SHE SAID by Jody Kantor and Megan Twohey
Who would believe me? Who should I tell? What does it take for victims of sexual assault and harassment to be believed?
For decades, people in modern Hollywood have worked and succeeded within a toxic, compromising system. Yet, all too often, women were sexually harassed with impunity. Sexual harassment is against the law – but it was also routine in some jobs.
On October 5, 2017, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the sexual harassment story against Harvey Weinstein that had been piling up as whispers and rumors for 30 years. A 3,300-word New York Times article and a series of following articles ignited the #MeToo movement.
“Their best option, many people agreed, was to accept money as some form of reparation, in exchange for silence.”
“She Said” embraces the structures of (abuse of) power and gives the full account of who talked and how breaking the sexual harassment story helped ignite the movement.
“Millions of women around the world told their own stories of mistreatment. Large numbers of men suddenly had to answer for their predatory behavior, a moment of accountability without precedent.”
However, the way there was not easy. Everywhere Kantor and Twohey went along their research, women didn’t want to speak to them. Reluctance was not just born of intimidation, but the threat of financial ruin. Weinstein’s harassment has been covered up through payoffs, accompanied by gagging clauses.
“Women signed these agreements for good reason. They needed the money, craved privacy, didn’t see better options, or just wanted to move on.”
How come nobody talked and nobody reported? As Kantor and Twohey finally got through three years of reporting and hundreds of interviews, they heard the same details again and again. Finally, a few brave women went on the record in the initial story, when it was truly dangerous to go to public.
Two reporters with no connection in Hollywood were able to penetrate this omertà and expose what lay behind it to public scrutiny. Their highly important work was grounded in scores of interviews with actresses and current and former employees, supplemented by legal filings, corporate records and internal company communications that documented a thick web of cover-ups, bullying tactics and confidential settlements.
“We describe how we coaxed out secrets, pinned down information and pursued the truth about a powerful man even as he used underhanded tactics to try to sabotage our work.”
I'm a firm believer that "She Said" is a driver of change. The book helped to illustrate how the legal system and corporate culture have served to silence victims and still inhibits change. Accordingly, it highlights the importance to refocus our attention on structures of power.
A few months post-revelation, debates about topics ranging from date rape to child sexual abuse to gender discrimination have been discussed more and more publicly.
If a conversation is hard, it’s probably the one worth having. The final chapter of the book concerns the questions what drives and impedes social change.
To conclude, this book deals with experiences that many women faced and are still facing every day. If you have been a victim or you know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault do not hesitate to reach out. For me, this book was hard to read – shocking and full of details and quotations. This book and the topic discussed is of the utmost importance. I recommend this book to everyone interested in the happenings and emergence of the #MeToo movement. This book showed me clearly that we’re never too small to make a difference.
About the Authors:
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey are the New York Times reporters behind the Harvey Weinstein investigation. Their work led Weinstein's firing and helped start the viral #MeToo movement. Their achievement was honored in 2018, when The New York Times was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
My favourite quote:
“Sexual harassment was often rumored, rarely revealed. Sadly, shamefully, very few of us had the courage or wherewithal to confront it."