In a very thoughtful essay in The Atlantic, actress-writer Brit Marling shared her own encounter with Harvey Weinstein — but that wasn’t necessarily the bulk of the piece. The article titled “Harvey Weinstein and the Economics of Consent” leaned heavily on the imbalance of power between white, straight men and women and people of color and how it affects economics, sexual politics, and the meaning of consent in all industries.
In the article, Marling talks about her transition from being a summer analyst at Goldman Sachs to an actor and filmmaker. She said, “Acting felt like a noble pursuit and maybe even a small act of resistance” but her arrival to Hollywood was “a rude awakening to that kind of idealism.”
“I quickly realized that a large portion of the town functioned inside a soft and sometimes literal trafficking or prostitution of young women (a commodity with an endless supply and an endless demand),” she adds. “The storytellers—the people with economic and artistic power—are, by and large, straight, white men.”
She went out for roles like “Bikini Babe 2” and “Blonde ” and soon realized that “the only way for me to navigate Hollywood with more agency was to become a storyteller myself.” She eventually co-wrote and starred in two films (Another Earth, Sound of My Voice) which both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
It was after her debut at Sundance when she met with Weinstein. In 2014, Marling tells us a similar story that has been shared by many actresses since the New York Times and New Yorker articles were published. She, like all of his other alleged victims, had a meeting with him at a hotel restaurant which eventually to his room. From there, the details get disgustingly familiar: shower, massage, champagne, etc. Marling admitted she was paralyzed with fear as he suggested they shower together. She was able to gather herself and leave the room. She said she wept in her room for many reasons and also pointed out, “I wept because at other times in my life, under other circumstances, I had not been able to leave.”
Marling recognizes the courage of all the women that have come forward. For her, she said she was able to leave Weinstein’s hotel room because “I had entered as an actor but also as a writer/creator. Of those dual personas in me—actor and writer—it was the writer who stood up and walked out. Because the writer knew that even if this very powerful man never gave her a job in any of his films, even if he blacklisted her from other films, she could make her own work on her own terms and thus keep a roof over her head.”
As she describes the “economics of consent,” she says Weinstein is a gatekeeper that could give actresses livelihood, a sustainable career, and fame which is a way for “women to gain some semblance of power and voice inside a patriarchal world.” She adds that Weinstein could also kill the career of an actress if they humiliated him.
It is this kind of imbalance of power between women seeking employment and men empower, Marling says, that happens in hotel rooms and boardrooms in every industry. Men holding the power can grant employment or take it away and it “exists in a gray zone where words like ‘consent’ cannot fully capture the complexity of the encounter.”
“Because consent is a function of power,” says Marling. “You have to have a modicum of power to give it.”