On the very day Harvey Weinstein, Honorary Lifetime Member of the Casting Couch Hall of Shame, was finally convicted of rape, I have to admit I have incredibly mixed feelings about the #MeToo Movement.
Harvey Weinstein is a sexual thug who as a matter of course coldly abused women just starting out in their chosen profession. Throw the book at him. I wish the same book could be thrown smack in the faces of those who covered for him, as well as the low-lifes who did the same things he did and those who covered up for THEM. This sort of thing is as ubiquitous as plastic surgery in the entertainment business, Weinstein being just a particularly heinous example. Predation happens to both men and women in the acting field, though I’d guess more often to women, who are lucky if they escape the producer in the bathrobe. I’d love for the stereotype of the Hollywood mogul preying on aspiring movie stars to become a relic of a bygone era, like smoking sections in movie theaters.
On the other hand, I heard today that my best-male-friend-other-than-my-spouse has just been tossed out of a local business/community organization because of complaints from women about his behavior. There was no warning, no discussion, just...goodbye. His understanding is that certain women had complained to the leadership that something about his behavior made them uncomfortable.
This man is just about the last person anyone would expect to face an accusation like this. He is deeply religious, has four young-adult daughters he would protect with his life, and respects women so much he won’t even let his language go beyond PG-13 around them.
To show how bewildering it must be to be on the receiving end of such a complaint when one has not knowingly done anything wrong, I’m reprinting, with permission, an excerpt from the letter my friend sent to the group whose leadership has ousted him. I’ve edited out anything that could reveal identities, as that is not the point. This letter illustrates how someone feels who has been wrongly accused. My friend was first notified of his ouster last week, and he responded assuming it was some kind of mistake. Today he officially learned it wasn’t, and he sent the following reply...
Greetings Loved Ones,
This email is a follow-up message to one that I sent last week regarding leaving the Thursday morning group. The reason I sent that message was out of ignorance. I thought it was a mistake. Now I know better.
Today is my birthday. Also today, Harvey Weinstein was convicted of very bad behavior. Additionally, I spoke with *******, who explained to me that I’m being terminated from membership in the ******* because it is alleged that I have had inappropriate behavior and touching with several ladies in the group. Since the only thing I do with ******* is Thursday group, I have to assume that the ladies who’ve accused me are reading this letter. I categorically deny the behavior which I myself abhor. I’ve raised four daughters to adulthood, am a 20 year charter member of *******, have been working with ******* for forty years and been associated with the ******* for four years. Whatever you perceived that I did, it would have been so much better if you’d have just talked to me and given me an opportunity to fix whatever the problem was. I’m sorry if I hurt you in some way. Certainly, it was never my intention.
This kind of problem has the effect of seriously damaging an otherwise good reputation...Since I don’t know who my accusers are, I will never know who will speak badly of me whenever I go anywhere or do anything.
I don’t live or die by the Thursday morning group, and I’ve made some very good friends there, with whom I’ll continue to do business and referrals. As I leave, please don’t turn your back on [the children helped by a charitable organization they support]. They depend on you to be able to live. It’s amazed me that I’ve not had more sponsors come out of the group over the many years I’ve been a member...
God speed to all of you, may your businesses prosper, and may you always remember to love.
As you can see, the irony of having this happen to him the very day Harvey Weinstein was convicted is not lost on him. (It was also, sadly, my friend’s birthday.) Now, you don’t know this person and can only take my word, but believe me, he would never intentionally make a female colleague uncomfortable. I’ve seen him in social situations many times; he’s naturally friendly and outgoing and might offer a casual hug (with others around) or compliment someone (man or woman) for a stylish dress or cool tie. But this wasn’t a workplace situation; there’s no HR, no posted behavior code for employees. Within hours of sending this letter, he’d already received numerous letters of support from both men and women in the group.
I spoke with him at length about this today, and he understands that perhaps because of past experiences, a woman might be easily made uncomfortable, but he just wishes he could have been made aware, either by the woman herself (“Eh, I’m not really a ‘hug’ person”) or by leadership (“I thought I’d better tell you, there’s been a complaint about you being too outwardly friendly”). He would have respected that and behaved accordingly.
The way this was handled is just wrong, and, as a woman, I’m flat-out embarrassed by it. In the post-feminist age, are we capable of navigating interpersonal situations (at least in cases not involving a job or other power play) or are women fragile little flowers? I can see not wanting to confront one’s boss or attacker, but this innocent, friendly care-bear? Get real. And if the woman is, for whatever reason, too uncomfortable to talk to the person directly, can’t the leadership of this relatively small, local group bring members together to resolve such issues? As disappointed as I am by the women in this situation, that’s nothing compared to the way I feel about how the organization handled it.
So, where does my friend go to get his reputation back? He has no idea who accused him and has no recourse. He’s well aware of how word gets around, and since he’s a member of other, similar groups in the area, he wonders if he’ll be dropped from them, too. Will he be known as “the guy who got kicked out of *****”? Will false rumors spread that he groped women or propositioned them? Will it hurt the very worthwhile charity he supports? Honestly, the longer I go on about this, the madder I get --- probably much madder than the man this happened to, as he’s more forgiving than I am.
Harvey Weinstein is finally going to prison, and that’s a great consequence of the #MeToo movement. But my innocent friend deserved, at most, a heads-up to just be a little more reserved. He did not deserve what happened to him. And that’s a terrible consequence of the #MeToo Movement.