“Why now?” a friend asked me over dinner this week amid our umpteenth conversation about Harvey Weinstein and the flood of sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations that have emerged about him. Why, after decades of guarding what had become an open secret, had women finally felt more willing to go on the record with journalists and share their stories publicly—even in the face of threats by Weinstein, and risk to their own careers, that had been there all along?
I don’t know the answer for sure, but I told her that I think—and I certainly hope—it’s because something in our culture has shifted. With the downfall of a motley crew of notorious, high-profile men tied to sexual harassment and assault cases that were previously long-hidden—Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly—the misogynists’ house of cards is tumbling down. (I can only imagine the famous men shaking in their Gucci loafers right now, freaking out about whether their misdeeds will be next to hit the fan.) Those cases have begun the slow process of proving that women will be believed, and towering men abusing their power will be exposed and fired. Except, of course, for one: the alleged sexual predatorsitting in the White House.
Yes, we’re living in a bizarro upside-down world in which Hollywood and Fox News oust their alleged sexual abusers but America promotes one to president. Where movie producers and media figures (even if they’re just under pressure from advertisers or their board of directors) take a stand against men who allegedly assault women, but voters look the other way. It really makes the aforementioned cultural progress, that sense of momentum toward rooting out men like Weinstein, feel phony, and the wall-to-wall coverage and condemnation of the movie mogul, even if it is well-deserved, land as hollow: Weinstein lost his job (and his wife). There is some semblance of justice for his accusers, if there is such a thing as “justice” in the wake of a sexual assault. But Donald Trump remains, and he uses his not-inconsiderable power and influence to continue to threaten women, from efforts to strip many of them of health care to rolling back protections for access to birth control and equal pay.
What’s almost as bad is the fact that Trump being accused by more than 12 women of sexual assault or misconduct is something that is hardly ever talked about anymore—or not nearly enough, anyway. Sure, the so-called Access Hollywood “pussy” tape is invoked here and there, but the multiple allegations against Trump are often reduced to a single line in a story—“additionally, Trump was accused by multiple women of acting inappropriately and abusively,” as CNN noted this week. When was the last time you heard the names of the women who said Trump grabbed their breasts, reached under their skirts, or kissed them against their will? It only took a year for those allegations to mostly fade into obscurity. As a refresher, Summer Zervos, a former Apprentice contestant, accused Trump of “thrusting his genitals” at her and attempting to pull her into the bedroom during a business meeting. People writer Natasha Stoynoff allegedTrump pushed her against a wall and “forcing his tongue” down her throat at Mar-a-Lago while his then-pregnant wife, Melania, was upstairs. Jessica Leeds told The New York Times Trump groped her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt on an airplane more than three decades ago. Trump categorically denied all of the allegations against him, and, for good measure, announced at a rally that Leeds “would not be my first choice.” This is the person whose picture hangs in our post offices.
That Trump was elected President of the United States with the Republican Party’s support renders every attempt to politicize the Weinstein case feeble and absurd. Blaming Hillary Clinton, to whom Weinstein was a major donor, for not releasing a statement on the scandal quickly enough? Instead of spinning your wheels scrutinizing a woman’s response, try directing your ire to the actual alleged serial sexual abuser who is president. (And while you’re at it, quit placing the burden of policing toxic men on women, rather than on the men themselves.) Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel slamming Democrats for taking donations from Weinstein—and claiming the allegations against Weinstein and Trump aren’t even “comparable”? Nice try—but your party elevated someone who more than a dozen women have accused of some of the very same acts as Weinstein—including unwanted advances—to the highest office in the country. As for Sean Hannity claiming Democrats haven’t condemned Weinstein strongly enough? Friendly reminder that a who’s who of Fox News’s favorite Republican congressmen—many on behalf of their “wives and daughters”—released statements of supposed “disgust” at Trump’s Access Hollywood tape, only to turn around and blindly support his anti-woman agenda. The sad truth is that sexual assault and sexual harassment are not Democrat- or Republican-specific; it’s a pox on both houses, and a plague that underlies too many industries.
There will be others after Weinstein; they will dominate headlines and cable news fervor and text chains. But we should never forget that an alleged sexual predator lives in the White House. And for my friend asking why Weinstein’s alleged history of sexual abuse is only coming out now, I’ll add another question: How long will it take for America to care about Trump’s?