Finding the Harvey Weinstein in Me

As the Weinstein allegations start to go Cosby, I wonder about my role as a man. Am I part of the problem, part of the solution? How do I know, other than boosting my own ego thinking, “I couldn’t possibly be part of the problem!”

When I was living in Vietnam at the beginning of this decade, a friend told me of this story of Weinstein. I didn’t know the person involved, or Weinstein, but should I have done something? What could I have done?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the casting couch. It seems like common knowledge today that women, whether in show business or not, are going to be harassed / coerced / manipulated, but is having this knowledge improving anything in society? In the Vietnam incident, my thought was more along the lines of “Well, I guess that seems to be the price of admission.” I wasn’t happy or being humorous, but that seemed to be it in terms of my involvement.

My sister-in-law is a successful fashion model, and that’s where those thoughts return. While I want to be outraged at what’s going on (to women), at the same time, I just do not want to think about it because I don’t know what I can do.

I feel castrated in my possible reactions. What is the civilized way to fight back, to really have impact?

And yet, I’m not an innocent in this discussion. I have my own story of guilt: 20 years ago in high school, I was going online during the starting days of the internet, the time when people started transitioning away from AOL and finding the internet: Yahoo, Google, Excite. E-Mail was a miracle. This was Web 1.0, the early days of Geocities, where anyone could create his own website and show off a cool animated “hits” counter to show off the number of page visits.

As many teenage boys do, I gawked at the attractive girls in my classes. I had an idea of naming the most attractive girls in my year and putting it on a website for everyone to see.

I learned basic HTML, scanned photos from my yearbook and put it up. Scraping emails from group threads among classmates, I executed my first example of spam / mass emailing / grassroots marketing. I didn’t ask permission from any of the girls, being scared of them (never had I talked to most of them) and their possible responses, yet still wanted the site out there, getting attention.

As that was, perhaps it wasn’t so bad and I started to get some hits. I can’t remember all the details at this point, but I’m sure I continued working on the site, seeing how I could adjust things. Some friends of mine gave feedback, and this is where I made the wrong decision.

A friend mentioned (paraphrased) that one girl had a physical feature that would be great for oral sex. I don’t think I really knew what that meant, but I thought, hey, more content, and something to put on the website.

And so I did. I remember showing the website to my dad at this point, and he made a very astute comment (as usual) that I should reconsider putting comments like that on the website.

But I wanted the attention, I wanted people to visit the site and have a reaction (even though I truly feared a negative one), so I kept it. A few days later, some anonymous students had a negative reaction to the site and I was actually harassed (pretty stressful for my teenage self) for it. I do not know if they were doing so in defense of one of the girls, or some other reason. It does not matter.

I clearly put my need for attention over something that was not nice to put in full public view. It could have affected one of the girls negatively, and it was a form of harassment.

I don’t quite remember what happened after this. I am fairly sure I removed that one comment that was out of line, but probably kept the site up for some months after.

But…”I couldn’t possibly be part of the problem!”

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