Heidi Stevens: Harvey Weinstein verdict shows us Oscars, wealth — even that walker — weren’t enough to shield him from a fed-up world

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In the end, none of Harvey Weinstein’s accoutrements were enough.

Not the Oscars. Not the wealth. Not the walker.

Not the well-placed friends. Not the Gloria Steinem endowed chair he helped fund at Rutgers University in honor of his late mother, Miriam. Not the private security agencies he hired to spy on the women and the journalists trying to expose him.

Not the defense attorney who tried to put the #MeToo movement on trial.

“The pendulum is swinging so far in the overly sensitive direction that men can’t really be men, and women can’t really be women,” Donna Rotunno told Vanity Fair shortly before her client’s trial for felony sex crimes began. “I feel that women may rue the day that all of this started when no one asks them out on a date, and no one holds the door open for them, and no one tells them that they look nice.”

In the end, it all fell like a house of cards.

Weinstein was convicted Monday of rape and sexual assault in a ruling that could send him to prison for up to 29 years. Sentencing is scheduled for March 11.

“It is a new day,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said after the jury of seven men and five women found Weinstein, 67, guilty. “It is a new day because Harvey Weinstein has finally been held accountable for crimes he committed. Weinstein is a vicious, serial sexual predator who used his power to threaten, rape, assault and trick, humiliate and silence his victims.”

At least 100 women have accused Weinstein of sexual abuse, though just six of them — actresses Jessica Mann, Annabella Sciorra, Dawn Dunning and Tarale Wulff, production assistant Miriam Haley and scriptwriter Lauren Marie Young — testified at his trial.

“The reality is that we only got a glimpse of the lives he destroyed,” Adrienne Lawrence, author of the upcoming “Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment,” wrote on Twitter Monday.

But that glimpse was a game-changer.

“Regardless of today’s verdict, there is more to being a survivor than validation through the court system,” Teresa C. Younger, president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, wrote in a statement after the verdict. “Telling your story and being heard and believed begins the process of ending sexual abuse by changing the systemic and cultural structures that allow people in positions of power to treat others without dignity, respect, or bodily autonomy.

“To the women who have bravely come forward to bring justice to Harvey Weinstein,” Younger continued, “please know that many people around the country and across the world have heard you, believe in you, and have been lifted up by your voice.”

Keep going.

New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey detailed the lead-up to their Oct. 5, 2017, Weinstein bombshell in their book, “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement.” I went to hear them speak at the Chicago Humanities Festival in October, and they told a story about sharing a cab home from the newsroom well after midnight, just hours before their story would go public on the New York Times website.

They wondered if anyone would read it. They feared maybe not.

So many people had told them, in the course of their reporting, in the hours and weeks and months they spent chasing leads and tracking down sources and interviewing witnesses, that Weinstein was a nonstory. Hollywood’s worst-kept secret. Nothing new. The way of the world.

Now that world is changing. They helped change it. As did Ronan Farrow with his reporting for the New Yorker. As did, most of all, the survivors who came forward.

And not just survivors of Weinstein. Survivors who felt an almost imperceptible shift in the culture — a nascent willingness to listen, an emerging capacity to believe, an ever-so-slight lowering of the defenses we’ve built to keep ourselves from grappling with the abuses of power baked into so many of our industries, our workplaces, our schools, our places of worship, our teams, our families.

Survivors who used that shift as a terrifying invitation to speak up, in whispers and shouts, about the abuse they had suffered, for far too long, in silence.

Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement in 2006. The Weinstein story poured gasoline on it and lit a match. And now a jury made sure the fire wasn’t in vain. It’s reduced Weinstein’s legacy to ashes and keeps the heat where it belongs — on predators who weaponize their power and hide behind their accoutrements, hoping they’ll be enough.

That world is changing. And not a moment too soon.



Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.


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