This is my take on the recent disclosures about Harvey Weinstein. It is not meant to replace or supersede or in any way silence the many more heartfelt, eloquent, painful takes that others – mainly women – have been offering. I’m writing both as a male and as a film scholar and educator who considers himself an ally of women. I have a feeling most of what I have to say is obvious on the level of duh! to most of the women I know, so maybe there’s an implied male audience here. In any case, I welcome any feedback, criticisms, or suggestions for improvement from women or men who might read this.
Harvey Weinstein is not an exception. Not an outlier or an anomaly. Harvey Weinstein is the rule. This is not to say that every man in America or every man in the 21st century is a sexual aggressor or abuser (and let’s just get #notallmen out of the way – we’re engaged in an examination of deeply rooted cultural trends and systemic abuse here, which necessitates a broad approach. If that offends you, you’re behind the curve – maybe take a sociology class).
But modern culture – with whatever other qualifiers you want to use (American, Western, human, etc.) – is designed to allow and perpetuate sexual abuse. Particularly by men and most especially against women. It’s an inherent, fundamental part of the glue that makes patriarchy stick. It’s in our institutions, our languages, our politics, our education, our sport and leisure, and most definitely in our art.
And it fills in the cracks where all those different parts of life and culture intersect.
I study and teach film and other screen media. To do so, one needs to have a language of art, but also of commerce, of industry, of history. And to do justice to any of those fields and their intersections, you have to understand gender.
I’m not an expert in that field, but here are a few things that are clear if you look closely enough at film studies as an academic discipline. Continue reading