Harvey Weinstein has emerged as a major public relations crisis domino. His fall from grace created ripples that've spread from Hollywood into corporate America and beyond, tarnishing major names across multiple industries.
Secrets are being revealed, previously untouchable big names are being unceremoniously fired, demoted or publicly shamed, and these victories have emboldened activists to cry open season on predators and harassers of all stripes. Now everyone’s wondering who’s next.
Presumably, this is causing a lot of powerful people to consider their pasts. There is, evidently, zero statute of limitations or substance influence that will mitigate the consequences of an allegation. Just ask Kevin Spacey. Or director Brett Ratner, who’s been accused of sexual harassment by six different women.
The momentum continues to build as a growing number of women — as well as a number of men — stand in solidarity across the globe, now feeling empowered to speak out for the first time. They feel that consequences are actually within the realm of possibility after so many years of feeling hopeless. Their language is that of revolutionaries. They speak of “days of reckoning” and of “bringing down unjust systems” that “propagate violence.”
Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization of Women, told the AP, “This is the patriarchy starting to crumble. I think women are finally taking their power …”
That exchange of power has resulted, so far, in the fall of at least 20 men, many of whom were considered untouchable mere weeks ago. Some had been surrounded by rumors of impropriety for years, but nothing was ever done about the allegations. That, however, has changed.
Amazon Studios chief Roy Price resigned after an allegation of sexual harassment. Spacey lost his hugely successful Netflix program “House of Cards” after allegations that he attempted to seduce a teen boy 30 years ago. Many hit the streets in Paris to protest Roman Polanski. Director James Toback was accused by more than 300 women of attempting to extort sexual favors for the promise of film roles.
We should expect the string of PR crises to extend well past the New Year, as more women “out” more abusers and others who used their positions for oppressive and predatory means.
The question many are asking, though, is whether this will about bring real change. Is this truly a watershed moment, or simply a blip on the radar of a power struggle that will continue once all the fuss dies down?