Book Review: She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

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For many years, reporters had tried to get to the truth about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women. Rumors of wrongdoing had long circulated. But in 2017, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into the prominent Hollywood producer for the New York Times, his name was still synonymous with power. During months of confidential interviews with top actresses, former Weinstein employees, and other sources, many disturbing and long-buried allegations were unearthed, and a web of onerous secret payouts and nondisclosure agreements was revealed. These shadowy settlements had long been used to hide sexual harassment and abuse, but with a breakthrough reporting technique Kantor and Twohey helped to expose it. But Weinstein had evaded scrutiny in the past, and he was not going down without a fight; he employed a team of high-profile lawyers, private investigators, and other allies to thwart the investigation. When Kantor and Twohey were finally able to convince some sources to go on the record, a dramatic final showdown between Weinstein and the New York Times was set in motion.
Nothing could have prepared Kantor and Twohey for what followed the publication of their initial Weinstein story on October 5, 2017. Within days, a veritable Pandora’s box of sexual harassment and abuse was opened. Women all over the world came forward with their own traumatic stories. Over the next twelve months, hundreds of men from every walk of life and industry were outed following allegations of wrongdoing. But did too much change—or not enough? Those questions hung in the air months later as Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, and Christine Blasey Ford came forward to testify that he had assaulted her decades earlier. Kantor and Twohey, who had unique access to Ford and her team, bring to light the odyssey that led her to come forward, the overwhelming forces that came to bear on her, and what happened after she shared her allegation with the world.
In the tradition of great investigative journalism, She Said tells a thrilling story about the power of truth, with shocking new information from hidden sources. Kantor and Twohey describe not only the consequences of their reporting for the #MeToo movement, but the inspiring and affecting journeys of the women who spoke up—for the sake of other women, for future generations, and for themselves.

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I will not presume to be in any way capable of reviewing this brilliant book because it’s an extremely well written true account of the investigation and brings to light some systemic truths that we probably are well aware of, but haven’t seen discussed openly a lot. Instead, I think I’ll just share how I felt while reading it.

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I’ve only lived in the US for less than a decade now and while I have a seen a Hollywood movie or two since childhood, I’ve never been much knowledgeable about the industry or its major players. So, when the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke out, all the names associated with it didn’t mean anything to me. The significance for me was mostly about the movement it created and the outpouring of stories we got to hear after that. It reinforced the fact that sexual harassment is rampant in the world, regardless of the industry or field you are in and what age you are. It’s all about power, and those who have it will exercise it in whatever way they can without fear of consequences because they know that the whole system is behind them. And while this book goes into a lot of detail about the investigation and the many women Kantor and Twohey spoke to, it also shows us the blatant disregard shown by so many other people towards these women and how all the sexual predation was just treated as matter of fact.

My singular emotion while reading this book was anger. And helplessness. Maybe some hope too, but I won’t say it was a lot. The way that Weinstein used his power, bullying tactics and promises of helping their career to harass and assault and overpower so many young women is appalling to read about. I would never judge the women for not coming out and sharing their stories because it’s always them who had a lot to lose and they have their right to self-preservation. It’s the other people I find fault with – those around Weinstein who helped him cover up all the incidents by forcing the women with watertight settlements and NDAs, who thought his behavior was okay as long as it wasn’t a liability to the company, who decided that it must be the women coming onto him for a chance to go ahead in their careers, the high profile lawyers like David Boies, Gloria Allred and Lisa Bloom who feel completely justified in the way they defended Weinstein and shamed and blamed the women and the journalists covering the story. These are people even I have admired, watched documentaries about their work on marriage equality and women’s rights, and now to realize that powerful people always seem to support those in power – I just can’t describe the horror I’m feeling. If you’ve followed any of the twitter trends on the day of this book’s release, you must have seen the very enlightening (and loathsome) memo that Lisa Bloom wrote to Weinstein about how they can frame a narrative to victim blame and showcase him as an old man trying to understand the ever changing social mores. It really was an eye opener and I don’t think I will ever implicitly trust any “popular” activist again, especially lawyers.

The last section of the book also goes into some detail about the Kavanaugh hearings and Dr. Ford’s testimony, particularly how she felt in the weeks leading up to the day and how her life has irrevocably changed since then. It just makes me furious that nothing fundamental has really has changed since the years after Anita Hill and women have to still weigh their safety and career prospects vs the possibility of telling their story and maybe getting some vindication and justice. And I’m currently feeling even more hopeless because between the few hours when I finished this book and I’m writing this review, the New York Times published excerpts from another book with corroborating evidence for other allegations against Kavanaugh. And it’s really exhausting to see that while Dr. Ford has to deal with death threats, this man will be on the Supreme Court for most of our lifetime.

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To conclude, I just wanna say thank you to all the women who came forward to tell their story, putting their livelihoods and privacy on the line, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for their incessant desire to bring this story to light in its entirety while facing off the whole bully machine of Weinstein, and everyone else at NYT who made this possible. I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to know more about this brilliant piece of investigative journalism and support women in their fight for equality and right to work without being harassed.

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