The board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Saturday voted to revoke the membership of Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul who is accused of sexually harassing and assaulting women for nearly 30 years.
The 54-member board includes representatives from all of the Academy’s branches and includes well-known actors and actresses like Tom Hanks, Laura Dern, and Whoopi Goldberg. In an official statement, the board said:
We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleague but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.
Weinstein is only the second person in the Academy’s 90-year history to be stripped of their lifetime membership. The first was Godfather actor Carmine Caridi, who was kicked out for sharing screeners.
Since an initial report on the allegations against Weinstein in the New York Times and a subsequent report in the New Yorker, dozens of women have come out and accused Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault, and rape.
Membership in Academy is typically for a lifetime, but the organization released a statement earlier this week hinting that its board might vote to kick Weinstein out.
It’s hard for the Academy have moral standing here or even claim that Weinstein crossed some line that has never been crossed before. Still on its membership rolls are others who have been accused of sexual assault, including Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski. After allegations against those members came out, the Academy didn’t hold meetings to vote on whether they could remain in the organization.
Bruce Feldman, a member of the Academy’s public relations branch, told the Hollywood Reporter:
It's not that I wouldn't like to see Harvey booted out of the Academy. I would. But this raises questions about [Roman] Polanski and [Bill] Cosby and Lord knows who else. And then there are the legions of big-shot producers and execs who belittle and scream at everyone daily. Is persistent abusiveness okay, but sexual predation isn't?
To be clear, there is a distinction between assault and rape allegations and belittling and screaming. Weinstein was openly known for the latter behavior, while his pattern of harassment has been described as more of an “open secret” in Hollywood. In the words of New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow, Weinstein was the most-thanked man at the Oscars, “just after Steven Spielberg and right before God.”
The issue on the surface is that, in an industry with a serious misogyny problem, the Academy is now forced to draw some arbitrary line and kick someone out. But the deeper problem here is, as Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff writes, an “old boys’ club” culture:
It’s an extensive, much more difficult problem to solve, with deep roots in an industry whose history is that of a century-spanning old boys’ club — not to mention one that has paradoxically grown frattier as society around it has diversified.
...the chummy, bro-y behavior that drives the culture of the entertainment industry is often predicated on simply doing whatever one wants, which frequently means treating others — especially underlings, and especially women or people of color — like dirt.
Since the allegations against Weinstein went public, Weinstein has been fired from his company, the Weinstein Company, though Variety reports that he has been “furiously resisting efforts to force him out permanently.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports he’s been trying to recruit allies to support him.