I’ve had a few questions about Harvey Weinstein — like, what is his attachment type? Are abusive Lotharios dismissive-avoidant, or what?
If you haven’t read them, here are a few background stories:
“From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories” – The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow
“The Human Stain: Why the Harvey Weinstein Story Is Worse Than You Think” – The Weekly Standard, Lee Smith
Because of his loss of power recently, he is no longer able to shield himself or punish accusers as he did when he was at the center of motion pictures and casting decisions. From Virginia Postrel’s Bloomberg story “Why Weinstein Held On For So Long and Fell So Fast”:
Communism was considered invincible. Then the fall of the Berlin Wall started a domino effect that brought down six Soviet satellites in quick succession, and soon after the Soviet Union itself. Though communism’s failures were widely understood, no one thought it vulnerable to street demonstrations. In East Berlin in 1953, Hungary in 1956, and Czechoslovakia in 1968, it had demonstrated a willingness to crush dissent brutally. Moreover, for decades on end, the members of communist-ruled societies had displayed a remarkable tolerance for tyranny and inefficiency. They remained docile and even outwardly supportive of the status quo.
For all this submissiveness, it turned out that millions had been willing to revolt all along — if enough others would also revolt and they felt sufficiently sure of escaping punishment. But no one knew exactly what needed to happen to set off a successful uprising. In retrospect, all it took was a few thousand demonstrators calling for more freedom and a regime that signaled that it was afraid of overreacting. People standing on the sidelines suddenly found the courage to join in, and the East German revolt started feeding on itself.
Before long, fear changed sides. People who had never criticized communism publicly were now afraid to be caught defending it. Genuine supporters of communism (they, too, numbered in the millions) joined the opposition. They took to pretending to have been falsifying their political preferences out of fear, like their compatriots who had genuinely felt oppressed.
Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace fits the same pattern. Few Hollywood executives have been as powerful as he. His movies have earned hundreds of Oscar nominations. He was both admired and feared as someone who could make or break a career. As a major fundraiser for Democratic Party candidates, he had national political clout. Though he was rumored to be predator of young women, Hollywood insiders and many observers knew that he dealt ruthlessly with anyone who crossed him. Reporters who investigated his behavior found almost no one willing to speak honestly or on the record. Many people who were hurt by Weinstein suffered, we now know, for their own silence. They wanted to go public with their stories all along.
For his behavior to draw public criticism, it was not enough for Weinstein’s behavior to be widely known. Potential complainers needed to know that other victims and witnesses would back them up. They also needed to believe that Weinstein’s supporters or the press would not smear their reputations. It needed to be sufficiently likely that the early movers would be greeted with sympathy rather than condemnation.
A number of accusers are probably exaggerating or confabulating to pile on since a story of your encounter with him is now a net positive for your notice and career. But as with Bill Cosby, the numbers suggest many of the reports are true.
His “production line” for having starlets delivered into private situations so he could pressure them into sex had to have been enabled by helpful staff, agents, and others who could have blown the whistle, including a complicit media who were easily stopped from reporting stories as they came up. Weinstein controlled ad revenues, contacts both professional and political, and knowledge of others useful for blackmail. His participation in the corrupt Clinton-Democratic machine shielded him, as it did Bill Clinton, from the worst attacks by feminists and reporters. It has come out now because their power has waned, and the Clinton Foundation influence-peddling machine is dying.
This kind of methodical abuse is outside the usual attachment type considerations. Weinstein was closer to a psychopath-narcissist, with a special extra dash of sadism — he got off on the power to force beautiful young women to submit to his will, to degrade them with his sperm and get away with shaming them without consequence to himself. His insecurity was expressed differently than on the usual anxious-to-dismissive axis.
But this story shouldn’t produce a witch hunt to criminalize or punish anyone who commits an error in judgment.
If rude and clumsy approaches were crimes, we’d all be in jail (well, almost all.) When I was young and reasonably good-looking, I got hit on a lot in venues that invited that (bars, parties, etc.) It wouldn’t occur to me to think of myself as grievously wronged with the first grope — the offender gets rebuked and avoided, with a wagging finger and “tsk!”
One good example of a misdemeanor offense: one of the incidents being talked about has Philip K Dick’s daughter in a cab with the Amazon Films producer after a party going to another party. He’s aggressive and pushy and profane. So what? She knew there was no danger to her participation, he had clearly overdone the drinking, she immediately reported it, it didn’t happen again. That’s a common event for anyone who goes to mixed drinking/business/social events. Guy was presumably warned.
The workplaces where pressure is constant and one rebuke doesn’t stop the approaches are where the legally actionable stuff happens. Weinstein had a whole system and cooperative employees/agents/staff, quite a different thing from an occasional drunken mistake.
Which is where the neo-Puritan, fragile flowers of femininity problem shows up. You can‘t claim equality and go out in the world and then turn around and claim privilege to never be offended or crudely approached. Men tend to excuse one or even several offenses from their fellow employees before going on the warpath. Woman are being trained to claim a right to success and a right to special treatment beyond what others enjoy. “I am good and strong on a team” does not quite jibe with “Every offense to my dignity should be punished by expulsion of the offender.”
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