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The gauzy language of therapy doesn't excuse Weinstein's conduct

Ruth Marcus on

WASHINGTON -- One of the most repulsive aspects of the Harvey Weinstein scandal -- and, oh, so many to choose from -- is the attempted medicalization of evil.

In this convenient, entitled telling, Weinstein's alleged use of his industry power and physical force to coerce women into sexual activity is not to be understood as inappropriate and very likely illegal workplace behavior. It is not to be prosecuted and punished as criminal sexual attacks. It is to be therapized and counseled away.

From the moment the stories about his predatory behavior broke, Weinstein and his coterie of enablers have used the gauzy language of therapy to explain and excuse his conduct.

"My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons," Weinstein said in his initial statement to The New York Times. Weinstein, his spokesman said, "has begun counseling, has listened to the community, and is pursuing a better path."

The producer's brother and business partner, Bob Weinstein, called him "obviously a very sick man," adding: "I've urged him to seek immediate professional help because he is in dire need of it." And when Harvey Weinstein's wife, Georgina Chapman, announced she was leaving him, Weinstein said, "I am in counseling and when I am better, we can rebuild."

At which point he jetted off to rehab.

 

Look, I believe in therapy as much as the next neurotic columnist. And grant Weinstein this -- he is a troubled man. But let's be clear: This is not about journeys or community or demons or rebuilding.

It is about a man who was happy, over the course of decades, to use his power in order to solicit and, allegedly, coerce sex. I initially typed "sexual favors" instead of "sex," but that prissy formulation whitewashes the ugly reported reality; it feeds into Weinstein's efforts to diminish the seriousness of his behavior.

Ronan Farrow, writing in The New Yorker, did not hold back. "Three of the women ... told me that Weinstein had raped them, forcibly performing or receiving oral sex or forcing vaginal sex," Farrow wrote. "Four women said that they had experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault."

A pattern of assaulting and harassing women -- the latest count is 34 -- is not something you recover from, like battling cancer, or struggle to get under control, like alcoholism. It is something that you are, or should be, punished for in civil lawsuits or criminal charges.

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