My phone had been buzzing with notifications nonstop the day I decided to send that tweet about Harvey and Bob Weinstein.
I’d known Rose McGowan for a couple of years – and by “known” I mean that we had mutual friends on Facebook and began texting at some point during our social media friendship. I’d been watching Rose and other actresses on Twitter after the plethora of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein came to light. I knew Rose and I had many things in common, but I hadn’t realized who we had in common.
An article in The Hollywood Reporter outlined Bob (Harvey’s brother) Weinstein’s claims that he had no clue as to what his brother was doing to women behind closed doors. That was the moment that I felt the trigger go off inside me. My finger was hitting the “Tweet” button before I had time to realize what I was doing – what I could possibly be implicating.
Soon my message had been retweeted four thousand times.
The truth is that throughout my film “career,” which I’ve now almost completely left in my rear view mirror, I have many times escaped as one of the “lucky ones.” In the Weinstein case, for instance, neither of these predators ever actually had the chance to take advantage of me. I was able to walk away before it was too late. So many of Harvey Weinstein’s victims couldn’t.
I was sixteen when the encounter happened. I was sixteen, and I was already attending my second “industry” party. How lucky was I – am I — right?
My first was a Moulin Rouge! themed Golden Globe Awards after-party when I was thirteen that a family friend was able to get me and my parents on the list for. I was there for no other reason but to meet Nicole Kidman, and she actually wound up icing me pretty hard – which probably should have been my first indication that real Hollywood wasn’t going to match up with the dreams I’d had about it.
At this second industry party, all of the Sex and the City ladies were present, and I somehow mustered the courage to walk up to Kristin Davis, who I adored, and asked for a photo. Pushy photographers tried to interrupt my nervous request but she told them that they’d simply have to wait, and put her arm around me. I cried about it later.
Then I did a “lap” around the pool area in my sophisticated new red dress that I felt kind of “icky” in because all I ever wanted to wear was sweatpants. (This has not changed.) I hunched over and avoided eye contact as I passed more of my idols, daydreaming. Socially awkward as I was, I silently wished that someone would approach me – that someone would see me from across the room and simply feel compelled to speak to me.
A small and seemingly harmless man stepped directly into my path. He wore glasses and a tux. He said hello and asked if I was having a good time.
I nodded. He had another man with him who he introduced as his colleague. But in the near distance, I remember noticing another man, a colossal man, who appeared to be watching my every move. Leering.
The small man pressed further, asking if I was an actress. I said something along the lines of “I hope so.” He suggested that I meet his brother as well – his producing partner. I remember him suggesting some place quieter, more private.
I felt my mother walk up behind me at what must have been the speed of light; she had been at the far end of the space just moments ago. My shoulders relaxed as the man’s immediately tensed. He suddenly looked smaller as my mother’s and my combined 5’9” and 5’10” frames towered over him. The large man in the distance melted further into his group.
As if his title would gloss over any implication, he introduced himself. “I’m a producer – perhaps you’ve heard of my films.”
My parents had not.
I realized that I had forgotten to breathe; I separated myself from the group and walked away without explanation. I heard Bob politely offer to take my headshot, which my dad had been carrying around in his jacket pocket. I assume they gave it to him. I don’t remember anything about the rest of that night except the car ride back to the hotel, looking at the snapshot of a gleeful me with Kristin Davis.
I have no way of knowing what his intentions were that night, or definitive proof that he had any. What I do know is that I felt uncomfortable, and I’m glad I didn’t end up in a private room and find them out.
I foolishly thought, at that age, that if an actor had talent, had passion – they auditioned – and their skills propelled them forward. Wasn’t that how it worked? So they would certainly be calling me for a proper audition soon, wouldn’t they?
I think we can all probably guess the answer to that.
I carefully placed the interaction into some dark corner of my mind for several years. I didn’t know, at sixteen, why I had felt so uncomfortable. With a little help, I was able to say “no” that night; it helped give me the strength to say “no” the multitude of times I would be outwardly and not-so-outwardly propositioned as I got older by the wolves of the entertainment industry. I think about the ones who couldn’t say no; the ones who did say no and it didn’t matter. There are so many of those women. The wolves were always there, and there was always someone waiting to test the limits of what I would allow — or what others would allow them to do to me even if I wouldn’t. There was the director who asked me to sleep with him and his wife after pressing me to tell him my sexual orientation (I had decidedly identified as ‘fluid’ by then). There was the producer who tried to get me to strip over Skype before deleting his account, and the ultra-famous actor who changed his clothes in front of me without warning in his dressing room and was persistently affectionate with me in front of everyone on set while I was simply trying to do my job — them and so many more, enough to make it impossible to deny that there was something systemic at work.
I’m not saying it was easy or uncomplicated. I hate that I’m encouraged to second-guess my no’s; that the culture I was steeped in reminds me always that I gave something up by doing so. I wonder sometimes about what would have happened if I had said “yes” in those moments. What would my life look like now?
I hate that things such as my sexual orientation served as enticement for the wolves, and I hate that it often made me want to change who I was in order to get my power back. It took me a very long time to feel like I wasn’t simply a challenge anymore when someone looked or smiled at me. That’s all I was to the majority of these men — a challenge. Because I happened to prefer to date women, I was their little on-set “game.” Who would be the first to get me to cave? The director or producer?
It took all of my energy to find ways to skirt around the edges of these situations, resisting them and pretending that the midnight text messages weren’t happening. Pushing me, dangling the bait — just one nude photo for a line in his next film.
Neither of those men won the game. Because if they had — if I had given them everything they wanted — what then? Even though history shows us that it’s a losing game for women either way — we can be shut out if we say no and we’re not actually guaranteed anything even if we say yes — the poisonous logic of that world prods me to wonder whether something could have been different, and that makes it worse.
I felt trapped the night that Bob Weinstein literally stepped into my path. I felt trapped by lingering stares and by implied circumstances and current circumstance. It was a violation of my youth, and it would subconsciously follow me throughout the rest of my career in the film industry where I would continue to be and feel violated in other ways. I came out of it, though; a little broken, but not shattered. Now I’m on a path, a career, and a life that affirms, every day, that I am valued for nothing less and nothing more than what I am.
No woman, no human being should ever be put in a position where they feel trapped between achieving what they believe to be success, and doing something that will ultimately diminish their self worth.
After my tweet hit the stratosphere, I began receiving an overwhelming amount of support from loved ones and strangers alike — when part of me believed that I would be reprimanded. But it became almost unusual to have a conversation with someone that didn’t have a similar experience to share at some point in their lives — and certainly not just in the entertainment industry.
In light of these Weinstein allegations, I can only hope that women and people in general will follow by example. A handful of heroines decided that it wasn’t okay to be silent anymore, to endure villains, and I hope that the villains are scared out of their minds, because women are, at this moment, louder and stronger than ever.
When contacted by ABC News, Bob Weinstein denied the allegations in Alexi’s tweet as well as allegations made against him by producer Amanda Segel, calling them “hogwash,” and “bogus,” respectively.