By Dr David Laing Dawson
Harvey Weinstein. We can call his behaviour evil, reprehensible, outrageous, nasty, illegal, criminal, or sick, but is there a way to understand it? Such behaviour does require a degree of sociopathy, the absence of empathy, of guilt or remorse. It does require a degree of self-importance, of narcissism. It does not bother him much that he hurts people.
But the cloying, nasty, crude, pleading, begging, and disgusting aspects of his behaviour, combined with the physical reality of the man speak to a different impulse. The same with most of the others who have been recently exposed, with the exception of George H. W. Bush, whose fixation on a single play of words that provides him the excuse for a fanny squeeze suggests a little frontal lobe dementia is at work.
But the others, what of the others? What strikes me is that they are physically repulsive men living in a world that values youth and beauty.
To some extent we all live in that world. Beautiful young, and beautiful not-so-young women are paraded before us on our screens, on our billboards, at the office, on the campus, in our newspapers and magazines. Every man notices. Every man enjoys this visual treat. Every man is attracted to this spectacle. And if drag queens are anything to go by, the attraction is not limited to the heterosexual male. Even gay men are fascinated by the adornment, the display, the theatricality, the vigour, the exhibitionism – youth and beauty.
If the Harvey Weinsteins of this world took advantage of their positions to court, seduce, and then maintain as mistresses a couple of beautiful young women, it would be understandable as the fulfillment of a natural biological yearning experienced by an Alpha Male. Common around the world, with humans and other primates.
But that is not what they do. They display their own disgusting selves, their bodies, and then force these young women to degrade themselves, to experience the disgust they must feel for themselves.
So Harvey looks in the mirror and finds himself physically repulsive, unhealthy, weighted with an excess of mortal flesh. His successes in film making do not remove this repulsion, this self-disgust. Especially when he is reminded every day that some others, most notably young female actors, glow with health and beauty, and command the eyes of everyone else in the room.
He will make them suffer too, and suffer with the same sense of self-disgust he feels. And then make them flee from him as they must, but now reduced and no longer threatening.
There is a cartoon circulating now with a father explaining to his son that, regarding sexual abuse, “We hold our movie stars to a higher standard than our presidents.”
But is there a real link here? I mean between the presidency of Donald Trump and so many women now blowing the whistle on abusive male behaviour?
It is not surprising that Donald Trump has provoked a backlash of Democrats being elected. Maybe a little surprising that one of those Democrats is a transsexual. But has the election of Donald Trump and his band of privileged rich white males caused a reactionary wave of female empowerment? Maybe.
That would be a treat. Perhaps Trumpism will ultimately produce, by reaction, a universal health care system, some environmental protection, some concern about global warming, a more equitable distribution of wealth, some actual gun control, less racism rather than more, a rational, thoughtful and more realistic assessment of America’s place and role within an interdependent world.
It is the silver lining to this mess. His two steps backward may cause a mighty leap forward.
But I am surprised and troubled by just how many rich privileged males have been behaving as if they were 16 year old brain damaged boys living in a group home.