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Sally Kohn: Hollywood couldn't afford not to be outraged at Harvey Weinstein

Liberal celebrities would have looked like hypocrites after being so enraged at Trump's treatment of women, she writes

Editor’s Note: Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter: @sallykohn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

CNN —  

As more and more institutions withdraw their honors and his career careens quickly – and deservedly – down the drain, Harvey Weinstein clearly has himself to blame for his problems. But should Weinstein in part blame Donald Trump – for whipping up Hollywood against sexual assault in the first place?

In case you’ve forgotten – because he counts on us having a short attention span – during the 2016 election, Donald Trump was accused of sexual assault or harassment by 17 women and Trump was literally caught on tape bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Nonetheless, he was elected president, including winning the vote of 52% of white women.

The day after Trump won, basically the other 48% of white women, most of the women of color in America, and a lot of men were pretty much horrified. This was definitely true in Hollywood. America’s cultural tastemakers had mustered massive amounts of money and outrage to try to bring about Trump’s defeat. And they – liberal celebrities specifically – failed.

These stars and titans who outwardly champion women’s rights and equality had not only failed to leverage their prodigious influence and power to elect the nation’s first female president but, instead, saw the ascension of a President who in every way seemed to be a backlash against the fairness and tolerance for which Hollywood has always imagined itself to stand.

As Rebecca Traister wrote in New York Magazine after the Weinstein allegations started coming out, “Something has changed.” She suggests a link between not only Trump and Weinstein but also Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.

Traister ponders whether there have been “shifts in how we understand these kinds of abuses” perhaps combined with “scores of women, finding strength and some kind of power in numbers.”

All of which I hope is true. Beginning with the largest march of women and their allies the day after Trump was inaugurated, we reached some critical mass in America and around the world of just refusing to stay silent and, together, more and more women are speaking out. And at the same time, for Hollywood in particular, the challenge of Weinstein was interesting timing.

Coming on the heels of all the outrage about Trump in particular, Hollywood couldn’t really afford to stay silent without looking ridiculously and obviously hypocritical.

This wasn’t Woody Allen or Roman Polanski or even Casey Affleck.

Weinstein was a titan of Hollywood, almost like its own unelected president – and the head of the “look I’m a liberal feminist” charitable parade – alleged to be doing the same thing Hollywood stars had just been shouting against Trump for.

Even in the face of the sheer scale and severity of what he is accused of doing, the swift downfall of Weinstein at pretty much every level has been breathtaking in its own way. It’s almost as if Hollywood, frustrated they couldn’t impeach Donald Trump, impeached Harvey Weinstein instead. Both deserve it.

There is some illusion here.

Hollywood, of course, is the land of illusion and one of the most pronounced and prolonged of these is the discrepancy between what the audience is meant to see and what goes on behind the scenes.

You would think that the town that literally invented “scripted reality shows” — yes, that’s a thing — would learn to not believe its own projections. Hollywood has always talked a good game about women’s rights, gay rights, racial justice, and economic justice but then failed time and time again to live up to its own rhetoric.

Hollywood is supposedly so gay friendly, but where are all those openly gay and trans leading characters in mainstream movies?

Hollywood supposedly supports racial inclusion, but the characters remain as white as the writers’ rooms and the exceptions are still too rare to be anywhere near the norm.

And Hollywood supposedly supports women’s and gender equity but plainly not only exploits but exacerbates the hyper-sexualization and objectification of women.

And if Hollywood is so supposedly hyper-liberal, why are “bad guys” in action movies so often based on anti-Muslim stereotypes and why do the “good guys” suggest that torturing suspects works?

Do all these liberal Hollywood people leave their politics at home?

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    Make no mistake about it, Harvey Weinstein is at fault for his behaviors and the climate he created in his companies and in his industry. And at the same time Hollywood is responsible for its longstanding hypocrisy and double standard on issues of equity and justice.

    Just like Donald Trump is responsible, in some way, for having gotten us all to surface and scrutinize these issues in new ways. And hopefully that means Hollywood – and all of us – will change for the better.