On March 8, 2017, a bronze idol appeared on the streets of Manhattan paying obeisance to both the tenets of identity politics and liberal apprehension about the financial industry. It is the figure of a female—a young girl—standing defiant, arms akimbo, in the face of the symbol of heedless capital generation: the iconic Wall Street Bull. Democratic throngs fell to their knees, suspending all critical thought in the process. Had they maintained their composure, a few of them might have noticed that they were being used.
The icon deemed “Fearless Girl” was feted by influencers and opinion-makers on the left as “bold and brilliant,” the apex achievement of feminist political theater. It was said to be a transgression against male-dominated Wall Street Culture. “Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl,” New York City Bill de Blasio declared. You were hard-pressed to find a man who reacted negatively to this diminutive figurine, but men were supposed to dislike women invading their erstwhile spaces. So it was assumed they did.
This statue was commissioned by Boston-based State Street Global Advisors, an investment firm, which ostensibly placed the sculpture to draw attention to the lack of women in high-ranking positions at Fortune 500 firms. If anyone had been interested in scrutiny, they’d have found that State Street would have been near the top of the list of offenders. Ronald O’Hanley, State Street’s President and CEO, occupied a role that had never been shared by a woman. Women occupied only 17 percent of his firm’s leadership positions (five of 28 total).
State Street had even once distributed a strange pamphlet advising investors on how to talk to women. “Genetic factors like levels of testosterone and how the brain deals with stress can skew female investors into being more risk adverse (sic),” the pamphlet read. “Unlike their male counterparts women also have more vivid memories of negative experiences–the female brain is hardwired for less-selective memory, which can further deter risk-taking.”
Anyone who turned a critical eye toward the statue quickly concluded that this was a public relations campaign. Even still, people like Senator Elizabeth Warren—who cannot take two breaths without talking about Wall Street excesses—made the pilgrimage to lower Manhattan and paid respects to a commercial.
We now know why State Street was so eager to burnish its image as an institution populated by feminist crusaders. On Thursday, the firm agreed to pay $5 million to settle claims brought by the U.S. Department of Labor that it discriminated against female employees. Three hundred and five women and 15 black executives were allegedly discriminated against in favor of their white, male counterparts. If anyone cared to look under the hood, it was obvious at the time of Fearless Girl’s debut that this was nothing more than an advertisement for a conspicuously self-conscious firm. But they had purchased Democratic indifference for a few bucks and a cheap gesture toward the identity politics that so animates the liberal left. State Street’s executives knew what they were doing.
So, too, did Harvey Weinstein.
On Thursday, the New York Times alleged that the film mogul and longtime tastemaker engaged in the systematic mental and occasionally physical abuse of women over the course of decades. The Times related tales of Weinstein’s using his power to intimidate women into performing acts that, in at least one case, drove his target to tears. Suddenly, the whole of the liberal political-entertainment complex erupted in corroborating stories, as though Weinstein’s behavior was an open secret they had been dying to divulge.
Among the more scandalous of these confessionals was that composed by Rebecca Traister, who described how a physical assault by Weinstein on her male colleague in 2000 simply went away. It occurred in a public space in Manhattan and followed a verbally abusive tirade directed toward Traister. All of this occurred in full view of flickering cameras; one of the most influential men in one of the most powerful industries in America assaulting a journalist. But it didn’t make the morning papers. “[T]here were so many journalists on his payroll,” Traister wrote, “working as consultants on movie projects, or as screenwriters, or for his magazine.”
So why now? Why was Weinstein’s aura pierced today? Traister supposes that we are more culturally aware, more sensitive to behaviors that are leading indicators of abuse, and generally less forgiving of abusers. But there’s something else. Weinstein was a prolific Democratic donor, as Traister noted. Indeed, over the last three decades, Weinstein has given at least $769,000 to Democratic candidates and committees. He’s a fixture at Planned Parenthood events, is surrounded at any given moment with members of the Clinton family, and he generates multi-million dollar returns for liberal candidates and causes at fundraising dinners.
Barack Obama’s former communications director, Anita Dunn, has allegedly been giving Weinstein free public relations advice. His attorney, Lisa Bloom, the daughter of Gloria Allred and the author of a book on the killing of Trayvon Martin that is being adapted into a miniseries by Jay Z and The Weinstein Company, is running block for her benefactor. She did not deny the allegations, but seemed to excuse them as the acts of “an old dinosaur learning new ways.” Bloom told the Times she’s educating the 65-year-old on power dynamics and how “some of his words and behaviors can be perceived as inappropriate, even intimidating.” Surely Harvey Weinstein is learning a lot about power from his new attorney.
These are just some of the more subtly manipulative tactics to which Weinstein is appealing so that liberals turn their critical thinking faculties off. After all, it worked for State Street. But in Weinstein’s desperation, he’s started chewing the scenery. In a statement apologizing for his actions, Weinstein said he would be taking time away from the film business to focus all his efforts on combatting the NRA. Furthermore, he’s suing the New York Times and, if he is victorious, will donate the damages to “women’s organizations.”
Still, this cloying display of supplication might work on his liberal targets. After all, if you try hard enough, it’s amazing what you can allow yourself to believe.