“When I grow up, I want to be rich and powerful. A chick magnet. That’s what chicks want. They’ll all want to go to bed with me.”
This is the general attitude most men grow up with. When I was a teen, having a car was the quickest way to getting a girl. We referred to it as having a 4-wheeled personality. No doubt Harvey Weinstein, born in Queens not far from the Bronx where I was born, grew up with this attitude about money, power, and women.
Not much has changed in this regard over the past 50-plus years. Sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence are integral to our society. They are symptoms of the much larger issues of sexism, racism, and gender inequality that are endemic in the U. S. and around the world.
To understand the Harvey Weinstein phenomenon, one must take a historical perspective on men, money, and power, a perspective that spans centuries. He is only the most recent; there are countless other Harveys out there.
For thousands of years men have identified with power. The man with the most money, land, and possessions, was the most powerful. Women were viewed as breeders, chattel and objects for a man’s pleasure, nothing more. Men could buy a wife and were even paid through a dowry to accept a bride. Women were simply to serve men. They could be beaten, raped, and sold.
It wasn’t until the early part of the 20th century that women’s suffrage was achieved. Men were in control of every aspect of our society. All the important jobs belonged to men. Even a homely man could, if he had enough money, have an extremely attractive woman.
Men learned that through money and power they could attract women. One of the perks of power and money, is women. Women faun over men with power. They were trained to believe that the only way to get to a man is through sexuality and to ingratiate themselves.
It wasn’t until quite recently that domestic violence was considered a crime. Beating a wife was normal and in some cultures and countries it still is, and is even legal.
Even today proving rape has been difficult as the woman is often considered at fault.
We have inequity in positions of power, salary, and wealth. The economy is dominated by men. The glass ceiling exists. Men are the power brokers.
Harvey Weinstein is a product of this history. The legacy of Hollywood continues to be the proverbial “casting couch”. Women got parts through their sexual favors. It is common to hear, “she slept her way to the top.”
In this context, why shouldn’t Harvey Weinstein have believed that he was entitled to grope, seduce, and bed women. The current U. S. president, in his “locker room” tape, said the same. It is part of the culture. The celebrity list of abusers is long: O’Reily, Cosby, Clinton, Polanski, Tyson, to name but a few.
If we are serious about change, we must change our attitudes about money and power; and about women. Women are not one of the perks of financial success. We must remove the glass ceiling. We must change the gender inequity. We must put all men on notice that if you engage in sexual behavior with a subordinate you will lose your job.
And most importantly, we must remove the fear that surrounds women. Women must find and use their voice without fear of reprisals. You cannot tell a woman to speak up about her boss’ inappropriate behavior when she fears losing her job. Women (and men in similar situations) who speak up must be assured that their financial security will not be in jeopardy.
Similar to combating disease, we have to attack the cause, develop prevention strategies, and heal the symptom. Unfortunately, it is easier to focus on the symptom, but unless we understand the epidemiology, causes, and prevention, we will continue to produce the Weinsteins et al.