Nobody is perfect and sometimes we all get something wrong. When you get it wrong in print these days and that print appears online, then your mistake is there for as long as there is an internet. So I hereby put my hand up and admit I was wrong in the immediate aftermath of the outing of Harvey Weinstein, producer of so many films we have all munched our popcorn to, as a serial sexual predator with a record going back decades. I was skeptical — not of the allegations that I believed the instant I heard them — but of there being any real change that would happen as a result.
The floodgates of the murky River Hollywood burst open and suddenly there were abusers being exposed right left and centre. Big men. Famous. Stars. They were all holed below the waterline and in the case of Kevin Spacey physically erased from a film he had just completed and by the wonders of digital magic replaced by another actor. None of these men are ever likely to recover their reputations and it is doubtful if any of them will ever play a role in the entertainment industry. Their destruction is complete.
And then there were the women. Big women. Famous. Stars. The #MeToo hashtag went viral. Then there was the ripple effect to other areas where women are abused or discriminated against. The on-air women of the BBC made a stand against the Corporation and its failure to pay women equal to men if they are doing the same job. The BBC China editor, Carrie Gracie, a hugely respected journalist, resigned in the last week having failed to move the monolithic and small-minded mentality that brackets women as ‘lesser’. That is a fight that will go on.
Oprah Winfrey. I am no fan of Oprah, just not my sort of TV, but she had me sitting up straight for the duration of the speech she made at the Golden Globe awards. Clad in black as were so many other women at the event she delivered a speech that was passionate, heartfelt and a call to arms that resonated far beyond the sugar and tacky tinsel of showbiz. She touched on working women everywhere, and how sexual harassment in the workplace had blighted their lives. Poor and voiceless women had the Big O standing up for them.
So I was wrong to have been so cynically dismissive and failed to foresee the consequences of the Weinstein toppling, so I did suspect many of my fellow hard-boiled cynics that never believe anything without at least four independent sources and confirmatory images.
Whether I am right to say today that women are crossing a watershed across the world, at different speeds in different cultures and countries but all crossing nonetheless, may be too early to say but the immolation of Weinstein really is a harbinger of change. Many will be unaware of the current that is pushing them along — and in cultures such as Pakistan the prevailing patriarchy is going to fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo with women subservient, cruelly abused, discriminated against and held back from achieving their potential.
Yet even here in this Neanderthal and crepuscular gloom there are sparks of light. Again it is the media women that are raising their voices, some of them receiving international awards and recognition for their work — Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Nighat Dad — and they do so amid a backwash of detractors that lose no opportunity to defame them, to rubbish their work and frustrate their endeavours. They invite the vitriol — Malala Yousafzai is a dead woman walking if she ever set foot back here — and some will pay with their lives for standing up tall.
The women referred to above were battling long before anybody cared a hoot about Harvey Weinstein, and there are many others like them, they are no longer such rare birds as they were and they are nurturing an emergent generation of women that are sharp of beak and eye that will claw their way up the midden of misogyny and clear a path for Pakistan to have its very own Weinstein Moment. I too can dream.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2018.