The actor is facing backlash for revealing the verbal abuse she received from the disgraced producer. But she was right to share it.
On 5 October 2001, Kate Beckinsale attended the premiere of her romantic comedy Serendipity. She didn’t want to – the 9/11 attacks had only happened a few weeks before the event and the city was still covered in ash in the aftermath.
“But Harvey insisted,” Beckinsale recalled in an Instagram post today. Harvey Weinstein, then a studio mogul – and now convicted sexual offender sentenced to 23 years in prison – was the man behind Serendipity, and he forced his cast to attend the event. “[It] felt like the most insensitive, tone deaf, disrespectful idea possible,” Beckinsale wrote. “We flew into New York and somehow got through it.” Beckinsale wore a white tuxedo and tie.
The next day, she continued in her Instagram post, Weinstein invited her and her toddler daughter for a playdate. When they got there, and after the children had been taken by a nanny, Weinstein immediately berated Beckinsale with abuse.
“You stupid fucking c**t,” Weinstein screamed at her. “You c**t, you ruined my premiere… If I am throwing a red carpet you get in a tight dress, you shake your ass, you shake your tits, you do not go down it looking like a fucking lesbian you stupid fuckin c**t.”
Beckinsale, who shared this story after Weinstein’s 23-year jail sentence for third degree rape and first degree criminal sexual act on 11 March 2020, recalled that she began to shake. “The shock made me burst into tears,” she said. She told Weinstein that “people are still looking for their relatives none of us even felt the premiere was appropriate much less coming out dressed like it’s a bachelor party”.
But Weinstein would hear no objections. “I don’t care,” he told her. “It’s my fucking premiere and if I want pussy on the red carpet that’s what I get.”
Beckinsale wanted to tell her story to remind everyone that Weinstein’s abuse spread far beyond the remit of the crimes for which he has been convicted and rightly punished.
“Hearing that he has gone to prison for 23 years is a huge relief to me on behalf of all the women he sexually assaulted or raped, and I hope will be a deterrent to that sort of behaviour in this and any other industry,” Beckinsale said.
“Having said that, the crimes that are not crimes, the inhumane bullying and sick covert abuse for which there is still no recourse no matter who you tell (and I did tell), these too need to go,” she continued. “I hope and pray that we as an industry can start to actually outlaw all abuses of power and expose them and eliminate them, for all genders, forever.”
Beckinsale’s story is terrifying: a window into an industry that as recently as 2017 – which was when the #MeToo movement kicked off and the New York Times published its first article exposing Weinstein as a serial sexual predator – was peopled with abusive men in positions of power.
Her experience, as she noted, was not criminal. She is not one of the 15 women who have accused Weinstein of rape. (A further 94 women have said that Weinstein either sexually harassed them or was inappropriate towards them and Beckinsale is one of that number. The list also includes Lupita Nyong’o, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Delevingne and Angelina Jolie, among many others.)
And yet her story is important. It matters that she shared it. It speaks to widespread abuse that goes beyond the physical. It tells of an industry that treated its female employees as the property of men in power. But the comment section on her Instagram post is flooded with victim-blaming responses.
“Too little, too late,” one person responded. (“Cheers,” Beckinsale responded.) Another said: “Interesting story, but why talk of it now? Sympathy?” Added another: “And you only decide to go public with this now? Was it about your career and the money?” One commenter said: “As a woman I see your behaviour as enabling him… Sorry. It’s awful what you suffered but why wait all this time to make public statement.”
Beckinsale has responded to almost all of the negative comments with the same, measured answer. No, she’s not looking for sympathy; there’s more to Weinstein’s abuse than the crimes for which he will serve real, serious jail time for; telling stories like this is the only way that Hollywood will change, and the industry has to change the way it treats its employees.
“Putting one man away for his crimes actually does not address the insidious, toxic bullying particularly of women that still goes on and because it is not technically a felony but just a nebulous unpleasant thing, will not be putting anyone in court,” Beckinsale explained to one of the commenters. “Those people need to be worrying too. Not just saying ‘welllllll I didn’t RAPE anyone so I’ll just carry on as I am.’”
And yet the victim-blaming rhetoric kept coming. Beckinsale has received a number of comments accusing her of being complicit in allowing Weinstein’s abuse to continue. This, even though Beckinsale has said that she did tell people about what she had experienced. This, even though we know that women who report abuse and assault are often not believed by those they tell. This, even though it wasn’t until after the #MeToo movement that people started to listen to actors when they shared their experiences.
“It does not become my fault or my choice,” Beckinsale responded to one. “There is rampant abuse in many industries. The answer is not for the abused to leave it is to try and remain safe and make sure ultimately it’s the abusers who leave.”
Maybe you’re shocked that in the hours after Weinstein’s 23-year jail sentence was announced a woman was being attacked online for sharing a story of that man’s abuse.
To us, though, it proves that even with a 23-year jail sentence and the confirmation that one of Hollywood’s most famous filmmakers is a convicted sexual offender, there is still a long way to go when it comes to the simple act of believing women.