Harvey Weinstein has been fired from his own company and banished from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Producers and Directors Guilds and now the Television Academy, and the New York Police Department is even investigating a rape allegation that could lead to his arrest. Mark Halperin lost his contract with NBC, his book deal with Penguin Press, a development deal with HBO and a hosting gig at Showtime. Laurene Powell Jobs pulled the plug on a magazine she planned to start with Leon Wieseltier, and the Brookings Institution fired him. Hamilton Fish, the president and publisher of Wieseltier’s former intellectual home, the New Republic, resigned. Adam Venit, an agent at WME, has been placed on leave. Kevin Spacey has been fired from his Netflix series, “House of Cards.”
It’s excellent that men who have been accused of rape and sexual harassment are facing serious financial and perhaps legal consequences for their behavior. It’s clear that a culture of impunity allowed this behavior to flourish, and hopefully the end of that impunity will make bad men feel a little less safe. Hopefully it will also make more people feel confident that if they speak up about the mistreatment they have experienced, something will actually happen to those who abused them.
And yet that’s not enough. As much as I want to see the men who have committed grotesque wrongs against others receive the comeuppance they have so richly earned, I also want their victims to be made whole. Repeated rounds of conversation about sexual harassment and sexual assault came before Weinstein, with no result. This time, we seem to be reaching a greater consensus that sexual abusers should be punished. But we still haven’t figured out a way to repair the damage that they’ve done.
It’s true that some victims of sexual harassment have reached financial settlements with the people who harassed or assaulted them. But while the $20 million settlement Gretchen Carlson received from Fox News after she sued Roger Ailes, or the $32 million Bill O’Reilly paid to former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl, might compensate for the loss of a lucrative broadcasting career, those figures are not exactly typical.
In October, the New York Times reported that Weinstein’s sexual harassment settlements generally ranged between $80,000 and $150,000. That’s a low figure to put on sexual assault or harassment, and it doesn’t reimburse an actress for all she might have lost because Weinstein blackballed her or crushed her ambitions: The pay rules that cover actors guarantees those under contract for between 10 and 19 weeks of work a salary of $2,850 per week. Losing out on one steady role — not even a starring one — could cost an actress at least $28,500. Even one of Weinstein’s larger settlements doesn’t come close to compensating for a ruined career.
Annabella Sciorra, who says that Weinstein assaulted her, saw a lull in the roles she received after the alleged attack. “I just kept getting this pushback of ‘We heard you were difficult; we heard this or that,'” she told Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker. “I think that that was the Harvey machine.” One of the women who says she was harassed by former New York Times Washington bureau chief Michael Oreskes during his tenure there told The Post’s Paul Farhi that “the worst part of my whole encounter with Oreskes wasn’t the weird offers of room service lunch or the tongue kiss but the fact that he utterly destroyed my ambition.”
So what, other than giving people cash, could companies and organizations do to begin to set things right?
It’s impossible to turn back time, but perhaps directors who shied away from Sciorra — or any other actress affected by her contact with Weinstein or the filmmaker James Toback — during this period might reconsider their decisions and make an active effort to find parts for her now. Maybe New York Times editors could create freelance or internship openings for the women Oreskes harassed under the guise of giving them professional opportunities, if those women are still interested in journalism. Maybe if Bob Weinstein, Harvey’s brother, eventually starts a new production company, he could commit to financing movies that Weinstein’s accusers want to develop or direct, or finance projects on the condition that directors bring these women in for auditions. (Of course, if these women never wanted anything to do with a Weinstein again, I wouldn’t blame them.) Maybe the New Republic could hire a woman as president and publisher; they need a new one.
There’s no question that the Harvey Weinsteins of the world need to be punished, and that serial sexual harassers should be removed from positions of professional authority. But these steps are just a matter of razing a rotting edifice to its foundation. We need to do whatever we can to truly make up for these men’s wrongs if we’re going to build a healthier culture to replace the one in which they flourished.