In recent weeks, more than 75 women have come forward to accuse movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or sexual assault. The stories that Weinstein’s accusers tell—of uncomfortable encounters in hotel rooms; of ostensible business meetings interrupted by requests to give him a massage, to watch him shower, to disrobe; and sometimes of sexual violence, including rape—echo each other in striking ways. In many cases, these women also describe having spent decades feeling isolated, alone, and ashamed of their brushes with Weinstein.
But they were far from alone. And so we invited three of these women to speak with each other about their experiences. In an honest and emotional conversation, they discussed what happened to them and how they’re feeling now about the cascade of Weinstein stories—and allegations against other powerful men—that has followed. (Through a spokesperson, Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex, and of retaliation against women who rebuffed him or complained about his behavior.) You can listen to their conversation here, or read a transcript that’s been condensed and edited for clarity below.
Alice Evans is an actress who has appeared on The Vampire Diaries and Lost. Katherine Kendall is a photographer and actress perhaps best known for her role in the film Swingers. Tomi-Ann Roberts is a professor of psychology at Colorado College who studies emotion, gender, and sexual objectification.
Slate: The Weinstein encounters you three have described took place in three different decades, which strikes me as a testament to the immense scope of what we’ve learned about Weinstein’s behavior, in the ’80s, the ’90s, and the early 2000s. Tomi-Ann, can you describe how and when you met Harvey Weinstein and what happened?
Tomi-Ann Roberts: I was in between my junior and senior year in college, and a number of my college friends and I lived in New York that summer doing things like internships. I had been considering both a theater major and a psychology major at Smith College. That summer was an opportunity for me to do some auditions for commercials, get some head shots, things like that. I was working at a restaurant. It was at this restaurant that I met the Weinstein brothers, who introduced themselves to me as a production company. I remember learning about how they named their company Miramax after their parents.
Before I knew it, Harvey had indicated, when I said that I was an aspiring actress, that they were now going to be doing their first movie that they would be directing. They had been, I think, prior to that, importing foreign movies. That was very exciting, as you might imagine.
For the rest of the summer, I would receive scripts and updates about the movie. I remember going to the offices at one time. Then I was invited to an apartment. I presumed that other people involved with the movie would be at this evening event, because why would I be invited to something in the evening?
I arrived at this apartment to find Harvey. He called me down the hall. He was in the bathtub. I stood there frozen, of course. I’ve since wondered, why would something like that be so frightening? Here’s a man in a bathtub.
Slate: Just the surprise of it.
Roberts: Exactly, and I don’t know, the temerity of him to think, “I’m just gonna present myself to you in this way.” Knowing that that would be very off-putting to me, he tried to calm me down and say that nakedness was something that I needed to be comfortable with, would I please take my top off because surely the movie would have some nudity scenes and I needed to show him that I was comfortable with that, which of course I wasn’t.
Slate: What did you say?
Roberts: I wish I could remember my exact words. It was such a flooding experience. I do know, and I’m ashamed to say, that I was not aggressive in any way. I was terribly frightened of poking this bear. I very politely excused myself. I said I wasn’t sure that I was actually really cut out for this kind of thing and, “Please accept my apologies, but no thank you,” and exited.
Slate: How did you feel afterward?
Roberts: It was in the days long before cellphones. I remember I went to a payphone and I called the apartment where my boyfriend was and said, “Wow, wait until you hear what just happened to me.” I think what I felt was speechless, and also, frankly, I felt ashamed. I thought, “What did I think was going to happen, reaching for something like a movie?” I was a college kid. This was obviously way out of my league. I can’t say that I was traumatized. I was demoralized, I think, is what it was.
Slate: How did the experience affect your career aspirations and ambitions?
Roberts: I can’t probably say that there’s a direct line between that experience with Harvey Weinstein and my research on the sexual objectification and sexualization of girls and women, but there certainly is a dotted line.
These were the kinds of experiences that accumulated for me. That wasn’t the only time a man presented himself to me in an aggressive way, seeking something from me. It wasn’t the only time my physical appearance was commented upon in a context when I would’ve rather been recognized for my competence. That began to interest me.
I returned to Smith. I majored in psychology. I went on to earn my Ph.D. from Stanford. I began to study what the consequences are to girls and women of living in a culture that routinely treats us as though our sexualized bodies are the most valuable thing we have to offer.
Slate: Do you think that the experience affected your interest in acting, in the world of Hollywood?
Roberts: Absolutely. I really threw that aspiration in the wastebasket, I have to say. At the time I thought, as I said earlier, that this was just something I wasn’t cool enough to be able to participate in. Ugh! Looking back, I can’t believe that. I do think that there was a whisper inside of me, some sort of feminist whisper that said, “Get out now.” At the time, I think what I thought was, “OK, well that was a learning experience, and I am going to not pursue acting.”
Slate: Katherine, can you describe how and when you met Harvey Weinstein, and what happened?
Katherine Kendall: I was in my early 20s, and I had my agent set up a general meeting with Miramax. I went to Tribeca and met with the people at Miramax. Harvey was the guy I met with. I remember there were other people there, women. He had one woman in particular that was his primary assistant. In the actual office I felt very safe and like I was doing the right thing. The meeting went really well, and he gave me two scripts to read.
It was the early ’90s, but they were doing interesting independent movies, and he made me feel like I was a fit there. I had been spending the year auditioning. I maybe got two guest spots or something, and the rest of the year was just auditioning. Here he was giving me this validation, like, “You’re on the right track. Keep on.” At that point in my life, I needed to hear that, because listening to [Tomi-Ann’s] story, I think, “God, I wish I’d taken a hard left and gone and studied psychology and done something more constructive.”
I say that only because I think what happened was I did put so much hard work into acting, and after this incident … it was a profound incident for me, and it did affect the way I looked at my career. I think it pushed me back a lot. I stayed in it, but I had a conflict now that I was living with, that made it much harder to pursue with the same zest and purity that I had once started with.
As I left the office that day, on my way to the elevator, Harvey stopped me and he said, “Welcome to the Miramax family”—he used the word family, making me feel very included and cozy—and “Now you can come to screenings and all kinds of things and meet people.” I really felt like he was gonna be a mentor. He said, “In fact, there’s a movie this afternoon. Are you available?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “OK, I’ll have my car come pick you up.” He did. We ended up going to a movie, the movie Red Rock West. It was a Miramax movie, but we were just going to the theater on the Upper West Side.
Slate: Just paying for tickets, popcorn in the lobby?
Kendall: Basically, yeah, with 10 other people in the theater. I was mortified and already had this sinking feeling that I’d been had, of course. Afterward, I had to orient myself and find my way to a subway stop and see how I was gonna get home. He’d had a car pick me up. It was all strange.
He said, “My apartment’s right here. Will you come up for one second?” I thought, “No, I’ll just wait down here.” He said, “Just come up for one second.” He negotiated with me to get me to come up to his apartment. I didn’t feel right about it, but then I thought, “He’s married. I know he’s married. He’s talked about his wife. He’s too visible to do anything.”
We went upstairs. He made himself a drink. He was inviting me to relax. We talked about art, movies, politics. Now I started feeling like, “Oh, OK, the meeting’s back on. Now he’s getting to know me even more.”
Slate: He seemed interested in what you had to say.
Kendall: Yeah, and I felt validated and respected as an artist, again, and maybe even safe, which is the strange part. Then he went to the bathroom. The first time he came back with a robe on, and he asked me for a massage. I couldn’t believe that it went into that place. I don’t know why, again, looking back, why was that so strange, but it was just so awkward for me. I was young. He was much older than me at that time. It really felt different, the age difference. It was also just the touching, wanting me to touch him. Suddenly, everything was definitely off now, and I knew what it was about. Now it was just having to get out of there.
Slate: What did you say when he came out in the robe?
Kendall: I said, “No. I’m not comfortable.” He’s like, “Everybody does it.” I said, “I’m just not that person. Sorry.” I apologized. Then he went back, and I thought he was gonna get dressed, but then he came back, and he came back fully naked.
That was when I went from just shock to adrenaline-rush shock. I remember feeling very much like … I remember distinctly feeling like, “Is this the moment that that happens to me?” It makes me emotional to think about it, but, “Is it gonna happen? Is that gonna happen to me right now?” I don’t even want to say the word. I was so scared. He’s so big. That’s a big guy. He was between me and the door. Then it became this back-and-forth of, “Just let me kiss you. Just let me touch you. Just give me a massage. Just lift up your shirt and let me see your breasts.”
I got mad. I said, “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.” I did a good job of I think sticking up for myself, because over my dead body was he gonna have his way with me. I knew that. I felt that kind of strength that you feel when they talk about women that move cars for their children or something. I was like, “No. No. Just no.”
It was a long negotiating process to get out of his apartment. I finally got out. He said, “I’ll let you leave. If you let me just get dressed, I’ll take you in a cab myself.” I agreed to that, I think because I felt like I should play nice, the whole way. I think that that was the safest way to go.
Then he took me in a taxi. I got out at a bar downtown in the Lower West Side, and I just went into the bar, and I went right up to the bartender and I said, “Can you please talk to me like you know me and like you’re supposed to be meeting me here?” Because Harvey was in the taxi, and he was looking through the window of the taxi for a good 20 minutes.
Slate: Just waiting outside the bar?
Kendall: Just staring. Staring me down.
Slate: That’s so frightening.
Kendall: It was so weird. It was so frightening and so eerie. I knew that he knew he had done something wrong. Was he trying to manage it? Was he trying to threaten me? There was a lot of levels to him that I saw within this event. There was a little boy, “Come on, just let me see your breasts,” and then there was this, “Come on, come on,” bully and real tough, mean guy. It was a lot of levels.
Slate: Asking to see you out and drop you off almost seems like an attempt to assert normalcy, like, “We’ve just had a normal day together, and I’m just dropping you off.”
Kendall: 100 percent, yeah. I was shaking the whole time in the car and the whole time at the bar. I knew that I had to play along almost, to get to my free spot.
Slate: You described, as you were beginning to tell the story, how it left you feeling like you had a conflict in pursuing your career after that. Describe what that conflict was.
Kendall: I just remember the next day … I talked to my mom about it, obviously. I cried on her shoulder. There was this conversation about, “What can you do?” I just remember thinking, “I can’t do anything. I can’t go up against this guy. He is Hollywood.”
Even then, I knew who he was and who he was going to become, and [thought], “I’m nobody. Who’s gonna believe me? Who’s gonna care? If I go up against him, he will snuff me out so fast. If I don’t go up against him—either way I’m living now with the new knowledge that there’s only a few things people care about in Hollywood: money, sex, and the movies. They don’t care about you. It doesn’t matter. Unless you can play that tough, then maybe this isn’t for you. If sex is the currency that you’re supposed to use, I can’t do it. I’m not made for it. I spent all this money and time in acting school, and now I know I’m not made for this.”
All that being said, I just want to say I know there are actresses … who got through without doing that. Come on. There are plenty of strong and talented, beautiful women who have made it, have made great careers for themselves. I don’t want to say that’s the only thing that happens in Hollywood, but there was something about me that knew that day that this was gonna happen, and it could happen on such a high level that I just knew I didn’t have any [way to] fight back, that whoever I talked to didn’t have the power to do anything about it or seem to care. Then you see someone like Harvey continue to get celebrated over and over again.
Slate: I want to ask all three of you what it was like to watch his ascent over time, but before I do, Alice, your encounter with Harvey was at Cannes in 2002?
Alice Evans: In 2002, in Cannes. I think I’d run into him before that time, vaguely, but this one stood out. I want to also say that my encounter was not in any way as harrowing as the two we’ve just heard.
The reason I wanted to speak was that when I first heard on something like the 6th or 7th of October that people had started to come forward, and the New York Times and the New Yorker pieces had come out, I was like, “Finally!” Then about three days later, I heard that he was denying it, and I remember feeling so angry because I know at least five or six women who have had horrendous moments with Harvey, just absolutely horrible times in hotel rooms and bathrobes. Although my experience wasn’t that, I knew that the only way to empower the women that had come forth already and for them not to be called liars was for more of us to come forward and say, “We know. We know that this man is an absolute vile creep.”
My particular story happened in 2002. I’d been on a great roll as an actress. I’d been an actress for about six years. In 1999, me and my then-boyfriend, I’d met him on the film 102 Dalmatians, we were the two young leads in the film, and thanks to that, we’d had a few really good years, both of us.
He was in New York. I was in Cannes to promote a film that I’d done the year before. Things were very exciting. He was flying in to Cannes the next day to promote a film that he’d done. We were very much in love, and it was amazing. It was my last night on my own in the hotel. I went down to the bar on the beach. I was looking around for somebody I might’ve known, so I went, stood at the bar. Literally, I turn around and Harvey Weinstein’s right next to me.
My first thought was, “Oh my God, I’m gonna get to meet Harvey properly.” It’s really weird, because I’d actually met one girl in Paris after she’d come from her meeting with Harvey and seen her shaking, but just like you said, there was this mythical person who had the power to turn you into a Gwyneth Paltrow or anybody, whoever you want to choose. I was like, “Oh my God.” Also because of his politics. We all knew that he was a Democrat, and so am I. I thought, “He’s intelligent, and I’d love to talk to him.” I just thought, “What am I gonna say? I don’t know what to say.”
I said, “Hi.” He said, “Hi.” He said, “I’m Alice.” He said, “I know.” Very clever. I don’t know if he did know or not. I said, “My boyfriend, Ioan Gruffudd, tested for you last night in New York.” He said, “I know, and he did an awesome job.” That was just incredible, because I was like, “Wow, he knows us. We’re just these British actors, and oh my God, I’m in Cannes, and … ” I was just, “Oh really? Did he really?” I was thinking, “I can’t wait to tell him, it’s gonna be amazing, that he did an awesome job, he might be getting this big movie.”
Then something—what [Katherine] said just then about the bathrobe and the moment when you went, “Oh, this is gonna happen”—I don’t know how it transitioned. It was almost like it was an out-of-body experience. All of a sudden, he was saying, “I want to touch your tit. I want to touch your tits.” We were in this full bar. It was almost like, “No, hold on. This can’t be happening,” but it is. It’s weird because when I was 18 I had a nasty car accident, and the car flipped over and we landed on the back and I remember thinking, “Oh, this is how I’m gonna die.” It was the same feeling. It was like, “Oh my God, this is going to happen to me now.”
He wanted me to go into a bathroom that was about five feet behind me. He was moving in on my personal space. He wanted me to go into the bathroom, into a cubicle. He was gonna follow me, he was gonna touch my breasts and my private parts, and it was just gonna …
The weird thing is, I didn’t say, “What the hell do you think you’re … ” I was saying, “I don’t think I should, because I’ve got a … ” I was coming up with ridiculous excuses. As [Katherine said], you can’t quite believe it’s happening, because, and it sounds crazy, but—this is gonna sound really awful—I thought that I wasn’t the sort of girl that people come on to like that, because I didn’t give that vibe … I think that’s a horrible thing for me to say, but I think that I maybe thought that there were girls who did give that vibe, but that I didn’t. I feel stupid for thinking that it would be any different than that.
Basically, he just inched forward, and I inched back, and he inched forward, and I inched back, and then it got to the point where it was very clear I was gonna escape and run. As I was escaping, he was like, “Whatever. I hope your career goes well, and I hope your boyfriend’s career goes well.”
Two days later we got news that my then-boyfriend, but now husband, had not got the role. My mother had just passed away. My father had just remarried. I was a little bit lost. I didn’t have anybody else to talk to.
I confided in somebody, and my husband doesn’t want me to tell this part, but somebody who was related to the team of people that were working for him, and that was part of that. I said, “This thing happened, and I’m so sorry, and I don’t know if it had anything to do with … ” He was like, “Did you have to mention Ioan’s name?” I remember thinking, “Oh shit, that’s why,” as if to say, “You didn’t have to bring our client into this.”
Look, I don’t blame him, and I’m not trying to witch-hunt him, but the weird thing is that for many years, all I could think of was, “Why did I say ‘boyfriend’?” Ioan never was called for Miramax, and neither was I.
Kendall: I don’t want to interrupt, but I know why you said your boyfriend. Of course you said, “My boyfriend.” You were making yourself safe immediately.
Evans: You know what? You’re absolutely right. You’re absolutely right.
Kendall: You were legitimizing yourself as an actor, and your boyfriend, too, and you were trying to meet Harvey in a business way, which is what you’re supposed to do when you’re an actor.
Actors, we can’t pick up a guitar and just play in our living rooms. We are completely dependent on someone to hire us. You’re not gonna go do a monologue in your bedroom.
Slate: You can’t busk on the subway.
Evans: Exactly. We absolutely are dependent on someone to hire us and then somebody not to edit us out at the end.
Kendall: You might’ve helped your boyfriend get the job that night had you had a certain conversation with him and it had gone a certain way.
Evans: That’s the way that we do think in Hollywood …
Kendall: Not just in Hollywood, everywhere. People like to work with people they like, everywhere. If you make a connection with this man then it might make him give Ioan the job. That’s why you brought his name up.
Evans: It is. What was crazy was when the person said, “You could’ve just … ” The person didn’t even say, “I’m sorry. Are you OK?” The person said, “I’m really angry with you for bringing up his name.” I was like, “Yeah, I know. Yeah, I’m sorry about it.”
Kendall: The thing that [Tomi-Ann] was saying in the beginning about shame. I think all of us …
Slate: Yeah, I’m struck by, in each of your accounts—Tomi-Ann, you described this, too—each of you described your story and then you described a second layer where you were looking back and critiquing your own actions. You each had built in, “I was too apologetic. I was too this.” It’s striking. Tomi-Ann, what’s your response to hearing these other stories?
Roberts: First of all, when Alice starts by saying, “My encounter wasn’t nearly as harrowing,” already here you are apologizing. Presented with this moment in time—and Katherine talked about it, and so did Alice—there’s this moment where you go, “Oh hell. Here it comes.”
I think you mentioned your boyfriend also as a way of saying, “Here’s a boundary. I’m gonna name the fact that I have a boyfriend.” The room starts spinning and you think, “What are the rules here?” Then all of a sudden you realize, “Here’s what the rules are. The rules are, simply because you are female, you are violatable. I’m gonna violate your boundaries anyway. You can try to put some up, but here I come.”
Evans: I was talking to my husband about this today, because the accusation with Al Franken [was published] today, which is a little different I think, to some of the ones that we’ve been hearing about, [like] Roy Moore. My husband said, “I’m terrified.” I said, “Why are you terrified?” He said, “If Al Franken’s being accused because he tried to kiss this woman and put his tongue … ” he said, “That’s happened to me before. I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.”
I said to him, “You don’t understand. For me there are two completely separate types of men. There are the ones that maybe try and get the wrong end, and actually I’ve tried with men and got the wrong end and they’ve said no, and I’ve gone, ‘I’m terribly sorry, I feel embarrassed,’ and then there are the ones that you say no and you realize they’re not going to stop.” I was trying to explain to my husband how completely different those two types of men were, and how, as far as I was concerned, that they weren’t gonna get mixed up.
Then I realized that at the moment, there are a lot of men thinking of that drunken time they had when they were 23 when they got the wrong end of the stick, and where does that leave us?
Kendall: You mean like a pass gone awry?
I was thinking a lot about this—and I don’t know what Tomi-Ann thinks, but I would like to know since she’s a psychologist—but I know for me, my body had a very different reaction in this situation with Harvey than it has with a man that made a pass at me that I didn’t want to make a pass at me.
Evans: Yes, exactly what I was trying to say.
Kendall: I had an out-of-body experience with Harvey. I was shaking like a leaf. I think my adrenaline was through the roof. I have two or three situations where I saw him afterward over the years. One of them: A friend of mine said to me the other night, “Katherine, we went to the premiere of The English Patient together, and you threw up in the car on the way home, and now I know why.”
Evans: Oh, Jesus.
Kendall: I totally blocked that out.
Kendall: I don’t remember that at all. I don’t know if you do that over a pass gone awry.
Slate: It seems like it’s about whether the person making the pass is actually curious about your answer, whether it’s a “Hey, are we in the same place?” and they’re concerned about where you are and will respect it if you’re not.
Evans: What Ioan was worried about was that somehow the two overlapped. I’ve had maybe four or five Harvey-type encounters in my life, one with a famous rock star in a hotel room, which was a similar thing, where I tried to get out the door and he slammed the door on me so I couldn’t leave and then I ran out shaking. It’s so different. It’s literally, “I’m gonna get raped now,” whereas the pass gone awry thing, the man feels embarrassed, and you both feel embarrassed. I was trying to explain to him how different they were. I think it’s hard to put into words.
Kendall: One takes you in. Like [Julia] said, one is checking in, and one is just like, “You’re not there. You’re not a person.”
Roberts: A pass is a question, and it’s seeking an answer from another actual human being.
Slate: Tomi-Ann, I’m curious whether you knew about Weinstein’s reputation, since you didn’t continue to pursue a Hollywood career … I think you’ve described in some interviews sitting in Oscar parties and occasionally, in ones where you felt like you were with the right crowd, sharing a little bit of what had happened to you. Did you know that you weren’t alone?
Roberts: No. No. I just knew that I would ask, “Is this a Miramax movie?” I remember The English Patient so well. It’s so crazy that you [Katherine] say that you threw up and you don’t remember it, but I remember being sick in that movie. It’s so strange that you’re saying that.
Kendall: I didn’t remember. My friend just told me the other night. He took me to dinner and he said, “Do you remember?” I was like, “What? No.” “Yes, Katherine, you barfed in the car.”
Slate: You were sick watching it, too?
Roberts: I think that all of those movies, Good Will Hunting, they became just sickening.
Kendall: I feel exactly the same.
Roberts: It would be an ordeal for me to get through them. I would think, of course, “This is a wonderful movie,” and then you leave the theater and you’re talking with your friends and everyone’s saying what an amazing movie it was, and there’s something rotten.
Kendall: I know the feeling so well.
Evans: Then everybody was saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” every time they got an Oscar, to Harvey. Then to hear Kate Winslet recently saying that she was told to say thank you to him, and she deliberately didn’t, and now realizing that I was thinking, “Ah, there go all the people that managed to finesse their relationship with Harvey Weinstein.”
Slate: Both with Weinstein and then with the many men, almost too many to name, about whom allegations have come out in the last month, there’s been a lot of dissecting of these public apologies. Harvey Weinstein’s was certainly among the least effective documents we’ve seen. A lot of people spent time last week picking apart the apology of Louis C.K. and wondering whether it was good enough or not good enough. Obviously a lot of those commentators are just people who know the work: people who have seen The English Patient, people who watched Louie. I’m curious, for you guys, what you would want out of an apology—whether any apology could be satisfying.
Evans: I don’t personally think much of apologies. I’ve asked myself in many situations in life what I think about apologies, and I think if somebody’s done something that is neglectful or was done because they’d drunk too much alcohol or that they had a silly thought, and they apologize, it’s fine. But I think for certain things … I don’t know about how you two feel, because I feel that it was a different level of attack that happened to you two.
Kendall: I don’t know how I feel, because I am in general a very forgiving person, and I don’t know if that has to do with me being a “nice girl” or just an empathetic person that wants to believe that people can change and that we’re all born pure. I know that most abusers were abused. I would like to hear what our psychologist on the panel has to say about that, but everything I’ve read does suggest that. I think that’s a really interesting, important part of this.
Roberts: I think there are a number of layers there. There’s research on apologies. There’s research on forgiveness. I will say that we’ve all been subjected to an apology that really felt nothing like it was an apology. Here’s the thing. When someone apologizes for our having been hurt, what they’re saying is, “I’m sorry you felt that way,” and that is not at all an apology. An apology is about actually acknowledging the harm that your own action or inaction made happen. That’s something that’s quite hard to come by in any public forum. There’s no room for that. You never hear a politician do it properly. You never hear anybody do it properly.
In our own intimate relationships, we could get in fights with the person we love the most, and we’re so mortified that we’ve hurt them that we cling fiercely and we say, “But I didn’t mean to. But I didn’t mean to.” Then it turns out that our partner says to us, “Nevertheless, you did.” Then we finally have to say, “I am sorry.” That’s rare. I don’t see very many genuine apologies among these many, many, now, men who have been named as serial harassers or abusers.
Then I think the second thing is so interesting. Forgiveness is such a puzzling phenomenon. We know that clinically, forgiveness is a powerful, powerful source of rehabilitation in one’s self.
Evans: For the forgiver or for the forgiven?
Roberts: For the forgiver, and here’s the trick: There are some conditions under which the forgiven doesn’t even need to goddamn know. Why should they know? You can go through the process with your therapist, with your loved one, of finding a way to let go of the bond that exists between your powerful negative emotions and this event. You can do that through forgiveness, but the person who harmed you doesn’t ever need to know.
Evans: That makes perfect sense to me …
Roberts: I think for me, the power of forgiveness, it’s in between your own ears. There are going to be some occasions where you will get a tremendous amount of healing by engaging in that process but never letting the harm-doer even know.
Slate: I’m curious to know what it’s been like for the three of you the last month. Katherine and Tomi-Ann, you were in that second New York Times story right in that first week of revelations, sharing these things that you’d only discussed with a few people for years, even decades. What has it been like to (A) see so many other women come forward about Harvey Weinstein and (B) to be part of a set of people who I think are very brave, who seem to have triggered a massive cultural watershed moment—
Kendall: It’s been wild. I’m so touched and grateful to have met the women … even though I wish it had never happened to them. I feel so close to you all. It helps my healing. It really helps, because I think the loneliness of feeling like it’s just me makes the trauma of it worse. I think that when you realize other people have been hurting too and you’re not the only freak that’s hurting, that there’s something really healing about that. I’m also flabbergasted by how many women, maybe every single person I know, every single woman is a #MeToo. I didn’t know that that would be the case.
Slate: Tomi-Ann, what’s it been like for you?
Roberts: Oh gosh. It’s been everything Katherine just said, absolutely, but I think also I wasn’t prepared for the kind of re-traumatization that would come from … I ended up having to make an outgoing message in my email that said, “I have already told my story, and if that’s all you want are the salacious details of that story, don’t contact me. I’m happy to talk about larger issues, because we will not be quiet anymore.”
Evans: That is exactly why I wanted to do this piece and not almost every other single offer I’ve had. It’s because they wanted, “Can we do a piece with Alice where she recounts to camera the anecdote?” You know that’s just gonna be the loop that will be just played again and again.
Kendall: It is re-traumatizing.
Evans: Yeah, whereas for me it’s much more important what we’re gonna do, where we think this is gonna go, what we think this means on a larger scale.
Roberts: I think in my case, too … this has turned out to be this ironic, this strange platform for me to talk about my career’s worth of research on these issues. Then I think, “Oh God, did it take having to tell the story to be able to … ”
Kendall: That’s such an interesting place that you just took it for yourself, because I think that we’ve been bursting to talk about this for our whole lives. Come on. We just got to vote. As women, where we are right now in society, it’s right there at the tipping point, and this is the moment. You’ve been studying this, I think, because it’s been an issue your whole life. Luckily, in this lifetime, we get to see people wanting to talk about it. I never thought we would.
When I first talked to Jodi Kantor from the New York Times, I was like, “Wait, this is a story? You think this is a story?” I’d minimized it so much that I just thought, “What? You care about me? Why now? Are you serious? This can’t be.”
Roberts: I was meant to be grading exams. I saw the first New York Times piece, with Ashley Judd and others. I set my exams aside, and I wrote an email to Jodi Kantor. I sent it on to my mother and my adult daughters, because I said, “Surely Jodi Kantor won’t read this email, or certainly she won’t care about my story. I’m a 54-year-old college professor, my God,” and the next morning she was on my voicemail. She called me. It’s the same thing you’re saying, Katherine, “This is a story? You care about mine?”
Slate: One thing that’s been striking about these stories and some others that have come out is just: It’s not a corporation, and there’s not an HR department that you can call—as we’re also learning, HR departments don’t always handle everything well either—but the fluidity of work in this industry seems to contribute to some of these dynamics. What steps do you think should be taken to prevent behavior like this from affecting the careers of women entering the industry?
Evans: I feel like, it’s very simple to me. It’s not necessarily about men and women … it’s about bullying. I was bullied a lot as a child. My mother … used to say, “The best thing to do is take the high road.” Sorry: Fuck the high road. I shouldn’t—
Slate: You can swear on this podcast.
Evans: Fuck the high road, because I tried for years and years to take the high road, and I tried “ignoring” them, and I’m doing little quote marks with my fingers there, because they just threw more iced lollies at my back and shouted things like, “Slut,” which was the word everybody was called for some reason in England back in the ’70s and ’80s. I had a horrible time.
It wasn’t until I was about 14, and there was a girl that used to meet me every night after school, and she used to say, “I’m gonna beat you up, but not tonight,” she said, “Another night.” I would walk around with this terror. Then finally she said one day, the same thing, “I’m gonna beat you up, but not tonight, tomorrow.” I just said, “Just do it. Just do it.” She punched me in the face. I just looked around at her, and I just punched her back in the face. Then something took over me, and I grabbed hold of her hair, and I started repeatedly punching her back in the face. I went to quite a rough school, I have to say. We were having this full-on fight. It was a massive changing point for me. I realized that you cannot ignore a bully.
Interestingly, my daughter, who’s now 8, in preschool, started being bullied in exactly the same way that I was. I turned around to my daughter and I said, “No. If somebody says something to you, anything, you have to say something back to them, and if somebody pushes you, you have to push them back. I don’t care if that gets you into trouble,” because I know, from years and years, that it doesn’t get better if you appease somebody. It really doesn’t. Does that make any sense to you, Tomi-Ann?
Roberts: I think there are so many layers there, as we know. What did we each do to try to get out of our bullying encounter? We were very polite. We appeased this gigantic man because we didn’t want to poke the bear.
I think you have to equip your child with the wherewithal to understand that if you’re at school and you have your teachers as witnesses, then you say right back to that bully, “Do not speak to me that way.”
But you also have to allow for … I wish we heard from more women who ended up having to do the thing to get out of the room. I don’t feel like a hero. I don’t feel like a hero that I left relatively unscathed. I think for a lot of women, the only way out of the room is to …
Evans: Well, Natasha Henstridge just beautifully spoke on the Today show yesterday about this. She had encounters with Harvey Weinstein and Brett Ratner. The Brett Ratner one really, really, really upset her. She had to go through with the act because he wouldn’t let her out of the room. I’ve known Natasha for a long time. I didn’t know this about her, and I teared up watching her talk. [Note: Ratner’s lawyer has “categorically” disputed the allegations against him from Henstridge and several others, including more women whose accounts were published since this conversation.]
Roberts: We all get to have people feel as though we were heroic because we didn’t go along with it, but in some cases, my God, it’s the only way you’re going to save yourself …
Slate: The last question I wanted to ask you guys—and you’ve done some of this already, which has been great—is really just what you want to know from the other women who have been through this. We’ll start here with each other. Tomi-Ann, I’m curious what you want to ask that you haven’t had a chance to ask yet.
Roberts: I think I’ve already been able to feel such a community, as Katherine also said. To confess to you all that I felt ashamed is so relieving, because the biggest forgiveness here is to my own self. I have to forgive my 20-year-old self for thinking that the only reason I didn’t go along with this was because I was a chicken or a prude or something. I guess I’m wondering if you have found ways to forgive yourselves.
Evans: I find it very hard to forgive myself about anything.
Kendall: It’s hard, right?
Roberts: It’s really hard.
Kendall: I had a couple moments of feeling very loving towards my 24-year-old self. I want to say, “Hey girl, if you could see me now, if you could see what’s happening now … ”
Roberts: “You’d freak.”
Kendall: Yeah. I’m glad that girl got to grow up and be this girl.
Evans: I think one thing that comes to mind for me, and I saw this a lot on some of the negative comments on Twitter, where there was one person … who said, “You wanted the bright life. You wanted to be a famous star. You wanted to be rich and famous. Ha. You should’ve chosen a normal job like everybody else.”
I thought it was interesting because I think that in myself I’ve always felt guilty because maybe I was brought up not to want to choose a job that was vain and self-aggrandizing, perhaps, if one succeeded, and that somehow these people had now caught me out …
All of a sudden these people are coming out and saying, “You see? You see? If you wanted to go into that, then you deserve whatever you get.” I think, “No. No. Actually, no, because this is my job, and everything I’ve ever done in my life, everything we have, our lovely house with our lovely pool, our lovely kids, is paid for by acting. Therefore, it’s a legitimate job that we’re doing.”
We have made a living from acting, and it is viable, and it’s OK to want to be an actor. People that are growing up now should be allowed to know that you can want to be famous.
Kendall: And successful.
Evans: And successful, or to earn money. You can want to be in the spotlight, and that doesn’t mean that then if things go like this, wrong, you have to accept the—
Kendall: Storytelling is a healing art, whether you’re behind the mic or animated.
Evans: An art that’s been around forever and ever and ever.
Kendall: We need storytelling in our culture. It helps heal us. There’s no reason to diminish it. Some characters in movies are sexy. They shouldn’t be subject to being raped because of it.
Roberts: The other thing that has struck me over all these stories is, my God, we’re resilient. Really. We shouldn’t have to endure these things, but we do.
Kendall: Every single woman.
Evans: Some people endure a lot worse and have endured a lot worse, and they don’t have a platform.
Kendall: No, they don’t.
Evans: That’s why we need to use our platform.
Kendall: That’s why something more needs to happen from this. That’s why there needs to be a next step, for other people’s voices to be heard, people that don’t have a platform.
Evans: That’s why I don’t want to stop talking.