Emma Thompson is adding her voice to the growing number of men and women speaking out in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations — and she has some powerful words for the “predator” and for the systems that breed such abuse.
Speaking with BBC 2’s Newsnight, Thompson explained that her experience with Weinstein was limited to a professional capacity. However, upon hearing the allegations of sexual harassment and assault directed at the hotheaded film exec, Thompson admitted, “I didn’t know about these things, but they don’t surprise me at all and they’re endemic to the system anyway.”
Speaking pointedly about Weinstein’s behavior, Thompson continued to call out the culture of complicity that fosters the violation and suppression of women.
“What I find sort of extraordinary is that this man is at the top of a very particular iceberg. And I don’t think you can describe him as a sex addict; he’s a predator. That’s different. He’s, as it were, at the top of a ladder of a system of harassment and belittling and bullying and interference and what my mother would have referred to in the olden days as pestering,” Thompson elaborated, adding, “That’s the word we used to use in the olden days, if you recall. This has been part of our world — women’s world — since time immemorial.”
So how do we effect change?
According to Thompson, we need to start having the hard conversations, and we need to have them often. No matter how uncomfortable it may be.
“What we need to start talking about is the crisis in masculinity, the crisis in extreme masculinity — which is this sort of behavior,” she said, “and the fact that it is not only OK, but it is represented by the most powerful man in the world at the moment.”
When asked whether she believes there are other men in the industry who have abused women in a similar way to Weinstein, Thompson affirmed that she assumes there are many. When asked whether those unspoken predators have committed acts like Weinstein’s, she made an extremely salient point.
“Maybe not to that degree,” she said. “Do they all have to be as bad as them to make it count? Does it only count if you’ve done it to loads and loads and loads of women? Or does it count if you’ve done it to one woman once? I think the latter.”
Ending this culture of complicity and silence and rewriting the narrative won’t be easy, Thompson admits. In fact, she can’t say with all confidence that even a scandal as disturbing and massive as Weinstein’s will lead to necessary change at this point.
“One of the big problems about the way in which our systems work at the moment is that there are so many blind eyes. And we can’t keep making the women to whom this happens responsible — they’re the ones who’ve got to speak. Why? We’ve got to look and say, ‘This is happening,’ and say, ‘This is happening!'” she emphasized.
Facing the knowledge that the scope of allegations against Weinstein likely indicates many industry insiders were involved in cover-ups, Thompson responds, “Yeah, it’s pretty filthy, right? That’s the conspiracy of silence, and I think there are probably about a million missed opportunities to call this man out on his disgusting behavior.”
In a fiery final few minutes of the interview, Thompson calls for transparency. She calls for gumption. And most of all, she calls for action.
“This is about our system’s imbalances — our system’s gender crisis. We have to act on this; we have to turn this on its head,” she said. “We can’t allow this to continue, because what it means is naturally vulnerable people are going to continue to be preyed upon, whether Harvey Weinstein goes to jail or not.”