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Toxic masculinity is way bigger than Harvey Weinstein

Oct. 25, 2017
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Is our voice loud enough? The Harvey Weinstein allegations are only the tip of the iceberg. 

Harvey Weinstein—acclaimed executive producer of notable movies such as Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love—has been the leading topic in every prominent news outlet for the past few weeks. Investigations done by the New York Times unearthed “three decades of sexual harassment accusations” against the now-infamous Hollywood mogul. But let’s be honest: this really our first time hearing about a sexual controversy in the public media sphere.  From Donald Trump’s “locker room banter” in 2016 to the many scandals of 2017, among them Rob Kardashian’s revenge porn of Blac Chyna and Fox News’ host Eric Bolling’s workplace harassment, our media landscape is littered with the remnants of countless sexual violations and offenses which briefly fueled our frustrations before being forgotten. We’ve been raising our voices—but are we loud enough?

Though Weinstein has been acknowledged and celebrated for his work and contribution to cinema, how much truth is in the notion that the artwork and its artist should exist on separate terms? Over the years, exhibitions by artists previously convicted of crimes like murder have been dogged and smeared red paint by protesters—reemphasizing that perhaps the art and its artist’s biography cannot be mutually exclusive in the public mind. Our conscience ranks morality above artistic value—so why do we so often gloss over these kinds of transgressions?

The overwhelming allegations against Weinstein are only the tip of a massive iceberg of sexual violations and offenses that happen at a near-constant rate in our society. For instance, Trump’s “locker room banter” last year sparked a torrent of criticisms and concerns from the media and people all around the world. “When you’re a star, they let you do it”: the man who said this is now the American president. This private conversation from 2005 is important because it reveals the extent to which misogynistic language has become normalized behind closed doors. His son, Eric Trump, even backed him up by saying that these conversations happen when “alpha personalities are in the same presence”. Is such behavior the result of clashing “alpha personalities”—or is it perhaps a consequence of toxic masculinity?

AFP

And that’s not even the most recent public example of this sort of behavior. In July of this year, Rob Kardashian posted intimate photos and videos of Blac Chyna on social media to slut-shame and humiliate her because of their personal dispute. Though Blac Chyna has posted nudes of her own in the past, the photos and videos Rob posted were different in one crucial aspect: they were posted without her consent. Regardless of whatever she might have done to him, under the California state anti-revenge porn law, these photos violate cyber regulations and fall into the crime of “degrad[ing], harass[ing] and physically endanger…the victim”. In other words, Rob’s behavior is a form of sexual harassment meant to publically humiliate and devalue his ex-fiancée. (I smell our old friend toxic masculinity again!) 

But Weinstein wasn’t even the year’s first public case of workplace sexual harassment. Fox News’ host Eric Bolling recently faced allegations of sending lewd messages to female colleagues. Although his attorney said that he “recalls no such inappropriate communications”, Huffington Post reported that recipients of the photo confirmed its content of a male genitalia sent to them via his mobile phone. As a consequence, Bolling’s show on Fox News Channel was cancelled, and he was also suspended by Fox.

After a week of public outrage, Weinstein was fired from his company, and a procession of A-list celebrities has been speaking out against his sexual violations and misconducts. (Weinstein was recently released from sex addiction rehab after a whopping one week of treatment.) But the fight doesn’t stop there. Twitter and other social media platforms are being accused of providing a platform for targeted harassment against women, and many feminist movements and equal rights organizations are pushing against Trump-led initiatives (defunding Planned Parenthood, outlawing abortion, etc.) that are designed to damage women’s agency. So, great, we’ve got people talking about Weinstein—but the problem of toxic masculinity is far from solved. In order to feasibly change our world, we all have to continue to speak up—because the more people speak up, the louder our voice is.