As more and more Hollywood stars publicly condemn the alleged sexually predatory behaviour of producer Harvey Weinstein, many are asking how, if true, such an abuse of power could have gone on for so many years seemingly without consequence.
And actor Rose McGowan, one of the women mentioned in the original The New York Times report as having reached a private settlement with Weinstein, is now calling on the men of Hollywood to speak up.
McGowan has been vocal about sexism and sexual assault in the industry, including discussing her own rape by a studio executive in order to highlight one of the many reasons women don’t report being attacked.
With Weinstein having been sacked by his own company, The Weinstein Company, McGowan is now calling for the entire board to stand down, as well as describing any high-profile men who stood by as “weak and scared”.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, former Charmed star McGowan had a simple but powerful message.
“I’m calling on the board to resign effective immediately. And for other men to stop other men when they are being disgusting.”
She added that “men in Hollywood need to change ASAP.
“Hollywood’s power is dying because society has changed and grown, and yet Hollywood male behavior has not. It is so not a good look […] The men of Hollywood need to know they own no woman. The days of Entourage-like behaviour and thinking is as dated as your largely bro nature.”
McGowan also addressed the women of Hollywood, asking them to “stand for women. Stand for truth. Stop hurting us. Rise.”
The original report from The New York Times named McGowan as one of the women who had settled with Weinstein out of court, having reached an agreement over an incident in 1997. The report states that Weinstein’s team made it clear in legal documents that the $100,000 (approximately £76,000) payment was not an admission of guilt, but to “buy peace” and avoid a legal battle.
The actor has been vocal on Twitter since the story broke, praising her fellow actors for publicly condemning Weinstein, but also naming some for not doing do.
In a tweet posted 9 October, she wrote, “Hey @mattdamon what's it like to be a spineless profiteer who stays silent?” alongside a message naming the board members she believes should resign. She then tweeted: “Ben Affleck Casey Affleck, how’s your morning boys?”
The report cites the founder of The Wrap, journalist Sharon Waxman, who claims that she worked on an exposé about Weinstein in 2004 that was also destined for The New York Times, but “never ran”. The story was hooked around the head of Miramax Italy, Fabrizio Lombardo, whom sources had told her was employed not for his film experience, but to “take care of Weinstein’s women needs, among other things.”
“After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted,” she writes, adding that the Miramax mogul was an advertiser with the paper.
The Times’ current executive editor Dean Baquet responded to the claims, saying that while he was not working there in 2004, “it is unimaginable to me that The Times killed a story because of pressure from Harvey Weinstein, who was and is an advertiser.”
Baquet goes on to say that Waxman’s report didn’t sound like it had enough on-record accounts to be worthy of publication, saying it “did not have anything near what was revealed in our [recent] story. Mainly, she had an off-the-record account from one woman.”
Waxman says a version of her story ran, but “stripped of any reference to sexual favours or coercion and buried on the inside of the Culture section, an obscure story about Miramax firing an Italian executive.”
Two more women have detailed alleged incidents with Weinstein since the report was published, including actor Romola Garai, who said she felt “violated” after having to visit Weinstein to be “personally approved” by him for a film.
Garai told The Guardian she was 18 when a meeting turned out to be in the producer’s hotel room, where he answered the door “in his bathrobe”.
“The transaction was just that I was there […] The point was that he could get a young woman to do that, that I didn’t have a choice, that it was humiliating for me and that he had the power. It was an abuse of power.”
A TV reporter who says Weinstein “cornered” her before masturbating and ejaculating in front of her at a restaurant has discussed why she didn’t tell anyone for a decade, saying: “He was a titan in Hollywood, he could ruin people’s careers if he didn’t like you.”
Lauren Sivan, then a local news anchor, had previously told huffingtonpost.com that Weinstein had insisted on showing her the restaurant’s kitchen after closing time, where he dismissed two members of staff and attempted to kiss her. When she refused, she says Weinstein told her “Well, can you just stand there and shut up” before masturbating.
Meanwhile, more celebrities, many of whom have worked with Weinstein or his company, have distanced themselves from the producer and applauded the women who have gone on-record.
George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, Julianne Moore and Kevin Smith have all denounced the alleged behaviour, while Glenn Close released a powerful statement in which she stated she felt “darkly sad”.
“I’m sitting here, deeply upset, acknowledging to myself that, yes, for many years, I have been aware of the vague rumors that Harvey Weinstein had a pattern of behaving inappropriately around women. Harvey has always been decent to me, but now that the rumours are being substantiated, I feel angry and darkly sad.
“I’m angry, not just at him and the conspiracy of silence around his actions, but also that the ‘casting couch’ phenomenon, so to speak, is still a reality in our business and in the world: the horrible pressure, the awful expectation put on a woman when a powerful, egotistical, entitled bully expects sexual favors in exchange for a job.”
Close goes on to “applaud the monumental courage of the women who have spoken up”, citing how the male bias in Hollywood means women are more vulnerable to exploitation and calling for the industry to “unite”.
“No one should be coerced into trading personal dignity for professional success. I feel the time is long and tragically overdue for all of us in the industry, women and men, to unite – calmly and dispassionately – and create a new culture of respect, equality and empowerment, where bullies and their enablers are no longer allowed to prosper.”
Designer Donna Karan, meanwhile, has come under fire for defending Weinstein. According to The Daily Mail, the fashion designer questioned whether women were “asking for it”.
“I think we have to look at ourselves,” she said. “Obviously, the treatment of women all over the world is something that has always had to be identified.
“Certainly in the country of Haiti where I work, in Africa, in the developing world, it's been a hard time for women. To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women?
“What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?”
She has since said she is “truly sorry” and that her words were “taken out of context and do not represent how I feel about the current situation concerning Harvey Weinstein”.
Image: Rex Features