Following the publication on Tuesday morning of two more exposes detailing sexual assault and harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, actress Heather Graham recalls indirectly being propositioned by the studio mogul.
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.
A few weeks later, I was asked to do a follow-up meeting at his hotel. I called one of my actress friends to explain my discomfort with the situation, and she offered to come with me. En route, she called me to say she couldn’t make it. Not wanting to be at the hotel alone with him, I made up an excuse — I had an early morning and would have to postpone. Harvey told me that my actress friend was already at his hotel and that both of them would be very disappointed if I didn’t show. I knew he was lying, so I politely and apologetically reiterated that I could no longer come by.
That was the end of that encounter — I was never hired for one of his films, and I didn’t speak up about my experience. It wasn’t until Ashley Judd heroically shared her story a few days ago that I felt ashamed. If I had spoken up a decade ago, would I have saved countless women from the same experience I had or worse?
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.
My hope is that this moment starts a dialogue on redefining sexual harassment in the workplace and empowers women to speak out when they feel uncomfortable in a situation. I hope that dialogue covers the gray areas where we ask ourselves, “Did what I think happen just happen?” and that we are no longer shamed into feeling that we should grow a thicker skin, or that our story “isn’t good enough to count.” I’m glad the victims are being heard, that powerful voices in the industry are speaking up to say this kind of behavior isn’t acceptable anymore, and that a predator is finally facing the consequences — it means the world is starting to change for the better.
While I still do feel guilty for not speaking up all those years ago, I’m glad for this moment of reckoning. To the countless other women who have experienced the gray areas: I believe you.
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