Harvey Weinstein is a pig. It’s not language I would normally use in a column, but the cascade of revelations about his treatment of women and men, most particularly his twisted and apparently constant sexual advances, demands a blunt assessment. The accusations that have toppled this modern-day film mogul make for disturbing reading every morning at the breakfast table.
The exposure of his predatory bullying in this age of predatory bullies has had at least a few benefits, however.
First, it has ignited an explosion of confessions on the part of women in the entertainment as well as other professions. I might say all professions. The #MeToo hashtag makes for harrowing reading, a rolling tide of upsetting, at times horrifying, anecdotes that can easily fill the reader with a deep despair for man’s inhumanity to woman.
While many of us, God willing, make our way through our days without harassing or being harassed, it is clear that many of our sisters (and some of our brothers) are not so fortunate. That so many have felt it necessary to remain silent for so long speaks not just to fear of the abuser’s retaliation, but also to the fear that the rest of us will turn away.
As we Catholics have seen in the clergy sexual abuse crisis, this fear is not unfounded. Of course we must be sensitive to the risk of false allegations, which is why we need due process, but not no process or a sham process.
Second, the Weinstein scandal is a reminder that no party or ideology is somehow immune to such behavior. Weinstein was a great supporter of liberal causes and portrayed himself as feminism’s friend.
We’ve seen hypocrisy among so-called pro-life politicians and so-called progressive politicians, among both blue and red. We as a nation even gave a pass to highly offensive “locker room talk” by a presidential candidate (though as an adult I have been in many locker rooms and not heard such language).
Third, one is left to marvel at all the self-righteous prattle and exaggerated breast-beating that is spilling out of Hollywood in the wake of Weinstein’s rapid fall. This is an industry that has helped to hypersexualize our nation. The steady coarsening of humor, the increasingly graphic scenes, the relentless titillation embedded in everything from “family comedies” to historical epics, suggest that reality is a nonstop orgy.
Fantasy is increasingly portrayed as reality, and the impact on our culture has been predictably devastating — not just in the dens of the sophisticates, but in the suburbs and the small towns, in rural and urban areas. We are drowning in the fantasies of a thousand Harvey Weinsteins.
All of this is a reminder of our fallen nature. While “reality TV” is not real, sin is. The great insight of Christian realism is that we are all sinners. It is only the sin of pride that makes us think we are somehow immune to its corruption.
This realism is what undergirds the solid pastoral wisdom in the church about avoiding temptation — not putting ourselves into situations of moral risk. We are all adults, it is true, but that makes it all the more important that we recognize the temptation to reduce others to our fantasies and needs.
For all of us, single or married, chastity is a virtue worth pursuing, even though that surest antidote to piggish behavior sounds terribly old-fashioned. Recognizing the God-given human dignity of all our sisters and brothers is what is demanded of men (and women also) if we are to take a stand against the further Weinsteining of America.
Erlandson, director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.