Lena Dunham Calls Out Hollywood Men for Silence on Harvey Weinstein
The actress-writer-director has been outspoken about the Weinstein Co. founder and the women who've accused him of harassment.
Lena Dunham has been outspoken on Twitter about the Harvey Weinstein scandal since last week's New York Times exposé, revealing that Weinstein faced decades of sexual-harassment allegations. The writer-director elaborated on her thoughts on the scandal via a New York Times op-ed that was published late Monday, one day before a second exposé, alleging more disturbing behavior, including rape, from Weinstein, was published by The New Yorker.
Dunham writes that like many in Hollywood she'd, "heard the rumors" about Weinstein's bad behavior but still chose to participate in a 2016 benefit for Hillary Clinton organized by The Weinstein Co.
"I felt that going onstage under his aegis was a betrayal of my own values. But I wanted so desperately to support my candidate that I made a calculation," Dunham writes. "We’ve all made calculations, and saying we’re sorry about those calculations is not an act of cowardice. It’s an essential change of position that could shift the way we do business and the way women regard their own position in the workplace. I’m sorry I shook the hand of someone I knew was not a friend to women in my industry."
She condemns Weinstein as a "predator" and says he's not the only one in Hollywood, detailing her own encounters with "everyday sexism" as a young, acclaimed indie-film director.
"His behavior, silently co-signed for decades by employees and collaborators, is a microcosm of what has been happening in Hollywood since always and of what workplace harassment looks like for women everywhere," Dunham writes of Weinstein.
Dunham also calls out men in the entertainment industry for largely remaining silent about Weinstein as many prominent women have come forward to condemn him and express their support for those who bravely shared their own stories of sexual harassment.
"The use of power to possess and silence women is as likely to occur in a fast-food restaurant as it is on a movie set, and Hollywood has yet another chance to make a noisy statement about what we should and should not condone as a society," she writes. "A liberal-leaning industry, we have been quick to condemn Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes and, yes, the president. We do not accept sexual abuse as 'locker room talk.' So why the deafening silence, particularly from the industry’s men, when one of our own is outed as having a nasty taste for humiliating and traumatizing women?
"The accusations against Mr. Weinstein, so clearly outlined and so completely horrifying, seemed impossible to dispute or ignore," she adds. "I naïvely expected that the reticence that Hollywood’s powerful men have shown, the collective refusal to take sides in he-said she-said narratives, would be crushed in the face of this open secret being revealed definitively. The reason I am zeroing in on the men is that they have the least to lose and the most power to shift the narrative, and are probably not dealing with the same level of collective and personal trauma around these allegations."
Only a few high-profile men have spoken out against Weinstein and in support of women who claim they were harassed, including Kevin Smith, Paul Feig, Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen and Mark Ruffalo. Since Dunham's column appeared online, George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Lin-Manuel Miranda have said they were disgusted by Weinstein's alleged behavior. Dunham writes that it would send "a message to the women who are watching our industry closely" for the men of Hollywood to signal they don't support such behavior.
Beyond that, she argues those who stay silent are essentially condoning such behavior.
"When we stay silent, we stay on the same path that led us here. Making noise is making change. Making change is why we tell stories. We don’t want to have to tell stories like this one again and again. Speak louder."
Dunham and collaborator Jenni Konner opened up in an issue of their Lenny newsletter about an incident of sexual harassment that they experienced last year from a producer-director on another TV show. A stand-alone episode of Girls in the show's final season also explored the issue of sexual harassment by powerful men, with Matthew Rhys playing an influential novelist who allegedly had used his fame to engage in multiple, possibly nonconsensual sexual encounters with college students.