Lupita Nyong’o has shared her story of experiencing harassment from Harvey Weinstein in a brave and insightful op-ed in The New York Times. Nyong’o is now one of many women who have spoken up against Weinstein and his appalling harassment and abuse over the course of decades.
In the essay, Nyong’o emphasizes that hearing other women’s stories has inspired her to publicly recount her own experiences with Weinstein: “But now that this is being discussed openly, I have not been able to avoid the memories resurfacing. I have felt sick in the pit of my stomach. I have felt such a flare of rage that the experience I recount below was not a unique incident with me, but rather part of a sinister pattern of behavior.”
Nyong’o describes multiple encounters with Weinstein where he acted overtly aggressive and inappropriate. She recounts what she assumed was a professional dinner with Weinstein during which he tried to bully her into drinking alcohol: “We went back and forth until finally he turned to the waiter and said, ‘Get her what I tell you to get her. I’m the one paying the bill.’ I smiled and remained silent. The waiter left and returned with a vodka and diet soda for me. He placed it on the table beside my water. I drank the water. Harvey told me that I needed to drink the vodka and diet soda. I informed him that I would not.” Oh, and this is when Nyong’o was still a student at Yale.
After a few more uncomfortable and menacing encounters with Weinstein, including dinners with other actresses, Nyong’o attended a dinner alone with Weinstein. There he bluntly told her they would be having dinner in his private room upstairs. When she refused, she writes, “His whole demeanor changed at that point. “Then I guess we are two ships passing in the night.” I had never heard that saying before, so I remember asking him what it meant. “It means just that,” he said. “We are two ships going in two different directions.”
Nyong’o promised herself she would never work with Weinstein again. She goes on to write that working with professionals in places of power who are women or feminist men have allowed her to work without facing abuse from places of power: “Fortunately for me, I have not dealt with any such incidents in the business since. And I think it is because all the projects I have been a part of have had women in positions of power, along with men who are feminists in their own right who have not abused their power. I hope we can form a community where a woman can speak up about abuse and not suffer another abuse by not being believed and instead being ridiculed. That’s why we don’t speak up — for fear of suffering twice, and for fear of being labeled and characterized by our moment of powerlessness.”
Finally, she ends on a powerful note that rings true of this entire “open secret” abuse of power situation: “Now that we are speaking, let us never shut up about this kind of thing. I speak up to make certain that this is not the kind of misconduct that deserves a second chance. I speak up to contribute to the end of the conspiracy of silence.”
Read her full essay at the New York Times.
Photo via Flickr Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore.
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Kat Kothen-Hill is a BUST intern living in Brooklyn, NY.
Follow her on Twitter:@katkothenhill and on Instagram:kitkatkothenhill.