cut chat

We Didn’t Expect Weinstein to Be Convicted, and We Don’t Know How to Feel

Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

On Monday, Harvey Weinstein was convicted of two counts of rape and sexual assault. The Cut has followed the Weinstein allegations closely since fall 2017. Still, this was not an outcome we were expecting or were even fully prepared for — in fact, most of the conversations we’ve had were about how we would cover his inevitable acquittal. That says a lot about how we assume trials like these will play out, and not in a good way. So when the news came in, many of us didn’t know how to feel.

As a staff, we discussed our reaction to the news, what we hope the women who endured testifying feel now, and whether Weinstein’s conviction will set a precedent for other accused men.

Callie Beusman, news editor: I got emotional when I read the sentence “Harvey Weinstein is a convicted rapist.” A depressingly low bar to feel moved by, but nonetheless. I wasn’t expecting him to be found guilty — because even amid Me Too, the criminal-justice system hasn’t changed much, or at all. It seemed to me like the powerful would just never be held accountable.

Jordan Larson, essays editor: It is a little weird not to feel completely let down, like maybe things have changed slightly.

Bridget Read, staff writer: We can stop writing “alleged” now and write “convicted.” A small mercy.

Callie Beusman: I was working from home, and I said to my sister, who I live with, “Weinstein was convicted of rape.” And she came into my room and made me repeat it three times. It simply did not compute. It felt like we were in a glitching situation.

Jen Gann, senior editor: The verdict makes me feel suspicious, as if there must be a catch.

Melissa Dahl, deputy editor: It still does not compute for me, honestly. Why does it make you suspicious, Jen?

Jen Gann: Like, could and will this be overturned? It seems like a small step in one respect, a huge step in another, but mostly like something that — because of the extreme power of powerful men — could be undone.

Amanda Arnold, staff writer: I’ll feel apprehensive until the sentencing, I think, because of the the Brock Turner case. I remember celebrating when Turner was found guilty of assault, which made his lenient sentencing sting so much more.

Kerensa Cadenas, senior editor: Yeah, that’s what I worry will happen.

Izzy Grinspan, deputy style editor: How widespread was the assumption that Weinstein wouldn’t be convicted? I know we all assumed that, but I wonder if people outside of the media industry felt the same way.

Irin Carmon, senior correspondent: A lot of attorneys were saying he would be acquitted or there would be a hung jury. The trial was also competing with attention from so much other news — the election, coronavirus, Trump.

Stella Bugbee, editor-in-chief: The thing that makes me hopeful is that it could open up opportunities for future rape verdicts — for the convictions and sentencing of other men.

Erica Schwiegershausen, editor: I feel a weird ambivalence about it that is tricky to articulate. On one level, it’s grimly satisfying to see justice served. But also, because the bar seems so low, my emotional reaction isn’t as intense as it would have been if he wasn’t convicted, I think.

Stella Bugbee: Wait, you mean the “good” news of the verdict doesn’t produce the same intensity as the bad news?

Erica Schwiegershausen: Yeah, that’s how I feel — which is also a weird feeling to recognize.

Stella Bugbee: I fully expected him to be acquitted and am pleasantly surprised that he wasn’t. Although “pleasantly surprised” feels like a weird reaction too.

Callie Beusman: To me, it feels like a relief and definitely a pleasant surprise, but it doesn’t feel symbolic. One would imagine that it would feel like some powerful metaphor to see Weinstein convicted — but because it’s so late, and so meager, it feels a bit bathetic. Like everyone else, I have really mixed feelings about it.

Melissa Dahl: It does feel like relief, though. I think that’s the right word for what I feel as well. Because it’s not happiness, and it’s not exactly optimism; it’s just … surprise over not feeling disappointed.

Stella Bugbee: What’s the name of that emotion? We need a name for it, Melissa. It’s the feeling of when the emotional roller coaster you’ve been on doesn’t have a big drop at the end but you also think, The drop might still be coming … in ways you can’t predict.

Bridget Read: The past two years have made me so wary of symbolism. We know from what went down at that comedy show that Weinstein still has many allies — he has his legion of men who sympathize publicly with being vilified by cancel culture and are worried that they can’t compliment women, or employ them. This probably won’t change their minds.

I think what will really change things is attacking the rot from below: nixing NDAs, implementing better harassment policies, empowering unions, fixing reporting structures. I hope the women who went through the horror of testimony feel some vindication, but I also stopped feeling like this symbolically matters a long time ago

Melissa Dahl: An ex who was a big sports guy said he never felt happy when his team won, just relief that they didn’t lose this time. This is making me think of that.

Jen Gann: Yes, it’s a very “relieved … for now” feeling.

Erica Schwiegershausen: I agree about relief. I think what I was trying to say before is that I don’t actually feel that emotional about it. I think in part because the testimonies were so horrifying, my response is more like, okay, thank God that my interpretation of reality was confirmed.

Callie Beusman: I think what Me Too has done is expose these really insidious power structures, and though I’m glad to see the man who sat atop one of those structures held accountable, I do feel like the whole structure is basically intact still.

And Weinstein clearly had faith in it too, up till the moment the verdict came down. I think a lot about him holding a Super Bowl party in the midst of the trial.

Stella Bugbee: But it still helps send a message to future men, no? Even a little?

Jen Gann: I really hope so, though I do want to know if it feels like a big story to them or if they’re paying more attention to other news right now.

Bridget Read: I think it will send a message, definitely. I really meant what I said earlier about not having to write “alleged” and being able to write “convicted” now. It will feel very good — as “good” as it can — to write “convicted rapist.”

This chat has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Our Complex Reaction to the Harvey Weinstein Conviction