Author: Irina KHALTURINA
A wave of revelations related to sexual harassment swept the West this fall. A number of Hollywood actors, politicians, and journalists have already lost reputation, jobs, public recognition, and friends as soon as they were accused of misconduct. This often includes incidents that allegedly happened ten or more years ago; the victims do not provide any evidence other than their memories, but it seems no one can stop the process that is taking place in media and social networks rather than the courtrooms. We can only observe the ongoing events and try to understand it. Has the modern society reached the top level of openness and morality? Or is it yet another political show?
It all started in Hollywood
The famous American producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of harassing a number (about 80) of Hollywood actresses, including Cara Delevingne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Eva Green, Léa Seydoux, and Angelina Jolie. As a result, Weinstein was fired from his own the Weinstein Co. film studio and expelled from the American Television Academy for life. After a while, the scandal involved another star, Kevin Spacey. His first victim was actor Anthony Rapp, whom the drunk Spacey allegedly seduced at one of the parties when Rapp was aged 14. The actor apologized and immediately confessed that he was gay, but his coming-out did not help. This was followed by stories of other people, whom Spacey also had molested in the past. As a result, Spacey was kicked out of the TV series House of Cards and other projects, while the TV Academy revoked his Emmy award. Even the LGBT community condemned him saying that "his sexual orientation bears no relevance to the serious allegations he is facing, and to conflate these things is extremely damaging," and that in general Spacey "has set gay rights back fifty years."
Actors Dustin Hoffman and Steven Seagal, directors Brett Ratner, Roman Polanski, James Toback, Lars von Trier, Oliver Stone, singer Mariah Carey have also been accused of sexual harassment, sometimes associated with pedophilia.
Then came the journalists, photographers and politicians: top manager of Amazon Studios Roy Price, the host of PBS television channel 75-year-old Charlie Rose, famous journalist Mark Galperin (MSNBC, NBC News), magician and illusionist David Blaine, stand-comic Louis C.K., photographer Terry Richardson.
What about the politicians? American actress Heather Lind accused the former U.S. President George Bush Sr. claiming that he groped her four years ago while they posed for a photo. The blacklist also includes Senator Al Franken (MN), activist Jesse Jackson, Republican candidate Roy Moore. As it turned out, European politicians are also involved in sex scandals. The former assistant to one of the deputies of the French Parliament Marine Tondelier revealed an existence of a verbal list of MPs regarded as sexual predators. Swedish ministers Margot Wallström and Åsa Regnér announced sexual harassment by leading EU politicians. The European Parliament convened a special meeting on this issue and set up a special investigation commission. At the request of students, a meeting with MP Jean Lassalle, also convicted of harassment, was canceled at the University of Science Po Lille. This fall, UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon resigned because of accusations of harassment, while the former Welsh minister Carl Sargent accused of "improper behavior" committed suicide...
More than harassment
Academic discussions about sexual harassment in the West date back to the 1970s thanks to the birth of sexual revolution and feminism. Harassment in Western culture implies much more than the Russian concept of "harassment". Therefore, harassment is referenced in Russian as a separate word. In short, harassment includes a wide range of actions from facial expressions to gestures and words, as well as psychological pressure and blackmailing. In the West, and especially in the United States, harassment trials is a very profitable business for thousands of lawyers, psychologists and other professionals. Perhaps, the current attention to this phenomenon will further expand the coverage of the involved individuals. The Western media, for instance, is fully engaged in presenting the readers an ideal image of a sexual predator. According to Project Syndicate, "scientists in the United States and Israel have identified certain personality traits – the “dark triad” of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism – that are more commonly associated with sexually abusive behavior." It is no surprise, therefore, that sexual dependence becomes such a popular state of mind, or a disease (either physical or mental), which was found to be a reason to send Spacey and Weinstein to an Arizona clinic for treatment. On the other hand, there is a considerable emphasis on the psychological state of the victims. It is noted that almost all of them had experienced the greatest psychological stress after assault. This stress is so pressing that sometimes, as one of the actresses admitted, she even had to sleep "in a military helmet and a bullet-proof vest." Director Tony Montana, whom Kevin Spacey "grabbed by the crotch", complained that after that "he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for six months and visited a psychologist".
Power and sex always go hand in hand along the pages of history. Indeed, it is disgusting when a man or woman, using his or her position in society, humiliates and coerces other people. Exposing such scoundrels is a right thing, bold and even noble. American experts note that there is now a system of intimidation and deterrence for potential rapists, and the changes taking place in society will go down in history. However, it goes without saying that the revelations of this autumn present so many strange and incomprehensible moments.
For example, why emphasis is made specifically on sexual harassment, while one can disparage human dignity in different ways? After all, the same rich and famous Hollywood celebrities probably have an army of house cleaners and babysitters from the Philippines who would most likely tell you that they had been humiliated more than Angelina Jolie grabbed by her knee or Mariah Carey’s bodyguard, who was cringed at singer’s appearance in lingerie. Alternatively, why cannot we hear a series of revelations regarding the priests accused of sexual violence against minors (the so-called Vatileaks)? Logically, the complaints about harassment from models and many actresses seem strange, although they earn not only on their stage talents but also on the actual sale of images of their bodies and sexual desire. It is not entirely clear why everything is piled together – the molestations of children and healthy men, obscene actions and glances. As for the glances, the question sounds controversial - after all, a simple glance may seem to be an assault or even victim’s dream, no? Finally, where is the notorious Western presumption of innocence? Not the heart-tearing stories, but legal evidences? Is it not suspicious that among all the accusations of harassment there is not one of rape? Because a charge of rape is a serious criminal offense, for which once can be counter accused of defamation. Everything else is just words, although, as recent events have shown, which can cast one down from the Hollywood and political Olympus and completely trample down the reputation. It is no less strange that almost none of the so-called sexual predators contest the claims of the victims. On the contrary, they humbly apologize even for what they absolutely do not remember.
But what really catches your eye is that many mainstream media just ignore these quite logical questions. For example, why a 14-year-old boy was at a party with adult drunk actors? Why did actress Heather Lind not escape from Bush’s wheelchair? Why has none of the eighty women not had courage to rebuff Weinstein or at least call for help from her husband or partner? Nevertheless, Gérard Depardieu dragged his producer by his hair (though not for harassment, but for money; the fact is more important in this case), and nothing serious happened. The actor is alive and well. These questions are also part of history, because they create the missing context.
Trump: an offender or a victim?
At the same time, if one considers the ongoing events not as a spontaneous process within the advanced free society, but as part of a political game, many questions simply do not hold to closer examination. In general, sex is getting an increasingly popular part of big politics. If the tolerance of any society was measured by its attitude towards homosexuals, now no one is surprised by gays in politics, art and show business. We have a new transgender trend approaching. A transgender politician is a fresh reality of nowadays. Gender roles and stereotypes are being actively reviewed, so many predict a mass appearance of gender-neutral people in the near future. That means that the politicians will fight for them as their perspective voters. Since the accusations of harassment do not require any evidence and the consequences are very serious, this makes them an ideal tool for settling personal and political scores.
Apparently, the use of sexual harassment as a political tool for getting back at Trump sounds quite reasonable. During Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, he was accused of sexual harassment against sixteen different women. Then the media remembered Trump's words: "If you are a star, women will let you all", which resonate well with current revelations in media. Thus, actor Alec Baldwin and comedian Larry David portrayed the U.S. president and the former head of his election campaign, Paul Manafort, together in the shower in the show Saturday Night Live. They talk there to avoid wiretapping, and at some point discuss the Weinstein scandal. "What an idiot that Harvey Weinstein is,” says Baldwin’s Trump to Manafort. “He could have gotten away with all of it if he had gotten himself elected president,". No comments.
But what about the many ardent opponents of Trump among those accused of harassment? Have they really been exploited to distract the publicity? Like Kevin Spacey, who, like many Hollywood stars, is known for his hatred of Trump. The actor, who for several years has portrayed both a congressman and president taking advantage of anything and anyone, leading women to career positions through sex, now looks like a sacred sacrifice. It is interesting that Spacey concealed his sexuality for years and decided to come out after accusations of harassment to minors. Some even tried to link homosexuality with pedophilia because pedophile gays are perceived more leniently (in much the same way as pedophile priests). Was this Spacey’s desperate attempt to save his reputation when his cronies screwed him up?
On the other hand, taking the political version seriously, one can assume that it was Trump’s supporters who initiated the ongoing harassment campaign, knowing the weak spots of the president. Incidentally, it resembles a similar fragment from the very first series of the House of Cards, when Spacey’s character Frank Underwood launches the gubernatorial campaign of the vicious congressman Peter Russo. It would be fun to know that Trump’s team used the House of Cards as a reference. Another fact in support of this assumption. As early as 2016, Fox News announced that Bill Clinton often used the private jet of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein convicted of sexual harassment of his underage adopted daughter. Clinton and other American politicians used Epstein’s plane for making pleasure trips to his private tropical island eloquently named Lolita Express. Kevin Spacey (also a friend of the Clinton's), Weinstein have reportedly been seen among the guests of Epstein...
We will most likely never know what happened in the fall of 2017 in Hollywood and Washington, DC. The addressees of these messages already have gotten what they had to get. With all due sympathies to Spacey and Weinstein...