“I felt less alone this week than I’ve ever felt in my entire career.” –Reese Witherspoon
Photo: Getty Images
After the New York Times and The New Yorker exposés ousted Harvey Weinstein from a seemingly impenetrable Hollywood throne, unveiling his true nature as a sexual predator, the floodgates opened. One by one, women who had lived in silence about their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault — whether due to negative career repercussions, fear of not being believed, shame, NDAs, and other reasons — began to share their stories, adding voices to a booming chorus under the hashtag #MeToo. They demanded that widespread behavior of intimidation and abuse of power, and the normalization of it, come to an end.
Here, 25 famous writers, actors, and leaders share their own moments of being made to feel powerless — women who have spoken out recently amid the Weinstein case, and others who shared their experiences years ago. Together their quotes echo the impact of the hashtag: a list as physical proof of a rampant issue, but also a means for being seen and supported. Ellen Pao, Viola Davis, CEO Sallie Krawcheck, and more tell their stories below.
“People love to believe that fat women or unattractive women avoid harassment or assault. I bought into that too. When I [was] a child.
We’re not immune from assault. We aren’t believed. ‘Who would harass you?’ And that makes us bigger targets. My home is carpeted with the tongues of men who expected me to [be] grateful for their harassment.” —her Twitter, October 2017
“One girl before me had already been fired for not losing enough weight fast enough. And, during this time, a female producer had me do a nude lineup with about five women who were much, much thinner than me. And we all stood side-by-side with only paste-ons covering our privates. After that degrading and humiliating lineup, the female producer told me I should use the naked photos of myself as inspiration for my diet. I asked to speak to a producer about the unrealistic diet regime and he responded by telling me he didn’t know why everyone thought I was so fat, he thought I was perfectly ‘fuckable.’ … I couldn’t have gotten a producer or a director or a studio head fired. I let myself be treated a certain way because I felt like I had to for my career. I was young and walking that fine line of sticking up for myself without being called difficult, which they did call me, but I believe the word they used was ‘nightmare.’ I didn’t want to be a whistleblower. I didn’t want these embarrassing stories talked about in a magazine. I just wanted a career … I want you to know we’re here for you. We’re all here for each other. Together, now, we will stop this kind of behavior from happening. We will stop normalizing these horrific situations. We will change this narrative and make a difference for all of those individuals pursuing their dreams.” —Elle’s Women in Hollywood, October 2017
On her co-workers who left behind Xeroxes of their penises on her desk: “The first time it happened, I didn’t know what it was. I was like, ‘What is this strange, artistic, squishy-looking distorted thing?’ [When I got the message,] I was upset. And I was humiliated. And I was embarrassed. And I felt shame. And I knew they didn’t want me there … [I didn’t leave because] I had to pay rent. This was weeks out of college. New job. Full year lease signed on East 86th Street in New York City. My parents could not afford to pay my rent. I couldn’t imagine I could get another job. I really didn’t feel like I had a choice … I just didn’t even have a conception that you would march yourself into somebody’s office and ask that this stop. So I just kept showing up … There are many more options than silence. Big companies have confidential employee hotlines (on board I’ve been on, those calls have been reported directly to the board). So there are many more options today, and people should definitely avail themselves of them … If we’re not having these conversations, those old gender expectations and beliefs that have in part kept us from moving forward professionally will continue on, unchallenged.” —CNBC, January 2017
“First time I can remember being sexually assaulted I was 9 years old. I told no one and lived with the shame and guilt thinking all along that I, a 9 year old child, was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man. I had to see this man on a daily basis for years to come. He would smile at me and wave, and I would hurry past him, my blood running cold, my guts carrying the burden of what only he & I knew — that he expected me to shut my mouth and smile back. Ladies, let’s end this silence so the next generation of girls won’t have to live with this bullshit.” —her Instagram, October 2017
“What I find sort of extraordinary is that this man is at the top of a very particular iceberg. He’s … I don’t think you can describe him as a ‘sex addict.’ He’s a predator. … The top of the ladder of is a system of harassment and belittling and bullying and interference and what my mother would have referred to in the olden days as ‘pestering.’ ‘Is he pestering you?’ 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 what we need to start talking about is the crisis in masculinity, the crisis of extreme masculinity, which is this sort of behavior and the fact that this is not only OK, but it also is represented by the most powerful man in the world at the moment.” —BBC Newsnight, October 2017
“I found when I was a 16-year-old fresh from boarding school going out on the casting couch, I was definitely objectified to an extreme — the way I was made to feel, the way I was exploited, and the kinds of roles and kinds of things I was expected to do in auditions. There was one horrific incident where I went back for a second audition. It was a screen test. There were two other people in the room — the director, who I’d seen previously, and the casting director, who was a woman.
The director asked me to sit with my legs apart; the camera was right positioned where it could see up my skirt … [He asked me to] put my leg over the arm of the chair, and before I started my dialogue, think about the character I was supposed to be having the dialogue with and how it felt to be made love to by this person. And I was thinking, ‘This is so strange. Why would I need to do that?’ But this is the director, there’s the casting director, this must be normal. I’m 18 years old, and I’m thinking I was in a protected — there were boundaries! And three years later, I was at the Cannes Film Festival, and my husband and I bumped into this rather drunk producer, a British producer, who mentioned the director that I had had this audition with and he looked very sheepish and walked away. My husband grabbed him later and said, ‘Why did you start to say something and then didn’t?’ And it turned out that the director who had went on to make the film and who I was auditioning for used to show that video late at night to interested parties at his house. A video of me touching myself with a camera up my skirt. And that was in a professional environment … What does a young woman do in that situation? Obviously, I shouldn’t care about getting the job, number one. Absolutely not acceptable behavior. Also, as an 18-year-old girl, perhaps the old woman in the room should have put her job on the line and said, ‘I don’t condone this behavior.’ … It’s not about the person that’s been abused. It’s not just their role to say enough. It’s about the people around. How much are the people that witness — how much are they perpetrators of the crime?” —CNN, February 2013
On Bill Cosby: “It’s something I will never forget: the smell of his breath — coffee. He didn’t drink. Cigar breath. I remember what he was wearing: a patchwork robe. A large gold Rolex. A wedding ring that said BC. He had on a brown velvet hat, like a pimp hat … I’ve been a believer of Eckhart Tolle for many years, not ever to pity myself, ever. We just get back on the bicycle and ride. Kids, do your homework, be a good member of the community. If you do something wrong to someone, call that person up and say sorry. I have principles. I have morals and principles … They can fling all they want. I did not consent to being raped. I didn’t consent to it. I didn’t.” —The Guardian, July 2015
“Women writers, above all, are expected to understand and, if not tolerate, then excuse the bad behavior of male writers and editors. When these men, who trace their privilege to being the sons of Mailer, Updike, and Hemingway, behave inappropriately (for example, make sexual comments about your body in public, offer to get your colleague fired if you take off your clothes, kiss you, put a hand on your ass … ) the culture accepts that they are just performing their vocation and their gender. Indeed, if the man is considered to be famous or a genius the woman, regardless of her stature, should count herself lucky — lucky!
Lucky? Hardly. Harassment is harassment. Sexual assault is sexual assault. In my experience if it is at the hands of someone you admire, it’s worse. For years I avoided social functions and literary gatherings if I was reasonably sure my harasser, someone who had enormous power to hurt my career, would be there. Beyond the breach in trust and regardless of the truth, female writers who do hook up or engage in relationships with these male writers can’t win. Either they are seen as a dumb in love schoolgirl or a mercenary out to advance her own career. If she does become as famous as the male writer, or more so, there will always be those who suggest she got there on her back. Who cares how many female MFA students must be sacrificed to fire the great man’s creativity, it’s worth it.” —Lithub, March 2017
“i am inspired by the women everywhere who are speaking up online to tell about my experience with a danish director . because i come from a country that is one of the worlds place closest to equality between the sexes and at the time i came from position of strength in the music world with hard earned independence , it was extremely clear to me when i walked into the actresses profession that my humiliation and role as a lesser sexually harassed being was the norm and set in stone with the director and a staff of dozens who enabled it and encouraged it . i became aware of that it is a universal thing that a director can touch and harass his actresses at will and the institution of film allows it . when i turned the director down repeatedly he sulked and punished me and created for his team an impressive net of illusion where i was framed as the difficult one . because of my strength , my great team and because i had nothing to loose having no ambitions in the acting world , i walked away from it and recovered in a years time . i am worried though that other actresses working with the same man did not . the director was fully aware of this game and i am sure of that the film he made after was based on his experiences with me . because i was the first one that stood up to him and didn’t let him get away with it
and in my opinion he had a more fair and meaningful relationship with his actresses after my confrontation so there is hope
let’s hope this statement supports the actresses and actors all over
let’s stop this
there is a wave of change in the world” —her Facebook, October 2017
“I was called to meet Harvey Weinstein at the Savoy Hotel when I was 17. I assumed it would be in a conference room which was very common. When I arrived, reception told me to go to his room. He opened the door in his bathrobe. I was incredibly naive and young and it did not cross my mind that this older, unattractive man would expect me to have any sexual interest in him. After declining alcohol and announcing that I had school in the morning I left, uneasy but unscathed. A few years later he asked me if he had tried anything with me in that first meeting.
I realized he couldn’t remember if he had assaulted me or not. I had what I thought were boundaries - I said no to him professionally many times over the years - some of which ended up with him screaming at me calling me a cunt and making threats, some of which made him laughingly tell people oh ‘Kate lives to say no to me.’ It speaks to the status quo in this business that I was aware that standing up for myself and saying no to things, while it did allow me to feel uncompromised in myself, undoubtedly harmed my career and was never something I felt supported by anyone other than my family. I would like to applaud the women who have come forward, and to pledge that we can from this create a new paradigm where producers, managers, executives and assistants and everyone who has in the past shrugged and said ‘well, that’s just Harvey /Mr X/insert name here’ will realize that we in numbers can affect real change. For every moment like this there have been thousands where a vulnerable person has confided outrageous unprofessional behavior and found they have no recourse, due to an atmosphere of fear that it seems almost everyone has been living in.
I had a male friend who, based on my experience, warned a young actress who said she was going to dinner with Harvey to be careful. He received a phone call the next day saying he would never work in another Miramax film; the girl was already sleeping with Harvey and had told him that my friend had warned her off. Let’s stop allowing our young women to be sexual cannon fodder, and let’s remember that Harvey is an emblem of a system that is sick, and that we have work to do.” —her Instagram, October 2017
“I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly, and I found it really hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate. A lot of the feelings I’ve been having about anxiety, about being honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier or taking action. True disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger that I felt at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment. And I wish I could tell you that that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly, it wasn’t. I’ve had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault, and I don’t speak about them very often, but after hearing all the stories these past few days and hearing these brave women speak up tonight, the things that we’re kind of told to sweep under the rug and not talk about, it’s made me want to speak up and speak up loudly because I felt less alone this week than I’ve ever felt in my entire career…For the young women in this room, life is going to be different because we’re with you, we have your back and it makes me feel better…If we can raise consciousness and really help create change, that’s what’s going to change this industry and change society. So I’m so sad that I have to talk about these issues, but it would be, I would be remiss not to.” —Elle’s Women in Hollywood, October 2017
On being harassed by a makeup artist she was working with: “He was saying things inappropriately, insisting on putting my lipstick on with his finger. I was sleeping one night on location and I woke up and he was filming me. I was clothed, but it was a very voyeuristic, terrifying thing to do. … Finally, after three months of complaining, [the producers] called me into my trailer and said, ‘We need to talk to you.’ I thought, ‘Well finally, they’re going to do something about this man who I had to have touching me all day.’ And they said, ‘Your dog left a poop behind the toilet in your dressing room and our janitor had to pick it up. And this is very serious and we can’t have this happen again.’” —The Los Angeles Times, October 2017
“Me too. If all women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed spoke up, we might have a better idea of how big & damaging this problem is.” —her Twitter, October 2017
“When I first started to work as an actress, I was working on a film and I received a call from Harvey Weinstein asking if I had slept with any of the women I was seen out with in the media. It was a very odd and uncomfortable call….I answered none of his questions and hurried off the phone but before I hung up, he said to me that if I was gay or decided to be with a woman especially in public that I’d never get the role of a straight woman or make it as an actress in Hollywood. A year or two later, I went to a meeting with him in the lobby of a hotel with a director about an upcoming film. The director left the meeting and Harvey asked me to stay and chat with him. As soon as we were alone he began to brag about all the actresses he had slept with and how he had made their careers and spoke about other inappropriate things of a sexual nature. He then invited me to his room.
I quickly declined and asked his assistant if my car was outside. She said it wasn’t and wouldn’t be for a bit and I should go to his room. At that moment I felt very powerless and scared but didn’t want to act that way hoping that I was wrong about the situation. When I arrived I was relieved to find another woman in his room and thought immediately I was safe. He asked us to kiss and she began some sort of advances upon his direction. I swiftly got up and asked him if he knew that I could sing. And I began to sing….I thought it would make the situation better….more professional….like an audition….I was so nervous. After singing I said again that I had to leave. He walked me to the door and stood in front of it and tried to kiss me on the lips. I stopped him and managed to get out of the room. I still got the part for the film and always thought that he gave it to me because of what happened. Since then I felt awful that I did the movie. I felt like I didn’t deserve the part. I was so hesitant about speaking out….I didn’t want to hurt his family. I felt guilty as if I did something wrong. I was also terrified that this sort of thing had happened to so many women I know but no one had said anything because of fear.” —her Instagram, October 2017
“I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is any way my fault, because it isn’t … I am being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions and not mine.” —at her court testimony, August 2017
“In the early 2000s Harvey Weinstein called me into his office. There was a pile of scripts sitting on his desk. ‘I want to put you in one of my movies,’ he said and offered to let me choose which one I liked best. Later in the conversation, he mentioned that he had an agreement with his wife. He could sleep with whomever he wanted when he was out of town. I walked out of the meeting feeling uneasy. There was no explicit mention that to star in one of those films I had to sleep with him, but the subtext was there … The question — and this is not an excuse — is what defines sexual harassment in the workplace? He didn’t explicitly offer a trade — sex for work — even though I knew that was what he was implying. And I hadn’t gone to his hotel. I know this is an inner dialogue many women have — it’s part of what’s holding so many of us back from sharing our stories. We don’t want to be attacked for reading into something that may or may not have been there. We don’t want to be looked at as weak for not being able to handle ourselves in a business run by men. We don’t want to lose work by being defined as a Difficult Woman. We don’t want to be the first or only voice in the room.” —Variety, October 2017
“I didn’t tell anyone for, I think, seven years. I didn’t know how to think about it. I didn’t know how to accept it. I didn’t know how not to blame myself, or think it was my fault. It was something that really changed my life. It changed who I was completely. Because of the way that I dress, and the way that I’m provocative as a person, I thought that I had brought it on myself in some way. That it was my fault. … When you go through a trauma like that, it doesn’t just have the immediate physical ramifications on you. For many people it has almost like trauma, where you re-experience it through the years after it, it can trigger patterns in your body of physical distress.” —Times Talks, December 2015
“I would sue Kleiner Perkins for sexual harassment and discrimination in a widely publicized case in which I was often cast as the villain — incompetent, greedy, aggressive, and cold. My husband and I were both dragged through the mud, our privacy destroyed. For a long time I didn’t challenge those stories, because I wasn’t ready to talk about my experience in detail. Now I am. … It wasn’t until the spring of 2011 that I finally told a few colleagues about my harassment by Ajit. One instructed me never to mention it again. But when I told fellow junior partner Trae Vassallo, she grew uncharacteristically quiet. Then she said something I never expected: She had been harassed by Ajit, too. He’d asked her out for drinks to talk shop, and in the course of the evening he started touching her with his leg under the table.
Then I said something I still feel bad about. I recommended that she not report it. I had, and had been paying the price ever since. Fortunately, Trae didn’t take my advice. She reported Ajit’s behavior soon after, when she found out he was about to do her review. She was promised that the firm would keep an eye on it, but no other action was taken.” —Reset, The Cut, September 2017
“Asking women why they didn’t report their sexual assault right away is akin to asking someone why they didn’t report their own kidnapping” —her Twitter, October 2017
“Sexual violence & harassment can happen to anyone at anytime anywhere. Ppl remain silent 4 many different very personal reasons. Judgment, victim shaming/blaming, loss of job/$, fear of violence, retaliation. Folks are also very open and obvious about what kind of victim should be prioritized & believed. To think otherwise is to be willfully dim. In Hollywood meetings in homes, hotel lobbies/restaurants/suites, private isolated office space is the norm. NO ONE ‘ASKED FOR IT!!’ Sexual or physical violence, harassment, demeaning language is NOT the price one should pay for seeking or maintaining employment. Period.” —her Twitter, October 2017
“On many occasions I’ve been called a feminist for reporting unwanted groping, spanking, pinching, pressure for dates, phone calls and texts of a sexual nature, lack of appropriate changing areas, etc. And because the response has always been ‘are you surprised?’ or ‘that’s part of the job’ I tolerated them. When the offenses were bigger, calling them out is terrifying, and demands a level of exposure and backlash to what is already painful and sometimes shameful. #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse” —her Instagram, October 2017
“For women in America who come forward with stories of harassment, abuse, and sexual assault, there are not two sides to every story, however noble to principle might seem. Women do not get to have a side. They get to have an interrogation. Too often, they are questioned mercilessly about whether their side is legitimate. Especially if that side happens to accuse a man of stature, then that woman has to consider the scrutiny and repercussions she’ll be subjected to by sharing her side … I have been afraid of speaking out or asking things of men in positions of power for years. What I have experienced as an actress working in a business whose business is to objectify women is frightening. It is the deep end of a pool where I cannot swim. It is a famous man telling you that you are a liar for what you have remembered. For what you must have misremembered, unless you have proof. The women I know, myself included, are done, though, playing the credentials game.” —The New York Times, September 2017
On Harvey Weinstein: “We were talking on the sofa when he suddenly jumped on me and tried to kiss me. I had to defend myself. He’s big and fat, so I had to be forceful to resist him. He tried more than once … pushed him physically. I think he respected me because I resisted him … It was hard to say no because he’s so powerful. I’m an actress and he’s a producer … Since that night in his hotel room, I’ve seen him on many other occasions. We are in the same industry, so it’s impossible to avoid him. I’ve seen how he operates: the way he looks for an opening. The way he tests women to see what he can get away with. That’s the most disgusting thing. Everyone knew what Harvey was up to and no one did anything. It’s unbelievable that he’s been able to act like this for decades and still keep his career.” —The Guardian, October 2017
On her time at Uber: “On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR … Uber was a pretty good-sized company at that time, and I had pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations like this. I expected that I would report him to HR, they would handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on — unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently.
When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.” —her blog, February 2017
“The predator wants your silence. It feeds their power, entitlement AND they want it to feed your shame. Our bodies are not the ‘spoils of war’… a trophy to be collected to fuel your ego. It’s OURS!!! It doesn’t belong to you!! And when you take it without permission, it DESTROYS…… like a virus!!! To the predators…Weinstein, the stranger, the relative, the boyfriend…. I say to you, ‘You can choose your sin but you don’t get to choose the consequences.’ To the victims … I see you. I believe you … and I’m listening.” —Variety, October 2017