What’s the story?
Hollywood has been rocked by a series of allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein – the man behind many of the biggest films of the last three decades. Weinstein is alleged to have repeatedly harassed and even attacked actresses and other women working in the film industry, and there’s a growing sense that the breaking of the silence around his behaviour will lead to a number of other Hollywood figures facing similar allegations.
He was seen as the difficult but brilliant darling of the independent film industry; the man who alongside his enterprising brother ripped up the rulebook of Hollywood’s studio system. His collaborations with some the world’s great film-makers and actors have led to classic after classic: Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love among many. Yet now, Harvey Weinstein’s career and reputation both lie in tatters.
In early October, the New York Times published a story which included a number of serious allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein. They came from a range of high-profile Hollywood actresses, including Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd. Weinstein initially denied the claims and threatened legal action, but as the number of actresses coming forward with stories rose each day, a series of other actors and high-profile film industry figures spoke out against the mogul.
Before long, the narrative from Weinstein had changed. While still denying any actual non-consensual sex had taken place, the producer – whose wife quickly announced that she was leaving him – said he was taking ‘a leave of absence’ from his company, and that he is working with a therapist.
The story – which has dominated entertainment media coverage for weeks – continued to unravel. Other industry executives were implicated in the scandal, while still others were accused of similar behaviour. There is now a growing sense that there is a rotten culture within the film industry which not only enabled Weinstein to get away with this for such a long time, but also allows many powerful men like him to do likewise.
Partly in response to the many stories shared about Weinstein, women all over the world began to share their stories through #MeToo, an online campaign which encouraged women to talk about their own experiences of being sexually harassed or assaulted. The sheer numbers of women who subsequently did so created a major wake-up call for many who had not realised the scale of the problem. It’s not only Hollywood that has a seriously broken and poisonous culture of sexual abuse and gender-based injustice.
What have others been saying?
The original New York Times piece details the allegations against Weinstein, and will be remembered as one of the most significant pieces of investigative journalism for many years.
My column for Christian Today challenges all men to step up in response to the #MeToo campaign, and to recognise our complicity in a gender system that is profoundly unjust.
The Gospel Coalition’s Joe Carter provides four lessons for Christians from the scandal, which focus on the abuse of power rather than women.
Vicky Walker’s excellent blog for Premier Christianity magazine warns that men like Weinstein exist in our churches too.
#1 – ABUSE
In the context of Jesus’ profound command to ‘love one another’, abuse of another person is perhaps the most un-Christlike thing we can do. Sexual abuse is directly condemned by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-8, in which he writes that “in this matter [sexual behaviours] no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister,”[b] before adding gravely: “The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.” The Bible also speaks out frequently against the abuse of power, as in Luke 22 where Jesus talks even at the Last Supper about the issue. As another dispute breaks out among the disciples about who is the greatest, Jesus says: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22: 25-26)
#2 – GENDER JUSTICE
Paul writes in Galatians 3 that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There has been a culture in churches in the past (which is still sadly prevalent in many today) that values men above women, and therefore is unable to notice profound gender-based injustice. In fact, as Paul’s words remind us, we should be one of the loudest voices against prejudicial and unjust behaviour of all kinds.
Points for prayer
- Pray for Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims, that they would know genuine healing and peace in spite of their ordeals.
- Pray for the many women who have suffered sexual abuse and harassment, and who may have reflected on and relived their own past experiences as a result of this high-profile news and resulting online activity.
- Pray that this story, and the #MeToo campaign, will lead to long-term change for women both in and outside the church.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.