What we can learn from Harvey Weinstein

Our culture consumes celebrity gossip like drunk pizza at 3 a.m.—satisfying, gluttonous and completely forgotten about the next day. When sexual assault allegations began raining down on film producer Harvey Weinstein earlier this month, news outlets were quick to cover the story. Dozens of women relayed their stories of sexual assault and harassment by the serial-rapist-slash-film-mogul. Yet despite the explosion of media coverage of Harvey’s crimes against women, Weinstein’s fall from grace will probably be a short one. His well-padded rear will slip past the prison industrial complex funnel and will instead land on a cushy pile of lawyers, connections and crisp dollar bills. Hope you don’t get a paper cut on your criminal ass, Harv!

As was the case with Donald Trump—remember him?—powerful white men are rarely held accountable for their actions, especially when those actions are crimes against women. Yes, Harvey will lose some of his film awards. His company will sever ties with him. His wife has already announced her plans to leave him (you go, Georgina!). But will he ever go to prison? Doubtful. Will he lose the millions and millions of dollars stashed in his bank accounts? Probably not.

We have seen this same story happen over and over again. Powerful man is accused of sexual assault. Powerful man makes some sob story plea, or dismisses the claims as defamation and manages to stave off his trial until the world forgets about his crimes. Donald Trump, accused of sexual harassment by many women, was only brought to court on one charge, a defamation lawsuit by Summer Zavos. The lawsuit remains in court, working around Trump’s schedule so he can play at world leader in between spray tan appointments. Bill Cosby’s prosecution—for drugging and raping women over the span of decades—ended in a mistrial, and will probably continue to flounder in court until Cosby bites the dust.

Although Harvey might win out against the judicial system, the allegations still mean something. Weinstein spent years hushing up his victims, either through bribes, verbal intimidations or threats of ruining their careers. It is incredible that the 70 plus women who have spoken out against Harvey and detailed his harassment and assault were able to do so. The consequences that have already befallen Harvey as a result are nothing to sneeze at. His reputation has been demolished and his family life has been shattered. Although I, for one, am hoping for a harsh verdict (an eye for an eye seems vengefully applicable here), it is even more important that we as a culture learn from Harvey’s decades of sexual predation.

Nobody should have to endure what Weinstein’s victims endured—not for a movie role, a career opportunity or any amount of money. This may seem obvious, but it is not. The nearly eighty women who were scared or manipulated into silence (plus however many more are still too frightened to come forward) were unable to tell their stories out of fear for themselves and their careers. The unanimous cultural backlash against Harvey Weinstein will hopefully teach a generation of women that no sexual assault is ever warranted for any reason and I can only hope that his court verdict shows a generation of men the consequences of sexual assault.