Or, do women have a right to sleep their way to the top?
Everyone’s heard about the Harvey Weinstein scandal by now. He pressured women who wanted to get ahead in Hollywood, not only actresses but assistants, writers, producers, even reporters, to provide sexual favors for him, or to watch him perform sexual favors for himself. This was ostensibly in exchange for help with their careers in some way or just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ll skip the gory details, I think most of us have heard or read about it by now. It’s seamy, seedy, skeevy, sleazy, sordid. The kind of thing you read and your eyeballs long for tiny shower stalls they can huddle in for a while afterwards.
We’ve heard from some of the victims now, and we’ve all clucked our collective tongues and expressed the proper sentiments regarding how terrible it all is. But I find myself not particularly interested in the victims that have come forward, the ones who said no and fled as quickly as they could. I find myself more intrigued by the women who did it. Because if this was happening, if Weinstein was letting his freak flag fly as proudly as it sounds like, I suspect that a not-small group of women went for it. It’s a risk-benefit analysis; pretty big risk for the guy to take over and over if it never paid off for him. It had to have paid off for him at least sometimes.
I have read a few sentiments expressed along the lines of “If these women got their Hollywood success that way, they should have to give back their money and awards just like Lance Armstrong”. And you know what, fuck off. Lance Armstrong was breaking the rules of his sport and possibly the law (I don’t care about it enough to Google it) whereas these women were playing by the rules of Hollywood. Do you doubt that?? I don’t. Silently tolerating sexual harassment and even assault IS one of the rules of Hollywood. Come on, we know the score, we know all about the casting couch, and these women played by the rules of the game. They made a choice, and maybe it was a choice they would have preferred not to make in an ideal world, but they made it, and maybe they secretly stand by it. Maybe they’re at peace with it. Maybe they’re even happy that they made it. Maybe that choice was not the choice others made, and maybe it’s not what you personally would have done, but it was their choice to make.
I’m gonna make a confession here. If the only thing standing between me and getting my scripts produced was watching Harvey Weinstein take a shower and rub one out, I’m not totally sure I’d walk out. In fact, I’m all but totally sure I wouldn’t. Hell, last week my dentist told me that I need a $1300 crown and if he had made me an offer I’m not even sure I would have turned that down. There were a couple of potted plants in the room and I was in a good mood that day. Who knows?
A lot of people like to get on their high horse and forget what being poor is like. What wanting something really, really badly is like. Take it from someone who has had to chisel frozen dog crap out of the snow for years, plural, to accomplish a goal that I desperately wanted to achieve, it’s easy to say all the things you would never, ever do in a million years when you’re happy and successful already. But until you’ve been hungry and/or desperate, you don’t know what you’d do to get out of that and to make your dream come true.
Now, Ashley Judd, I completely believe that something awful happened to her 20 years ago just like she says, and that it took a lot of gumption for her to walk out of there. Good for her. But her family was already rich, remember? She already had connections. She was also 29 years old, give or take, she’d been working in Hollywood for some time, and was not a young ingenue the way she’s being painted. My complaint is, people applauding her bravery – as they should, bravo, Ashley – while simultaneously whispering things under their breath about the women who may have gone another way. Many of these women were not in the position of relative strength that Ashley Judd was. Some were undoubtedly desperate and struggling and wanted to realize their dreams and they felt that they needed Weinstein’s help to get ahead. These women deserve NO censure. They are as brave as those who have come forward. Perhaps braver.
Weinstein may be a vile person, in fact I can state definitively that he is. Hollywood may be a cesspool that needs to be razed and rebuilt (I have a bulldozer, if anyone wants to borrow it). But it is NOT a woman’s fault when she tries to take control of her own destiny in a terrible situation not of her creation, even it when it means she may have to make some compromises with her own personal sense of integrity. Ever. It doesn’t make her a coward or weak. It is gross and wrong to raise a judgmental brow at the women who went for it and all too easy to sit at your computer 2000 miles away and declare that you’d never do the same.
Whether you like it or not, women’s bodies are a commodity. Especially in Hollywood. Seriously, the whole damn place is about commodifying the human body. I have an inkling that most of the women who go to Hollywood know this going in and have already made their peace with that. If a woman chooses to trade on her body, or if she feels or felt at any time in the past that she had to, to get ahead, I refuse to slut shame her. Her body is hers to use as she sees fit. I refuse to paint her as “less brave” than someone who made a different decision in the same shitty set of circumstances. It doesn’t make what happened consensual or right, either. It means a woman was put into a situation that she never should have been put into because a man acted badly, because there was a system in place that enabled a man to act badly with no consequences, and she made the best she could out of that. I respect her choices.
So I wonder, as I look at the celebrities that are talking and those that are staying silent, is this really complicity?? Are these women who aren’t jumping on the bandwagon (now that it’s socially acceptable to do so, that is) and flaunting how virtuous they are (now that they’re free from repercussions), is it really because they are necessarily defending Weinstein? Maybe they were in a similar situation themselves and they feel all kinds of ways about it. Maybe they’re STILL in that situation – because if you think this stops at Weinstein, I have a lovely piece of waterfront property in Palm Springs to sell you. The women who felt they had to grant sexual favors to powerful men to succeed in the industry are STILL victims, even if they went along with it, even if they didn’t kick the dude in the balls and dial 911. The women who feel they have to stay silent or risk losing their livelihood and all their friends are still victims. They’re still victims even if they’ve capitalized on it along the way. Even if they’re victims that pulled victory from the jaws of defeat, people who turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse, paired it with a Gucci dress and rocked the ensemble at the Golden Globes.
Women have been doing that since women were invented. Anyone with even the barest knowledge of history has to acknowledge that women have had to make lots of deals with lots of devils over the last few millennia. They mostly made these deals for things like food and shelter and to keep their children alive, not fame and fortune and a star embedded into a sidewalk but we women know how to cut a deal when we need to. Men may be big and strong and run the world and all that, but we gals have our resources too. Sexuality is definitely one of them. I think we have a right to trade on that if we wanna.
It is clearly a huge, serious problem when there is a serial abuser like Weinstein who is fed unwitting victims as if he’s some kind of sexual Sarlacc pit. It is clearly a problem when an entire industry covers for this practice. But look at how easily it has become about the women. Some of them actually DID it! Some of them actually did. Who the eff even cares? It is not my business or your business any more than it’s my business or your business when a man negotiates a kick-ass golden parachute package or a football player becomes a free agent.
It’s funny how cultural mores ostensibly meant to protect women so easily devolve into a sneaky form of anti-feminism. Many sentiments – from both left and right – come prepacked with a backhanded compliment, a vote of no confidence. The call to “protect” women carries with an implication that society needs to save us from ourselves, because we are too fragile and weak and hysterical to manage it. A woman can’t make some mental calculations and decide, “yeah, I’m gonna trade X for Y here” because if she does it’s obvious that she’s a gold digger, an opportunist, a whore, or so brainwashed by the patriarchy that she agreed to icky, icky sex, ew, gross, yuk, because it is known that women in their natural, unmolested states are all virginal saints who would never have sex if we weren’t forced into it by hairy scary males in one way or the other.
That ain’t freedom, baby.
I mean, what are we really saying here – are we saying that all women need to give up trading sex for privileges forever in perpetuity because some dudes can’t control themselves and are forcing it on women who don’t want to make a deal? Because personally – even though my ability to sleep my way anyplace has sagged down around my knees at this point, I would like to keep that card in reserve. An ace in the hole, so to speak, to be played at such time as I so choose. I, me. No one else. And not because I’m brainwashed either; it’s because I can recognize a resource when I see one.
Oh, and if anyone knows a really horny dentist, DM me.