On October 5, 2017, the New York Times published an article with the headline: ‘Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades’. It was researched and written by two brave reporters, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Tonight we are happy and honored to welcome half of this duo: Megan Twohey.
That headline, ‘Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades’, was correct inasmuch that it expressed what we newspaper people call ‘the news’. But the paying off of sexual abuse of power by shady legal arrangements and huge amounts of money, was not what made this article so explosive.
This article told the nasty tale of a powerful man who – for decades – coerced a staggering number of female employees into providing him with sexual favors. The articles that followed uncovered a world of enablers, of mum-is-the-word, of ‘everybody knew but nobody dared to speak up’. They described an ocean of fear, of shame, of post-traumatic stress disorder. In short: the real news was the fact that many women had been seriously hurt.
The journalism of Kantor and Twohey was the starting point for a revolutionary movement under the banner #MeToo. They were awarded a very well deserved Pulitzer Prize for it.
They subsequently published She Said, the book some of you may have read and the book most of you will start reading tonight or tomorrow and will have finished next week at the latest. The book that will deprive some of you of your sleep, because you do not want to stop reading. It describes how the reporting of Twohey and Kantor developed. How they worked with reluctant victims. How they dealt with the sinister ways of film producer Harvey Weinstein and his pack, ready to fight dirty and to do what they do best: intimidate.
Reading this magnificent book, I understood more and more the sad fact that the careless lack of interest in women’s rights and feelings is not something new, but part of human history. How can one read the classic Greek tragedies and myths and not think about it? Human sacrifices are being made all the time, no, female sacrifices are being made all the time. Iphigeneia is killed so that her father can set sail to war. Her sacrifice allows him to prove his power and subsequently have his business prosper. The same goes for Henry VIII and his killing off of his wives – that his entourage fully endorses. It echoes the excuse that the people around Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein make for not saving women who are routinely sacrificed by their bosses: they have to protect the company.
I want to end with a small personal note. I hold Megan Twohey extra dear for her work, because she changed my life. Literally. Ms Twohey flapped her wings on her side of the ocean and I exploded on our side. I mean, Edward Lorenz’ butterfly effect is a fact.On October 19, 2017, I wrote in NRC about the sexual abuse that, many years ago, the legendary documentary filmmaker Claude Lanzmann made me suffer, when I visited him for an interview for that same newspaper. It turned out I was not the only one.
In their book She Said, Twohey and Kantor quote Christine Blasey Ford, the scientist who testified about being assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, now a judge on the supreme court of the United Sates. Blasey Ford remarks: ,,Not saying something is what’s upsetting.”
Indeed. Right. Not being able or being allowed to speak up about sexual harrassment is humiliating. It hurts and it traumatizes. So thank you extra, Megan Twohey, for including this quote in your magnificent book She Said. It might be the essence.