One of Hollywood’s biggest scandals has ignited viral social media threads, as thousands of people share their personal stories of workplace sexual harassment and assault in response to the question, “When did you meet YOUR Harvey Weinstein?”
Among the stories: a radio host trapped in a bathroom by a coworker who tried to get her to touch him inappropriately, the law firm receptionist yelled at by an attorney for fighting off a handsy top client, and the woman whose boss told her she could avoid the company’s layoffs if she’d sleep with him.
‘Too Many to Share’
And many of those posting with the hashtag #MyHarveyWeinstein say they have too many similar experiences to share all of them.
Writer Anne T. Donahue posed the question on Twitter after reading The New York Times’ bombshell piece detailing the stories of numerous women who accuse Weinstein, co-founder of the Weinstein Company film studio, of sexual misconduct over two decades. The Times spoke to dozens of former and current employees of the Weinstein Company who said they knew of inappropriate behavior. The newspaper also spoke to actress Ashley Judd, who said Weinstein invited her to his hotel room for what she assumed was a work-related meeting during the shooting of Kiss the Girls. Wearing a bathrobe, he asked Judd to watch him shower or give him a massage, according to the story. She refused.
Days after the Times’ story, The New Yorker published a piece in which three women accused Weinstein of rape. A spokesperson for Weinstein denied the allegations. The company he co-founded has fired him, and Hollywood A-listers continue to condemn him, with more sharing their similar hotel-room stories.
Why We Share Our Stories
The domino effect of accusations has become a familiar story with high-profile executives or celebrities. As sexual harassment claims surfaced against Fox News chairman Roger Ailes and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and sexual assault charges against comedian Bill Cosby, more women came forward. As the #MyHarveyWeinstein threads show, the news can empower other victims of sexual misconduct, even at the hands of different abusers, to share their stories.
“When one woman breaks the silence, others are empowered to tell their (stories),” Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women-New York, told Self.
Women aren’t the only ones sharing their stories. The social media threads include stories of men being victimized, and actors including Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek have alleged that men in Hollywood mistreated them.
“When one woman breaks the silence, others are empowered to tell their (stories).” -Sonia Ossorio
The Power Differential
Both men and women can experience the power differential that was a dominant theme in the Weinstein scandal — meaning, a person in power can abuse others without repercussions. Thema Bryant-Davis, assistant professor of psychology with Pepperdine University’s online Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology program, told CNN that in the workplace, people with higher status have power over the opportunities and work advancement of those with lower status.
“We see power dynamics in who is given free license to abuse the bodies, time and skills of others without penalty, accountability, or justice,” said Bryant-Davis. “Men and women have been victims and perpetrators of sexual harassment. However, men’s sexual harassment of women has been more pervasive and socially expected and accepted in society.”
Shattering the Silence
That “acceptance” — also called “silence” by many critics — is part of the Hollywood scandal. Weinstein’s alleged behavior was known in the industry, yet he continued to wield his power. But that silence might become taboo. Many celebrities have publicly apologized or acknowledged they should have said something.
Jane Fonda told CNN she first heard of one accusation against Weinstein over a year ago but didn’t say anything because she didn’t feel it was her place. She said she now feels ashamed for not saying anything at the time. She acknowledged it’s happened to her by other men and said it is not uncommon.
“This goes on all the time,” Fonda said. “It’s this male entitlement, in Hollywood and everywhere. In offices and businesses all over the world. In bars and restaurants and stores. Women are assaulted, abused, harassed and seen for just being sexual objects there for a man’s desire, instead of as whole human beings.”
Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep and Mira Sorvino are among the celebrities speaking out about their experiences with harassment in the industry. Gretchen Carlson, who sued former Fox News chief Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, chimed in on the Weinstein scandal in a segment on CBS Sunday Morning.
‘We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore’
“The horrific sexual harassment revelations this past week about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein actually give me hope — that women standing up and saying, ‘we’re not going to take it anymore.’ It’s working,” Carlson said. “As the allegations against Harvey Weinstein remind us, when one woman speaks up, titans fall.”
She also encouraged men to hold their peers accountable and reject the “boys will be boys” excuse.
When we all speak up together, Carlson said, we have the power to change the world.
Tell Us What You Think
When did you meet your Harvey Weinstein? We want to hear your experience. Share with our community on Twitter, or leave your comment below.