Matt Damon and Ben Affleck with Harvey Weinstein
Matt Damon, Harvey Weinstein and Ben Affleck (Photo: Rex)

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Why are women – not men – expected to speak out against Harvey Weinstein?

And even when women do release statements, they are criticised or ignored, says Kat Lister

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By Kat Lister on

“Men of Hollywood, what are you sorry for?" Lena Dunham writes in today’s New York Times. The same question could be levelled at the editors of the Daily Mail this morning. Flick to page seven and their latest spread on the Harvey Weinstein sexual-harassment allegations scandal names and shames “The A-listers we’re yet to hear from…” Dot, dot, dot – surprise, surprise, the nine “most wanted” celebrities are all women.

Have we all been transported to Wonder Woman’s all-female home island of Themyscira? Are women the only spokespeople here? Perhaps the strongest voice that emerged last night was that of self-professed feminist Jessica Chastain. “I’m sick of the media demanding only women speak up,” she tweeted. “What about the men? Perhaps many are afraid to look at their own behavior…” Her upset was palpable – and she didn’t stop there. “This is heart shattering,” she tweeted a second time, above a Vulture news story that details how A-list actors Matt Damon and Russell Crowe allegedly helped kill a 2004 New York Times article that was on track to expose Weinstein’s abuse. It’s worth remembering that Chastain co-starred with Damon in The Martian, which makes her tweet all the more powerful.

It’s an infuriating state of affairs when tabloids like the Daily Mail are demanding to know where the women are. The reality is that countless actresses have been speaking out over the last 24 hours. Glenn Close is furious. "I’m angry,” she said in a statement to The New York Times, “not just at him and the conspiracy of silence around his actions, but also that the 'casting couch' phenomenon, so to speak, is still a reality in our business and in the world.”

In a statement for Newsweek, Judi Dench, who is set to star in Harvey Weinstein-produced Tulip Fever, joined Close in her condemnation and shock. "Whilst there is no doubt that Harvey Weinstein has helped and championed my film career for the past 20 years,” she acknowledged, “I was completely unaware of these offenses which are, of course, horrifying, and I offer my sympathy to those who have suffered, and wholehearted support to those who have spoken out."

George Clooney was left to defend the women who did what we’re all asking them to do: speak out and be counted

Despite George Clooney matching both Dench and Meryl Streep’s protestation that “not everyone knew” about Weinstein’s abusive behaviour, it is Streep in particular whom the masses have swooped in on. “Meryl Streep just gave her biggest performance EVER!” one tweeter wrote in response to her statement – which sums up the majority of accusatory reactions, so I won’t depress you with any more. Clooney was left to defend the women who did what we’re all asking them to do: speak out and be counted.

"A good bunch of people that I know would say, 'Yeah, Harvey’s a dog' or 'Harvey’s chasing girls,' but again, this is a very different kind of thing," Clooney told the Daily Beast. "This is harassment on a very high level. And there’s an argument that everyone is complicit in it."

Clooney heard rumours about Weinstein’s sexual activity with certain actresses “way back in the ’90s” – probably in the same way that Kate Winslet heard rumours that she now says she had hoped were fabrications. “I had hoped that these kind of stories were just made up rumours”, she officially commented to Variety. “Maybe we have all been naïve.”

Clooney and Mark Ruffalo aside (Ruffalo swiftly tweeted his disgust here), where are the men? It doesn’t take a mathematician to clock the gender ravine here. The proof is in the numbers. In a truly depressing revelation in The Guardian this morning, an attempt to contact 20 high-profile actors and male directors (who worked with Weinstein) left them with 20 declines to comment. Let’s flip the narrative and start naming some other names. How about Quentin Tarantino, Ben Affleck or maybe David O Russell? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Where is Michael Moore?

The majority of high-profile men continue to stay quiet. As further allegations surface this week, their silence speaks volumes.

In an update to this story: this morning Twitter was ablaze with indignation at the tardiness of Hillary Clinton's public condemnation of long-term Democrat donor Weinstein. Five days late, to be precise. The exact same amount of time that the Obamas took to issue their statement.

@Madame_George

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Matt Damon, Harvey Weinstein and Ben Affleck (Photo: Rex)
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Sexual abuse
Sexism
Hollywood
harvey weinstein

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