An ordinary, malignant symptom of systemic sexism

Harvey Weinstein as symbol of Hollywood sexism and misogyny.

It is the perverse, insistent, matter-of-factness of male sexual predation and assault — of men’s power over women — that haunts the revelations about Mr. Weinstein. This banality of abuse also haunts the American movie industry. Women helped build the industry, but it has long been a male-dominated enterprise that systematically treats women — as a class — as inferior to men. It is an industry with a history of sexually exploiting younger female performers and stamping expiration dates on older ones. It is an industry that consistently denies female directors employment and contemptuously treats the female audience as a niche, a problem, an afterthought.

Still. After all this time. Feminism might as well not have bothered as far as the movie industry is concerned.

It’s greatly encouraging that women like Gwyneth Paltrow have gone public about Mr. Weinstein. But he is not an aberration. He is an ordinary, malignant symptom of systemic sexism, as is everyone who facilitated him, shrugs it off now or offensively asks why women didn’t say something sooner. What largely separates Mr. Weinstein from other predators, within and without the entertainment world, is that he was once powerful, he got caught and a number of gutsy women are on the record. Together, their voices are creating a forceful rejoinder to an industry that runs on fear and in which silence is at once a defense and a weapon as well as a condition of employment.

But will the forceful rejoinder make any difference?

Jenni Konner, the co-showrunner for the HBO series “Girls,” has said that the revelations about Mr. Weinstein are a tipping point: “This is the moment we look back on and say, ‘That’s when it all started to change.’” I hope she’s right. One problem is that the entertainment industry is extraordinarily forgiving of those who have made it a lot of money, as Mel Gibson can tell you. It might glance at the fallen comrade on the floor, but only so it can step over the body en route to the next meeting. And if that comrade somehow gets on his feet again, the industry will ask if he has a new project. This forgiveness is often ascribed to the familiar line that the only thing the business cares about is money.

Well, money plus abundant opportunities to grab them by the pussy.

Although the allegations against Mr. Weinstein may not prove to be the necessary tipping point, they are part of growing feminist pressure to change the industry. Activists inside and outside the entertainment bubble are calling out its biases — and showing how those biases affect employment, which in turn affects representations and audiences. (According to The Los Angeles Times, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — spurred to action by the American Civil Liberties Union — began contacting female film and TV directors in 2015 to see what issues they’re facing.)

I hope real change comes soon, especially for the women working in the industry who each day are forced to fight sexism just so that they can do their jobs. I hope change comes because the movies need new and different voices and visions, something other than deadening, damaging stereotypes and storybook clichés. And I hope change comes for those of us who love movies. I’ve spent a lifetime navigating the contradictions of that love, grappling with the pleasures movies offer with the misogyny that too often has informed what happened behind the camera and what is onscreen. The movies can break your heart, but this isn’t the time only for tears. It is also the time for rage.

We need change to come not just because we love the movies but also because the movies are part of what shapes us.

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