It has been more than two months since The New York Times and The New Yorker revealed Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator—and the steady stream of disturbing stories of Weinstein’s alleged behaviour and actions is still flowing. This week, Salma Hayek became the latest person to share her disturbing account of her interactions with Weinstein.
“Harvey Weinstein was a passionate cinephile, a risk taker, a patron of talent in film, a loving father and a monster,” writes Hayek in an intensely personal New York Times essay that describes Weinstein’s pattern of abuse, which has become all too familiar to readers.
In the piece, Hayek alleges she too was sexually harassed by Weinstein for years.
“I don’t think he hated anything more than the word ‘no,’” she writes, yet she says that Weinstein routinely put her in positions where that was her response. “No to opening the door to him at all hours of the night, hotel after hotel, location after location, where he would show up unexpectedly, including one location where I was doing a movie he wasn’t even involved with. No to me taking a shower with him. No to letting him watch me take a shower. No to letting him give me a massage. No to letting a naked friend of his give me a massage. No to letting him give me oral sex. No to my getting naked with another woman. No, no, no, no, no…”
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 14, 2017
Weinstein’s trend of only attempting to refute allegations from WOC
When the initial exposés dropped in early October, Weinstein released a strange statement citing JAY-Z lyrics and saying: “I so respect all women and regret what happened.” He has since released additional broad statements through his spokespeople that he “has never at any time committed an act of sexual assault,” despite facing multiple charges including rape, harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct.
Still, there’s something peculiar about the timing behind Weinstein’s responses. It seems like the only time he attempts to vehemently and specifically deny the mounting list of allegations against him are when they come from women of colour.
It started when Lupita Nyong’o wrote a New York Times op-ed in which she alleged that Weinstein sexually assaulted her, including once while his children were in his house, and later harassing her on multiple occasions. Nyong’o was not the first actress to raise such accusations, but she was the first to receive a targeted response from Weinstein attempting to refute the details of her story.
14 white women and Lupita Nyong’o speak out against Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults.
Weinstein only rebukes Nyong’o.
Wonder why? pic.twitter.com/k0DnMNOEIo
— Millennial Politics (@MillenPolitics) October 21, 2017
We are now seeing the exact same situation play out with Hayek.
Harvey Weinstein has responded to Lupita’s story of harassment and Salma’s story of harassment.
I wonder what those two women have in common?
— Julie S. Lalonde (@JulieSLalonde) December 14, 2017
And looking closer at Weinstein’s response gives insight into just how this man yields his power.
Weinstein’s response seems to exemplify the behaviour Hayek describes
First, Weinstein attempts to discredit Hayek by claiming that unnamed witnesses could vouch that her recollection of events is wrong. “All of the sexual allegations as portrayed by Salma are not accurate and others who witnessed the events have a different account of what transpired,” reads Weinstein’s statement. While that line is disappointing, the statement continues to read as a not-so-subtle nod to his power, highlighting for instance that he cast her in Frida even when Jennifer Lopez—who as the statement outlines was “a bigger star” at the time—was interested. Rather than refuting Hayek’s allegations, Weinstein seems to seek praise for allowing Hayek to star in a project that she championed from the beginning—as if he’s saying he did her some kind of favour.
Weinstein’s statement is particularly eerie since Hayek repeatedly details how, despite what she describes as multiple instances of sexual harassment, she still sought his approval. “I confess, lost in the fog of a sort of Stockholm syndrome, I wanted him to see me as an artist,” she writes, further making Weinstein’s statement—and its mention of how he views Hayek as a “first-class actress” and that he is “proud” of her work—all the more concerning.
The “unibrow” issue
In her essay, Hayek devotes a lot of space to recounting the challenges of getting her Oscar-nominated film Frida under the narrow boundaries set by Weinstein. She recalls how Weinstein allegedly showed up to set and complained that Frida Kahlo’s now-iconic unibrow and limp needed to be eliminated from the film.
“Then he asked everyone in the room to step out except for me,” writes Hayek. “He told me that the only thing I had going for me was my sex appeal and that there was none of that in this movie.”
In Weinstein’s statement, the spokesperson says, “The original unibrow used was an issue because it diverted attention from the performances.” Considering Hayek’s allegation that Weinstein repeatedly pushed the film to have more sex appeal—including forcing her to include a girl-on-girl love scene with full-frontal nudity—this response raises questions as to how Weinstein truly defined Hayek’s “performance.” This line also seems to validate Hayek’s accusations that “in [Weinstein’s] eyes, I was not an artist. I wasn’t even a person. I was a thing: not a nobody, but a body.”
Weinstein’s statement also continually highlights his achievements
Issuing a statement intended to refute sexual harassment allegations and using it as a way to humble brag seems like a weird move, but that is how certain sections of Weinstein’s response to Hayek read. As previously mentioned, the statement appears to boast about how Weinstein fought for Hayek to have the role of Frida, even though he says she wasn’t the best choice. Then it goes on to talk about how much money Miramax gave the project.
Hayek also mentions in her essay that Ed Norton was instrumental in rewriting Frida in an extremely short time period, despite not getting credit in the final film. The response statement describes Weinstein as an advocate for Norton: “Mr. Weinstein battled the W.G.A. to get him a credit on the film. His effort was unsuccessful to everyone’s disappointment,” it reads.
The statement then ends by detailing how Weinstein was unhappy with the final cut of the film. “By Mr. Weinstein’s own admission, his boorish behavior following a screening of Frida was prompted by his disappointment in the cut of the movie—and a reason he took a firm hand in the final edit, alongside the very skilled director Julie Taymor.” But the “boorish behaviour” this statement refers to is, according to Hayek’s piece, straight up abuse where Weinstein screamed at Taymor, threw a scorecard at her and physically threatened her partner.
In more than 300 words not once does Weinstein apologize or acknowledge the hurt Hayek expressed in her essay. Instead, he attempts to use this statement as a platform to further bully and undermine one of the women he allegedly abused.
Thankfully, no one is buying this performance.
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