When Jodi Kantor from the New York Times phoned me a month ago she uttered a sentence I won’t ever forget: “Sexual harassment is having a moment.”
The publication of my satirical novel, ‘The Twins of TriBeCa,’ which tells the the story of a young woman working in the publicity department at a downtown New York City indie film studio run by two warring brothers, cemented my reputation as a Weinsteinologist. Since then a numbers of journalists have gotten in touch and each asked the same question: Was I aware of any sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein during my time at Miramax Films?
Jodi was the most recent one to ask, and unlike those before her, she posed extremely detailed questions about specific people, times and locations. I told her what I had told all the others―that I knew absolutely nothing. In my four years at the company, where I started in the publicity department in 1993, and in the 20 years since I left, I have not heard a word, not even a whisper, about Harvey sexually abusing or harassing any actors, assistants, or anyone else.
Like many of my colleagues, I’d witnessed and been on the receiving end of plenty of shouting, screaming and belittling. This behavior, which included things being thrown, made you want to hide under your desk and cry―but I never witnessed or saw any sexual harassment.
Since Jodi and Megan Twohey’s watershed story broke on October 5, dozens of women have come forward to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. Famous women, former employees of Miramax and The Weinstein Company and women who crossed paths with Harvey at some point in the last 30 years. They have nearly-identical accounts: a hotel suite, a bathrobe, a plea for a massage, nudity and the possibility of a great reward―a role, a screen test, a contract, a job.
When I first read the story, I expected to feel some outrage, some sadness, or at least some schadenfreude. I was not treated well, or fairly, in my time at Miramax. But my only emotion has been crushing disappointment at the length of time that it has taken for these allegations to surface and the sheer fame, wealth and power of the many men and women who aided and abetted Harvey Weinstein’s behavior for years, upon years, upon years.
While the media focuses on the none too aesthetically pleasing image of a naked Harvey Weinstein lunging across a hotel room at a hopeful young ingénue, we must not forget the everyday sexual harassment endured by women who must acquiesce to their abusers in order to feed children, to pay rent and to survive. Many work for minimum wage, and they don’t date Brad Pitt, marry him or get decapitated on screen in a cat door. They will never, jokingly or not, tell their boss that he can only touch them after they win an Oscar.
Women like Jamie Wells, an intellectually disabled woman who successfully sued Walmart for allowing a co-worker to sexually harass her for years and was initially fired after making her complaint.
Or Louise Ogborn, an 18-year-old working after school at McDonald’s, whose boss forced her to endure a strip search and sexual assault by her fiancé.
The six women who were fondled, and racially disparaged by their manager at a Ralph’s grocery store in Escondido.
Or the 80 percent of women working for tips in restaurants, who report that they have endured sexual harassment on the job. Before “gratuities” they earn $2.13 per hour.
Let’s let their bravery inspire us, and move us to promise that when faced with sexual abuse or harassment, directly or indirectly, we will stand up, speak out and not let it continue. We must smash the mantra and render it meaningless.
Sexual harassment is having a moment. We must make this moment last.