With decades of allegations of sexual harassment and assault coming to light in the last few days, famed Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein has been fired from his own company.
Now Girls creator Lena Dunham has given her take on the situation, highlighting an important point about those who experience sexual abuse.
The story blew up following an article in The New York Times on 5 October detailing various allegations from both actors and those who worked with him in other capacities. Weinstein is said to have reached private settlements with several women, including actor Rose McGowan, involving confidentiality clauses precluding them from going public with the details.
“Not only was the report horrifying, it made it clear how hard it is to come forward and the complicity of so many,” Dunham posted on Instagram. “Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident.
“This needs to end, and it’s high time Hollywood shone a light on itself and made real changes in the behaviour we accept from those in power.”
Many defending those accused of sexual harassment, assault or abuse cite how long it can take for the survivor to speak up, believing any delay discredits their account of events.
However, as Dunham’s post points out, it can be particularly hard in situations where there is an imbalanced relationship of power and a culture of complicity, not to mention the wider issue of the false rape myth and the inherent patriarchal favouring of men.
A Twitter hashtag was created shortly after the report’s publication, with women detailing their experiences with their own ‘Weinsteins’.
Dunham also wrote on Twitter: “Easy to think Weinstein company took swift action but this has actually been the slowest action because they always, always knew.”
Sexism and the ‘casting couch’ has long been a problem in Hollywood, from actors speaking out on disturbing experiences in auditions and on film sets, to the director of Last Tango in Paris admitting that he and star Marlon Brando conspired to assault Maria Schneider on camera in pursuit of realistic “rage and humiliation”.
While some in the industry have been criticised for thus far remaining silent on the issue, many others took to Twitter to express solidarity with the women who have spoken out, including Ashley Judd, who told the paper that Weinstein had asked “if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower”.
Alleged advances often followed a pattern, according to the report, of women being invited to meet Weinstein at a hotel on the pretext of a work meeting, and many say his behaviour was such an open secret that women would attend meetings in pairs or advise their peers to wear thick clothing.
His accusers say he asked for sexual favours in return for a foothold in the film industry, and demanded massages and for them to watch him bathe.
Though his former lawyer, Lisa Bloom, Weinstein said he denies many of the allegations, though said he was working with therapists and planning a leave of absence. Comparing himself to Jay-Z in a statement, he added: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologise for it.
“Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”
Bloom called Weinstein “an old dinosaur learning new ways” and said she’d explained to him that “due to the power difference between a major studio head like him and most others in the industry, whatever his motives, some of his words and behaviours can be perceived as inappropriate, even intimidating.”
However, he has since been fired from The Weinstein Company and Bloom has stepped down as his advisor.
Image: Rex Features