As star after star is accused of sexual harassment or assault, columnist Nicole Brodeur can’t help but be amazed and energized by the swiftness of the reaction, as victims are being heard like never before. “I have never seen anything like it,” she writes.
The swiftness of it all has been stunning.
An accusation of sexual assault or harassment is made, then maybe another, followed by The Fall: A show or event is canceled. The publicist and agency peel off, and the accused star retreats. All in a matter of days, or even overnight.
And so it was at Seattle’s Town Hall, where “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner was scheduled to speak Monday night with author and former TV writer Maria Semple about his new book, “Heather, the Totality.”
Four days before, on Nov. 9, former “Mad Men” writer Kater Gordon alleged that while working with Weiner late one night in 2008, he told her she “owed it to him” to let him see her naked. In a statement, Weiner said he did not remember making the comment, “Nor does it reflect a comment he would say to any colleague.”
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No matter. On Friday morning, Town Hall Executive Director Wier Harman announced that Weiner’s appearance had been canceled and that all tickets would be refunded. It was over. Done.
“It was tough, but I feel clear about it,” Harman told me the other day. “We did it within two hours. There wasn’t going to be any new information that would clarify this. He wouldn’t be suddenly vindicated.
“Could we have had the conversation we programmed on Monday night, about art and commerce and the television industry between two inspiring, hilarious, witty people?” Harman asked. “Not in the current context.
“It has nothing to do with guilt or innocence,” he continued. “No matter what the truth is, it was not an appropriate moment for Town Hall to provide Matthew Weiner a platform to talk about his side of the story.”
Time and again, and without being dragged through the mud, questioned, subpoenaed or skewered, victims are being believed and action is being taken almost immediately.
I have never seen anything like it.
When Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore was accused of sexual assault, even a member of his own party, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, stood behind the women.
“I believe the women, yes,” McConnell told reporters the other day, while calling for Moore to leave the race.
This is a complete turnaround from last summer, when 35 women accused comedian Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them without consequence.
Each told her story to New York Magazine, which put them on the cover — one of the most impactful and wrenching photographs I’ve seen in years. There they were, pictured in black and white, unabashed and unafraid.
But nothing happened. Cosby has denied all accusations. And when another woman, Andrea Constand, took Cosby to court on rape charges last summer, the case ended in a mistrial.
I don’t think that would happen today.
All of a sudden, victims are being believed, their stories honored and giants of the entertainment industry dropping like Goliath.
After comedian Louis C.K. was accused of — and admitted to — masturbating in front of women, one Vulture story was headlined, simply, “Louis C.K. is done.”
“What really comes to mind is (Donald) Trump’s election and his boasting about wildly inappropriate sexual behavior,” said Judith Howard, a professor emeritus of Sociology and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington. “It crossed a line for a lot of people. Nothing happened to him.”
Many of the men who have been accused didn’t boast about it, Howard said, “they just assumed they had a right to do it.”
“But Trump went a step further and was boasting about things that members of his own party couldn’t stomach,” she continued. “That may have been a threshold. And now we’re trying to make up for the fact that Trump wasn’t held accountable.”
Moreover, the women making accusations against Harvey Weinstein (Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan in The New York Times, followed by stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie) were prominent, numerous, and described a pattern of behavior.
At the same time, “More and more men are saying ‘Yes, I was aware of this, and I didn’t do anything,’ ” Howard said.
“This is an absolute sea change,” she said. “And you just want to hold your breath that the same amount of accountability will continue.”
It’s looking good so far.
Weiner’s appearance at the Brattle Theatre in Boston went on last week. The Boston Globe reported that a woman in the audience asked him about the loss of mentorship opportunities in the current climate — a question Weiner used to deny Gordon’s story.
He was supposed to introduce a movie screening after his book event, but canceled.
Weiner is scheduled to appear Wednesday night at Powell’s Books in Beaverton, Oregon, but moderator David Naimon withdrew from the event, saying “Kater Gordon deserves the benefit of the doubt.”
Those are words women have been waiting to hear for generations. They better stick.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Matthew Weiner would be appearing at Powell’s Books in Portland. The author event is at the Powell’s Books in Beaverton, Oregon.