Oh, Donna, Donna, Donna, Donna, Donna. Your words were not taken out of context. You spoke them into the camera, the entire gist there for the viewing. People who know you and your career and your four-plus decades of dedication to women’s empowerment find it hard to believe that you meant what you said, but you said it: “You look at everything all over the world today, you know, and how women are dressing and, you know, what they’re asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.”
Your comment implies solidarity with Harvey Weinstein’s “apologetic” view of his sleazebag activities: The culture made him do it. Yes, you released a clarifying statement, but that’s not enough. You’ve got to address this head-on, in conversation. I’d like it to be with WWD and me. But somewhere, with someone. Soon.
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The greater issue, of course, is not about Donna Karan’s strange, out-of-character red-carpet comment. It is about vile behavior tolerated by various subcultures within the greater culture. The culture of power. The culture of sanctimony and hypocrisy that often emanates from Hollywood. The culture of sexual predation in certain circles of power, that views the young, green and ambitious but ultimately powerless — and typically female — as Darwinian prey for disgusting vultures of the Weinstein ilk. (That once outed, Weinstein made oblique reference to the Las Vegas shooting tragedy, saying he would now “channel that anger” into battling the NRA, is all the more rank, an example of callous opportunism.)
Weinstein had no parameters when accosting the young and attractive, not even to stay away from the daughters of well-known entertainment types. Mira Sorvino, Gwyneth Paltrow, Asia Argento and Angelina Jolie have all gone on the record as having endured his harassment. “I had a bad experience with Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” Jolie told The New York Times.
Last week it was the Times’ bombshell article. Now, in his stunning New Yorker piece that came out Tuesday, Ronan Farrow labels Weinstein a rapist, an accusation supported by on-the-record accounts. The bravery of Weinstein’s victims (he doesn’t deserve the term “accusers”): Argento, Lucia Evans, Emma de Caunes and Ambra Battilana Gutierrez is remarkable, their words heartbreaking. De Caunes told Farrow, “It was like a hunter with a wild animal. The fear turns him on.” Argento articulated to Farrow the all-too-familiar emotion of the sexual assault victim blaming herself: “Because if I were a strong woman, I would have kicked him in the balls and run away. But I didn’t. And so I felt responsible.”
Perhaps the most disturbing account is that of Gutierrez, not because Weinstein’s violation of her in March 2015 was worse than those of his other victims, but because this young woman went immediately to the New York Police Department, who bought and were disgusted by her story. She agreed to see Weinstein again, wearing a wire. Despite damaging material in his own words, and that the police believed her prior account, Gutierrez’s case became one of discrediting the victim, and ultimately, Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. declined to press charges. How does he feel about that decision now?
What was it Lorne Michaels said — into a camera — when asked why the most recent “Saturday Night Live” episode made no mention of the Weinstein story? “It’s a New York thing.” Apparently, he meant that the story was too local and thus not fodder for SNL. (Who knew Hollywood is NYC’s sixth borough?) But some took it to mean that “New Yorkers stand together.”
It seems so — not just New Yorkers, but those of like mind who travel in like circles and are in varying degrees of symbiotic professional relationships — and who love to rail against the malfeasance of those whose philosophical and political persuasions conflict with their own. Except for John Oliver, why did it take the late-night comedians, usually so quick with their quips, until Monday night to register this news story? Might they have wanted to weigh public sentiment before going after Weinstein? Once he went for it, Seth Meyers was brilliant, turning the floor over to three women writers on his staff, Amber Ruffin, Ally Hord and Jenny Hagel. Conversely, Jimmy Kimmel recounted his social media spat with Donald Trump Jr., reminding Jr. of Sr.’s disgusting Billy Bush video, in a weird stroke of timing, its release exactly one year ago. It played as defensive, as if Kimmel couldn’t bear to focus only on the Hollywood bigwig.
Similarly, as silence became less of an option, the nonreactions of many of Weinstein’s famous movie-star-power friends became delayed — and in some cases, powerful — admonishments.
Then, there’s the Weinstein Company board. Four days of board action — the resignations of some members; the statement on Weinstein’s leave of absence; his subsequent firing — do not absolve decades of inaction. Which raises the question: What the hell is the role of a corporate board, and how could this board’s members have been so ineffective? There are only two options: They are either complicit or inept. Either way, Rose McGowan nailed it. They should all go, brother Bob included.
Weinstein’s 30-year run of lechery is now over. A predator in plain sight has finally been cut off from a population of seemingly endless potential victims. (Or so one hopes, despite widespread “creative community” support for Roman Polanski and Woody Allen.) How many actual victims did it take?
Many entrenched Hollywood-ites say Weinstein is just the beginning, that predatory behavior engaged in by powerful men against young women is as standard in Los Angeles as early dinners and driving five blocks. While such behavior isn’t exclusive to the entertainment industry, its prevalence there is likely intensified by the reality of older male power brokers dealing with women embarking on careers at a very young age, careers in which looks play a central role. That balance of power — there isn’t one.
One balance of power is shifting. I talked about the Weinstein fallout with my daughter, an aspiring screenwriter. She noted that while Hollywood remains a bastion of male control, more and more women are assuming authoritative roles off-camera as producers and directors, women like Shonda Rhimes, Tina Fey, Reese Witherspoon, Ava DuVernay.
As that continues to happen, perhaps the industry’s predatory pigs will finally be forced into their rightful place — fossilized in history as the dinosaurs they are. Extinction can’t come soon enough.