USAWorld News

Jennifer Siebel Newsom pushes back against victim-shaming tactics in Harvey Weinstein rape trial | Jennifer Siebel Newsom

In 2011, Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary Miss Representation, about gender stereotypes in Hollywood, debuted at Sundance. The film, which would be screened in schools across the country, referenced her own frustrations as an aspiring actress and asked famous women and teenage girls to grapple with how the media sexualized women and reduced their value to their body.

A decade later, Siebel Newsom would tell prosecutors about one of the experiences that inspired the documentary: In what she thought was a business meeting with Harvey Weinstein in 2005, she claims, the producer suddenly reappeared naked except for a dress, tried to grope her despite her protests, then raped her.

At Weinstein’s second rape and sexual assault trial – currently underway in Los Angeles – the disgraced producer’s defense attorneys sued Siebel Newsom in their opening statement. They called the filmmaker, who has made gender stereotyping and sexual violence central themes in her work, “just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood.”

The same grotesque stereotypes she had spent years fighting were being used against her again.

Siebel Newsom, 48, has made four documentaries about gender inequality in the United States, most recently the 2022 film Fair Play, an adaptation of a bestselling book about how women continue to assume a disproportionate burden of domestic and care work. She did it while juggling her role as the high-profile political wife of Gavin Newsom, a Democratic power player who rose from mayor of San Francisco to governor of California, and is widely considering running for president. .

Siebel Newsom’s documentaries haven’t made her a household name, but the women who have worked closely with her over the years have described her as dedicated, generous and quick to mobilize her high-level political connections. to help defenders.

Siebel Newsom, smiling and perfectly haired, stood behind her husband, with their four children, in Sacramento on Nov. 8 as Newsom celebrated his re-election as governor, an easy win after Newsom withstood a tougher recall. . campaign organized by Republicans and other critics of his Covid-19 policies.

Six days later, she was in a criminal courtroom in Los Angeles, testifying in detail about her memories of her alleged rape as a young actress trying to build a career on screen and producing her own movies, and had accepted an invitation to meet Weinstein at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills for what she thought was a networking conversation.

Siebel Newsom broke down, sometimes sobbing on the stand: For years she tried to avoid thinking about what had happened to her, and it took a long time to tell her husband and close friends . First prosecutors, then Weinstein’s defense attorneys, asked her to describe exactly what happened at each stage of the incident: where her body was, what she did with her hands , precisely what sounds it made and didn’t make.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom watches her husband, California Governor Gavin Newsom, on Election Day, November 8, 2022.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom
watches her husband, California Governor Gavin Newsom, on Election Day, November 8, 2022.
Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Judge Lisa Lench clarified that Siebel Newsom’s husband, as state governor, could not be present in the courtroom during his testimony.

Weinstein’s defense team argues that some of Weinstein’s accusers simply made up their assaults, and that others, including Siebel Newsom, once had sex with him on purpose in order to advance their careers, and do not reclassified their encounters as violent only after the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017.

More than 90 women have spoken publicly about Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, including powerful Hollywood stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Ashley Judd, but most of the women who testified in criminal trials weren’t particularly famous. or connected. Siebel Newsom is the most high-profile woman to testify in court.

On Tuesday, she faced hours of grueling cross-examination, with Weinstein’s defense attorney Mark Werksman first hammering out the details of her story, trying to cast doubt on her memory and what had happened. changed in its narrative over time. He then spent hours reading aloud dozens of friendly business emails she had sent to Weinstein in the months and years after the alleged assault — emails that Siebel Newsom testified she didn’t remembered largely not having sent.

Question after question, Werksman quickly switched between different angles of attack. It cast Siebel Newsom as a Hollywood mean girl, who had described Weinstein as weird and rude, while simultaneously sending her cordial business emails saying she enjoyed seeing him. He portrayed her as a drama queen and a liar, contrasting Siebel Newsom’s testimony that she was upset and scared when she met Weinstein in the years after the attack with emails in whom she asked him for advice and asked him for business appointments.

Werksman also attempted to portray her as a ditz, accusing her of not knowing the difference between “dissociate” and “dissociate”, and demanding that she spell the word out loud for him in the courtroom. Lench chimed in and said she could just repeat what she said.

“Seeing Weinstein’s defense team deploy some of the very practices they fought against shows how much we still need to work on,” Beth Fegan, Siebel Newsom’s attorney, said in a statement.

Werksman did not respond to requests for comment on his courtroom tactics.

Siebel Newsom, who appeared tired but mostly calm during cross-examination, often pushed back. When Werksman suggested that when she testified that she had dissociated herself from writing warm professional emails to Weinstein, she meant a Hollywood habit of saying one thing and meaning another, she said. corrected, “No, I think it’s trauma, actually.”

When he continued to demand that she be more specific about the sounds she made during Weinstein’s alleged assault, she told him: ‘It’s not when Harry meets Sally – I don’t that.”

Siebel Newsom has previously written that Weinstein was not the only man to target her and that she was also ‘raped’ by a national soccer team coach during her years as a young athlete.

For people who have worked with Siebel Newsom for years on her documentaries and advocacy work, the attacks she and the other accusers faced at the Los Angeles trial were painful, but not surprising, said Caroline Heldman , a professor at Occidental College who serves as executive director of a nonprofit organization founded by Siebel Newsom.

What caught the attention of Siebel Newsom’s colleagues when discussing the lawsuit was “that the old manual of victim-shaming is still in use,” Heldman wrote in an email.

“The way the defense used their position, not only to re-traumatize the victims, but to pull all the different traps to stereotype, ridicule, mock and shame these women, was appalling.”

Susan Estrich, the feminist jurist who coined the phrase “crazy and slutty defense” to describe the most common ways defense attorneys in rape cases put women down, said the current rhetoric of the Weinstein trial defense seemed “a bit out of the 1980s playbook.”

Weinstein is serving 23 years in prison after being found guilty of two out of five sexual assault and rape charges in a criminal trial in New York. New York’s highest court has granted its legal team an appeal in the case, but decades in prison threaten him if he is found guilty on the seven counts he faces in Los Angeles.

“It may be that since he’s going to jail for a long time, they decided to go broke,” said Robert Weisberg, a Stanford law professor who has followed the trials, and Weinstein’s defense team hopes can maybe these attacks will “work”. better in Los Angeles” as a “more cynical place about transactional relationships between people” in Hollywood.

An artist's sketch of Jennifer Siebel Newsom testifying at Harvey Weinstein's trial on November 14, 2022.
An artist’s sketch of Jennifer Siebel Newsom testifying at Harvey Weinstein’s trial on November 14, 2022. Illustrator: Bill Robles/AP

But other advocates said the tactics of Weinstein’s second criminal trial were a sad sign of how little change there is for survivors of sexual assaults, even as a triumphant Hollywood adaptation of the New York Times investigation of Weinstein airs. in theaters across the country.

Wendy Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor who teaches a course on sexual assault and legal reform at New England Law, said the trial rhetoric was another sign of the limitations of the #MeToo movement.

“If we had reached the point where we had made systemic reforms, the word ‘bimbo’ would never come out of a lawyer’s mouth,” she said.

“#MeToo has raised awareness of the horrors of sexual violence, but it has done little to reduce sexual violence or make it safer for survivors to come forward,” Murphy wrote.

Heldman, executive director of the Representation Project, the nonprofit Newsom founded to support her films’ advocacy work on gender stereotypes, said: “Successful social movements raise awareness of an issue and institute accountability mechanisms. to fix it, so the #MeToo movement still has a long way to go.

Whatever the outcome of the Weinstein trial, former colleges said, Newsom deserves praise for his difficult decision to testify and for his years of quiet, behind-the-scenes work to change national policy on how rape victims and sexual assault are dealt with.

She was executive producer of Invisible War, the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary about the US military’s inability to deal with rape and sexual assault within its ranks. Siebel Newsome and his producing partner secured funding for the documentary when no one else would touch it, said Amy Ziering, one of the film’s producers. It was 2010, long before the #MeToo movement took off, she added, and they were told, “Nobody wants to hear stories of women being raped and nobody wants to hear stories of women being raped in the army.

Once Invisible War launched, Siebel Newsom took advantage of a meeting with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to ensure he had personally seen the film, which led him to change the policy on how the he U.S. military was dealing with the sexual assault allegations, Ziering said.

Later, when Ziering produced The Hunting Ground, a documentary about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, Siebel Newsom got her on the phone with then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“She’s the real deal,” Ziering said.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button