Thanks to Harvey Weinstein, the past several months have caused Hollywood to talk openly about sexual misconduct against women by powerful men. Despite the great number of women who opened up about being sexually harassed by Weinstein, no legal action has yet been taken against him.
Weinstein, a Hollywood film producer, is the reason why Hollywood celebrities have become so outspoken about sexual harassment. In October 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker reported that more than a dozen women accused Weinstein of sexually harassing, assaulting, or raping them. A lot of these women who spoke out were influential, including actresses such as Ashley Judd and Angelina Jolie. The viral #metoo hashtag on social media platforms was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano to encourage women all over the world to unite and speak out against sexual harassment. Emma Brockes from the Guardian wrote an interesting piece about how Weinstein’s scandal has united feminists all over the world.
As more and more sexual assault allegations have been coming out in particular involving Hollywood actors, it makes me wonder if this ripple effect will actually solve the root cause of this issue. I am not entirely sure what the root cause is, but I believe powerful men being treated as if they are above the law is a start. I’m not suggesting that women should not speak out. My concern is what is being done to make sure that the law is enforced against men in powerful positions. Weinstein is walking free and no one seems to care that he hasn’t been prosecuted yet. One may argue that these allegations are from way back, but I will say a crime remains a crime no matter when it was reported. If it was a murder case and the culprit was discovered 30 years later, it doesn’t change the fact that a murder was committed. If powerful men are not prosecuted when they commit any crime, does that mean they are above the law? Even worse, if they don't face any real consequences for what they have done, what will stop them from repeating the same crimes?
When powerful men are able to “get away” with sexual harassment with no legal penalty by using settlement claims, does that not decriminalize sexual assault? What is even more disturbing is that most people seem to have overlooked that Weinstein’s tendencies when it came to women were an open Hollywood secret for over three decades and no one said anything. Despite the severe penalties of sex crimes in Los Angeles, no legal action has been enforced in light of Weinstein’s allegations. My concern is why? When powerful men like Bill O’Reilly are able to settle sexual harassment claims with amounts such as $32 million dollars, what can be said about the women who filed the allegations in the first place? It makes it seem as if women only want money and don’t care about justice. What’s even more disturbing about O’Reilly’s story is that Fox News went on to renew his contract, knowing full well his reputation was tarnished.
I strongly believe that women should continue to speak out against sexual misconduct. However, I think, if we are not careful, this serious issue can be turned into a show by Hollywood, especially when there are no visible legal actions being taken. The law should be enforced and powerful men should not be exempt. In fact, I think in cases like this, it should be illegal for them to use settlement claims to close these legal cases. They need to be tried in court and sent to prison if found guilty, because they are criminals. If the law itself fails to protect women, then who will?