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'Just Another Bimbo'

Susan Estrich on

If she hadn't married the governor of California, she would've been "just another bimbo" who engaged in "transactional sex" to get ahead.

Harvey Weinstein's lawyer, in an opening statement straight out of the 1980s, reportedly dismissed and disparaged Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who took the stand this week to testify against Harvey Weinstein.

I don't know how women on the jury reacted, but every woman I know who heard of the remark cringed, or worse. How dare he.

And then there was the rest. She must have been asking for it if she drank champagne. She must have known it was coming, must have wanted it or traded for it or something.

Harvey Weinstein is not on trial for using a casting couch. He is on trial for rape. The charge is not that he persuaded Hollywood hopefuls with the promise of a plum part. The charge is that he raped them, by force or threat of force.

Force. Nonconsent. No means no. What about that has anything to do with whether the woman is a bimbo or not?

Just who is on trial here?

I give enormous credit to California's first partner for having the courage to come forward and testify, knowing full well the scrutiny she would face. Knowing full well that she would be cross-examined about why she stayed in touch with a man who raped her, or why her husband accepted political contributions from him. Of course she was asked those questions, even though the answer is as obvious as it is painful: He was a powerful man, and you don't talk about such things.

 

Sometimes -- like when reading about the Weinstein opening statement -- I despair about how little has changed in rape cases. That opening statement could have been given back then. It would have made a good chapter in the book I wrote back then, about the bad old days when I first came out and got called out, about the "nuts and sluts" defense and my own rule of three ("one might be a nut, two might be a slut, but three and you win").

Why it's still being used as the defense of choice today is the real question. Is this Weinstein's best hope? To turn back the clock and put each of the women on trial? Apparently, he thinks so. And so do his fancy lawyers.

My money says they're wrong.

I'm sorry, but I don't think anyone -- and I hope this includes the jury -- sees California's first partner as a "bimbo." I hope we have come far enough that they see her as the courageous woman that she is, as a woman who still remembers and relives the painful details of her victimization, even as she proclaims her survival.

I hope we have come far enough that we recognize maturity and courage in the face of victimization and humiliation, that we see a woman who could be your sister or wife or daughter standing up to a man who treated her like dirt. Who was wrong. Who deserves to be punished for what he did to her. Because whoever she married, or didn't, her sexual autonomy deserved to be respected, and the failure to do so is a crime deserving of punishment. The bimbo business is entirely irrelevant.

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To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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