By Madeline Bates
“She Said” MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD
Trigger Warning: mentions of sexual assault, sexual favors and suicide attempt.
If you or a loved one is seeking help go to https://www.rainn.org/resources for more.
Since 2017, the #MeToo movement has kept the men in America on their toes. Hundreds of women have spoken out about their personal abuse experiences and shown others how workplace harassment isn’t distinctive to Hollywood.
Based on the book by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, two journalists from The New York Times, the film “She Said” sets out to find answers. They investigated abuse allegations regarding former President Donald Trump, as well as listened to actress Ashley Judd comment on abuse during a protest in 2016.
The film begins with a woman and her dog walking through a field along the coast in Ireland. She stumbles upon a film that is being shot on the beach and joins them. It then cuts to that same woman running down a street in a panic. That woman, who is later revealed to be Laura Madden, was an assistant to the world-famous director, producer and founder of “Miramax,” Harvey Weinstein. Madden and Judd, along with dozens of other female employees of “Miramax” were allegedly Weinstein’s victims in the early 1990s.
In the film, they tell Kantor and Twohey about their encounters and how he would call them up to his hotel room in The Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what many of them thought was a business meeting. If they chose to confide in coworkers about the encounter, Weinstein would use blackmail tactics to keep them from speaking any louder, according to the film.
The rest of the film follows the investigative process surrounding The New York Times piece titled “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.” This included personal accounts from victims, high tensions in the newsroom, as well as Kantor’s and Twohey’s personal life, including a scene where Kantor has a conversation with her daughter about rape.
As both journalists are also mothers, the two balance their work and family as they have long hours at their office and travel across the world to meet with victims and hear their stories. One scene speaks to the average day-to-day harassment as the two reporters meet with their editor, Rebecca Corbett in a restaurant. There, a man approaches them flirtatiously and interrupts their conversation. After refusing to leave the three of them alone, Twohey screams “Fuck you!” repeatedly and slams her hand on the table, which switches the focus of the entire bar to her. The scene acts as commentary on the persistence of men and how often they won’t take no for an answer.
The film was poignant, somber and fierce, as it shared an abundance of stories of loss and trauma within two hours. One woman who was allegedly assaulted by Weinstein tried to end her life years later. Others told Kantor that they still struggle with the fear of reliving his threats despite being paid thousands, and in one case millions of dollars in settlement money.
But is Weinstein the only one to blame? Bill Cosby, James Franco, former President Trump and many more men in Hollywood and beyond have allegations against them. We could blame rape culture and the idea that sex is the highest attribute that someone could look for in another person (let alone a subordinate), or we could start looking at the men around us and holding them accountable for being bystanders to abuse. Congratulations, you’re a man and you’ve never harmed a woman. Your sexual encounters have always been consensual and you listen to your partners when they say “no.” You have done nothing more than simply follow the law. Rape culture, or “locker room talk,” is all but too normalized in society. From catcalling to harsh advancements and even being silent when hearing disgusting and preposterous comments is contributing to the problem.
Weinstein is the only one to blame for his abhorrent behavior, but his colleagues, accountant and legal team would have been stupid to think it was a coincidence that he had been paying off dozens of women for decades. And to the ones who thought that women were having an affair with Weinstein to progress in the industry, I ask how cynical one must be to believe that the only way nearly a dozen women would advance in their career is through a sexual favor.
As proud and empowered as I am that two women were brave enough to tell this story, we must acknowledge that there is still a long road ahead to eradicate mistreatment and sexual abuse. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison earlier this year, but Cosby still walks free. Franco still walks free. People who have a history of abuse who work in our deli’s, corner stores, restaurants and retail shops still walk free because the system fails to prosecute offenders when the evidence boils down to “he said, she said.”
“She Said” premiered on Nov. 18.
If you are or a loved one is struggling, please reach out to ASU Counseling, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, or to a trusted individual for help. Your voice deserves to be heard.