In the month or so since the story about the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein first broke, a tidal wave of allegations of rape and sexual abuse has been unleashed across the entertainment industry and beyond. Meanwhile, reports of past sexual misconduct by actors Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Charlie Sheen, comedian Louis CK, director Brett Ratner and others in Hollywood are being added on an almost daily basis.
The proverbial floodgates have well and truly opened. But will it force a lasting change?
In the short term possibly, but it the long term I’m not so sure.
Why do I say this? Because a similar takedown of some of the sleazebags in the fashion industry in London, Paris and Milan in the late 1990’s happened when the BBC aired a huge expose.
Like many in the fashion and film industry I had experienced some horrible incidents and bad and precarious situations over the course of my career. The worst occasion was when I was a naïve 20-year-old.
I was one of the models at the time who secretly gave the BBC information about the goings on that led to the undercover expose about the industry. It was a huge story that generated lots of headlines. People were named, shamed and fired. It literally dismantled some of the fashion industry…for a time.
Tragically, only a few years later, many of those same predators were back in the industry, in positions of power, denying wrongdoing and covering up the truth.
Like many in the fashion and film industry I had experienced some horrible incidents and bad and precarious situations over the course of my career. The worst occasion was when I was a naïve 20-year-old. I was drugged and seriously molested by a now deceased Hollywood producer I had met.
Thankfully I wasn’t actually raped, but I was traumatized by what had happened. I felt shame that I’d allowed him to convince me to come to his home in the first place, under the guise of: “I can help you with your career.”
Upon hearing my ordeal, my agent at the time merely told me to just, “Stay at home and take the day off.” That was and has been the norm: Shrug it off and move on.
Hollywood and the fashion industry aren’t alone in this either. This whole sordid scenario has been going on long before the beginnings of Hollywood or fashion houses. Powerful men (and occasionally women) have often seduced the young and powerless with promises of power, fame and riches. This was rife even in ancient Roman times.
When an individual acquires huge wealth and the power to change people’s lives, depravity often ensues. Power corrupts.
Powerful people can and do become egomaniacal monsters. They believe they are above morality, decency and the law. It’s a very different “anything goes” world they live in, and I’ve seen that world up close.
There are sexual predators in just about every profession also. There are lots of Harveys. The world is full of Harveys.
And let’s be honest. Some people willingly provide sexual favors to move themselves up the ranks. They believe they will benefit by buying into and supporting “the game.” Some young actresses in Hollywood are quite literally “passed around the studios” with the understanding being that trading sex for career advancement is just the way things work.
Will these women and men that “obliged” now talk about how it brought them career and financial success? Not likely. They knew what they were doing and what they wanted.
I was never comfortable playing that game. I knew I couldn’t look myself in the mirror the hypothetical morning after.
Why do certain individuals use their power and influence to entice, seduce and even rape to keep control? Why do others support them? The truth is humanity tends to glorify fame, wealth, and ultimate power. It’s a coveted thing.
So, make no mistake, although these recent revelations of sexual abuse and harassment may be news to average Americans, much of Hollywood already knew about it.
Those in the entertainment industry who claimed ignorance are, frankly, being disingenuous. They’ve known about this behavior for years, but did nothing because they were more concerned with protecting their careers and their peers.
But who should we be more disgusted with? The Harvey Weinsteins of this world? Or the people surrounding them, who knew what was happening, but continued to work with sexual predators and look the other way?
I say both. By their silence, the enablers – or the “yes men” as I like to call them – kept the sexual predators in positions of power where they shouldn’t have been allowed to remain.
Right now, I am thrilled that a growing number of sexual predators are being outed. It’s about time. Hopefully other predators out there will feel far more uncomfortable and afraid, knowing that some of their own are catching serious heat. Maybe it will give them and their enablers pause to take a big, fat, morality check.
However, the realist in me predicts that the furor and media attention focused on sexual misconduct will eventually die down and it will sadly go back to business as usual, with all that entails. It happened in the fashion industry in the 1990’s as I explained, why would now bring a different result?
As long as we continue to glorify the famous, the wealthy and the powerful, their behavior and the behavior of their enablers complicit in the game will continue.
Humanity has a lot more evolving to do.