual harassment scandal by giving the movement a Twitter hashtag on October 15.
Within 24 hours, more than 1 million tweets and 12 million Facebook posts had flooded social media, including everyone from Lady Gaga, to Anna Paquin, and even Senator Elizabeth Warren. The social media storm threw light on just how prevalent sexual harassment is in the movie industry, and across the country. Nationwide, women, and some men, came out with their own stories of abuse, violence, and gender discrimination.
Going Beyond Awareness to Help Sexual Harassment Victims
This was not the first time Harvey Weinstein had been the center of sexual harassment allegations. In fact, his company is reported to have settled at least eight sexual harassment and assault complaints dating back to 1990. However, each settlement brought with it a confidentiality agreement that prevented Weinstein’s victims from speaking up in favor of more systemic changes.
A toxic culture in a business or industry doesn’t change overnight. Since the New York Times article and the #MeToo movement, Weinstein has been fired from his company and removed from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the organization that gives out the Oscars). But even if Weinstein’s career is over, the #MeToo movement shows that the problem of sexual harassment and assault is far larger, and more pervasive.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of a social media movement like this is that it empowers more sexual harassment victims to seek out help. Whether in the Hollywood movie industry or in a blue-collar factory job, every employee has the right to be free from gender discrimination and sexual harassment. When the owner of a company, manager, supervisor, or coworker crosses the line, an employment discrimination attorney can help set things right. Using state and federal laws that protect workers, sexual harassment attorneys can negotiate changes in the workplace, and sue to recover lost wages and other damages that are the result of the employer’s bad behavior.
The women (and men) of the #MeToo movement don’t have to feel like there is nothing they can do. At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, we have sexual harassment attorneys ready to help them fight back against abuse at work. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or gender discrimination, we will meet with you and develop a strategy to get you back to a comfortable working environment. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.