James Kirkup

Misogynists can’t decide: are Weinstein’s accusers weak subhumans or devious slags?

Misogynists can’t decide: are Weinstein’s accusers weak subhumans or devious slags?
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The volley of accusations against Harvey Weinstein has been extraordinary – and, to some, suspicious. Why keep silent after so many years? If an actress says that he raped her, why did she agree to go for lunch afterwards? The Spectator, in keeping with its tradition of saying things you’re unlikely to read elsewhere, has published some of these more controversial points. Gwyneth Paltrow says she was sexually harassed by Weinstein when she was 22, says Toby Young. He continues:

Why, then, did she thank him three years later when she won an Oscar for her performance in Shakespeare in Love?” The same goes for Angelina Jolie and all the other actresses who have gone on the record only in the past week to describe the ordeals Harvey put them through. Why didn’t they speak up sooner?

And here is Ross Clark:

'Oh, the glorious hypocrisy of it all - the dozens of actresses, UN goodwill ambassadors among them, who have come forward to make accusations against Harvey Weinstein - and yet whom said not a word between them when they were on the make and he was in a position to help them with their careers. I should say that if you are important and mature enough to serve as a UN ambassador you ought to be brave enough to report wrongdoing that is going on beneath your nose - and not wait until there is a bandwagon on which to leap.'

I've read that above passage several times, each time hoping that I'll grasp some subtle nuance that has previously escaped me. But it does seem like a group of women who say they are victims of sexual violence are being accused of failing to report that violence because they were 'on the make' and/or not 'brave enough'.

That is depressingly familiar. Social media conversation about Weinstein has been heavy with victim-blaming since this story broke.  But that piece, like a lot of the Twitter and Facebook bile, demonstrates that many of the people who want to cast aspersions on the women involved can't get their story straight, can't make up their minds and be properly consistent.

Really, if you're going to denigrate and deride these women, there are two basic options open to you, two choices for how you describe them and explain their behaviour.

These women were either conniving, self-interested sluts who consciously chose to keep quiet to advance their careers. Or they were snivelling, feeble creatures who didn't have the balls to speak out sooner.

Honestly, doing misogyny isn't terribly difficult: Western culture has already done all the work for you by offering women just two roles to play in our collective imagination: weak subhuman or devious slag.  But you do at least have to choose one. To coin a phrase, you really can't have it all here.

This is ultimately about respect, I suppose.  These women say they have been assaulted and humiliated, dominated by a rich and powerful man who was supported by the complicity of a industry run by other rich and powerful men, a criminal justice system that likes to look the other way, and a culture that still inclines to conclude reflexively that women who suffer the things they say they suffered were either asking for it or lied about it.

Given all that, the least they should be able to expect is the courtesy of coherent and properly thought-out smears. Instead, they get confused and lazy smears. These women really do deserve much better.