On 5 October 2017, the New York Times published an article by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey about allegations of sexual assault in the entertainment industry and, more specifically, the way in which Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein abused his power in sexual misconduct with actresses and industry colleagues.
It got to the point of mockery from the public’s perspective: that such hyperbole about a serious issue could lead to such lack of resolution, as if the molesters, predators and, yes, rapists had been vindicated just as quickly as they had been outed.
The story went viral and it helped ignite the #metoo and TimesUp movements, bringing conversation of sexual assault into the mainstream, with many more men eventually held to account for sexual misconduct across various industries, from the now-familiar Hollywood-targeted allegations (eg: James Franco, below) to cases brought up in the arts, theatre, fashion and sports circles.
But things did go relatively quiet for a while, with hardly any follow-up and not much in the way of obvious investigation into each case. It got to the point of mockery from the public’s perspective: that such hyperbole about a serious issue could lead to such lack of resolution, as if the molesters, predators and, yes, rapists had been vindicated just as quickly as they had been outed.
Thankfully, things were actually happening behind the scenes, and while prosecution lawyers were gathering evidence and filing papers to take hideous offenders to court, the two journalists who broke the initial story were indeed doing their own further investigating.
‘She Said’ picks up from where that first article left off, delving far deeper into the horrid tales … while realising all the hard work that came before it…
The results of these investigations can be found in She Said, a book by Kantor and Twohey that picks up from where that first article left off, delving far deeper into the horrid tales of not only the men who used their power to prey on others, but their dirty web of lawyers and public relations people, who tried to silence not only the victims but the publishers and journalists who tried to bring the hideous scenario to public attention.
She Said is a testament to the power of legacy journalism, realising all the hard work that went into that initial story and beyond, and even shows how social media can help drive social change. It’s also a study in safety in numbers for, as Kantor and Twohey often found, women would agree to tell their individual stories only if others would agree to do so.
Kantor and Twohey relay the victims’ accounts in real-time, vividly retelling the experiences of each individual speaking up for the sake of other women, for future generations, and for themselves.
At times, ‘She Said’ suffers from repetition and redundancy but this might be because the reader has kept up with the various trials to date…
While for the most part easy to digest, even given its horrible subject matter, at times She Said suffers from repetition and redundancy. It might be because the reader has kept up with the various trials to date and therefore is a little ahead of themselves, or it might be for the fact that some of the victims – even though going on record – still deliver their stories in a tentative fashion.
One thing I appreciated is that the authors make reference to related accusations that happen outside of the worlds of entertainment and politics, such as the cases against US Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Michael Kavanaugh (nominated by Donald Trump before winning his position of power) – accused of sexually assaulting work colleagues, and Olympic doctor Larry Nassar who sexually abused female gymnasts and subsequently imprisoned.
While the book indirectly asks ‘Has cultural change gone too far or not far enough?’, I’d say it is going further and further in a good way.
Take the case of Nassar, for example. Where the USA Gymnastics Association knew about the sexual abuse but refused to do anything for fear that a sex abuse scandal would damage its fund-raising efforts, it ultimately had no option but to comply to the calls of law and justice. Nassar was sentenced in 2018 to 175 years imprisonment after pleading guilty to seven counts of sexual assault of minors. This ‘outing’ of the USA Gymnastics Association complacency in reporting the abuse should stand as an example to encourage other large organisations to handle such matters as they happen, not because they’ve been caught out.
The bottom line is: cultural change can never go too far if it is for the betterment of society and for the safety of its individuals. She Said is a book that can only help procreate positive change.
‘She Said’ is published through Bloomsbury Australia, RRP $32.99.