When Harvey Weinstein’s revolting behavior became public — when female actors stepped forward en masse to lament that they, too, had been subjects of Weinstein’s abuse, and producers and industry agents denounced and dropped him in droves, when he lost his job, lost friends, lost his marriage (all rightfully so) — all the GOP thought to do was point the finger. What say you, Hillary, whom we have told dozens of times to get off the stage, and yet from whom we still expect specific denunciations of all things evil? What say you, liberal Hollywood, now that accusations stand against a Democrat? As the one-year anniversary of the Access Hollywood tape came and went last week, these brazen declarations grow ever the more ironic.
All of this screaming and shaming from a party that elevated a confessed sexual predator to the highest office in the land. If Trump’s myriad sexual assaults — some of which are admitted on tape, or to The Apprentice producers who heard about his sexual misconduct involving minors — were simply “locker room” behavior, why, then, is Harvey Weinstein’s “industry couch” not the same to them? The answer, of course, is that it is. The GOP is not trying to make the point that liberals do not care about women — it is to try to make the case that liberals also do not care about women. They are trying to establish that everyone does it — and therefore, we can all now stop treating it as though it’s some big problem. Admit that you do it, the GOP seems to beg — admit that you do it too, that we all do it, so that we can stop pretending to care. Let me put it to you this way: the GOP response was so quintessentially GOP.
What Harvey Weinstein did was both absolutely inexcusable and just plain horrifying. But what the ruling party did in return — unable to simply, respectfully, humbly state that they denounce his actions and stand by women in the workplace — not only showcases their gross immaturity but also their classic inability to self-reflect, accidentally and idiotically spotlighting not only their tacit acceptance of sexual assault (as long as none of us are going to be hypocrites about it), but also their hateful, white-knuckled grasp on instigative behavior and pettiness.
In another sense, false equivalencies somehow always find their way into conversations around sexual assault. For instance, when the University recently passed deferred rush, the Interfraternity Council indignantly claimed that the University was treating student organizations unequally — if students could join other clubs in the fall but not Greek letter organizations, they were, therefore, dearly oppressed. Please, IFC, let me know when Chess Club develops a decades-long sexual assault problem. In the same vein, the GOP petulantly asked what the liberal response would be to a Democratic abuser — expecting, I assume, to use a non-reaction from Hollywood as a leg-up to their own predator president.
Instead, Weinstein lost his company, his connections, the credibility of his work, his wife, the respect of his family and friends and any prestige or power that might once have been associated with his name. It took too long for Hollywood to speak out. I would never contest that. But once they did, the industry shut the gates on him. But our president? Barely un-endorsed, quickly re-endorsed, party-funded, one spineless congressional Republican after another pledging their fealty — because of the mass of the base he commanded, and the swaths of their constituencies he therefore controlled.
What did Vice President Mike Pence — a man who cannot sit at the same table as a female senator without his wife present — do when the Access Hollywood tape leaked? Nothing. What did former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus or Sen. Mitch McConnell say, both self-selected “defenders” of a more moral, more wholesome culture? What did Donald Trump Jr. — at least a father of daughters, if not enough of a decent human being to care on the basis of his own common humanity — have to say? None of these men who recently jumped out of the woodwork to prematurely point and say “Gotcha!” did anything when one of their own outed himself as a happy terrorizer of women.
Perhaps it’s an overstated point, but we don’t seem to remember it nearly enough — the party that pretends to emphasize some old American “morality” will throw that away as soon as they sense their own interests have been compromised. As that same sexual abuser now seeks to dismantle health care via executive order, and as national backlash mounts, let us expect nothing more from them than the usual childlike dysfunction and manic tantrums.
Lily Vaughan is a junior majoring in history and political science. Her column,“Playing Politics,” runs Fridays.