The “Weinstein” Epidemic


Individual Sins or Cultural Inevitabilities?

As the casualties of the “Weinsteining” effect continue to mount – striking down seemingly invincible idols across Hollywood and Washington – I am forced to take a step back from the carnage and ask what this is all really about. Unfortunately, American society has no shortage of crimes and coverups; from corporate greed that steals from millions, corrupt politicians who sell their countries interests for votes, and a dishonest media that confuses facts for clicks, our country’s character is under siege across numerous fronts. And yet, this hunting spree of public outrage has zeroed in on a single target: Harvey Weinstein and those like him. How and why has this come to be?

A central component of psychoanalysis, accepted by virtually all psychologists today, is the theory of repression. According to Freud, when our unconscious mind detects a psychological “event” capable of disrupting our normal functioning, it acts to hide the existence of that stimulus from our conscious perception. This can take the form of a forgotten memory, or a misplaced emotion, or even a false sense of identity. Far from being a passive reflection of our true psychological makeup, our consciousness is actually carefully constructed in order to hide those aspects of ourselves which might cause us too much pain or trauma.

Unfortunately, instead of fixing the problem, repression often allows the painful item to continue festering just below the surface, resulting in psychological disorders and complexes. Think about those times in which you’ve chosen to downplay a problem at work, in your home, or with yourself in order to avoid having to deal with it. Did the problem go away on its own? Of course not. More likely, it grew until the point where you had no choice but to deal with the consequences of your own dereliction.

Therefore, an essential aspect of psychoanalytic treatment is the process of recovering those repressed memories or emotions in order to release the pent up energy in a constructive and healthy manner.

But the same process occurs on the societal level as well. We rage at football players who refuse to stand, so that we don’t have to acknowledge the feelings of abandonment these players are expressing. In other words, when we can’t handle the disease, we attack the symptoms. Weinstein and Co. were not created ex nihilo; they are symptoms of a far larger societal breakdown. Nourished by a culture of selfishness, pleasure addiction, and materialism, their acts are indicators of a far more elusive and dangerous illness that can’t simply be erased by a hip social media campaign or weekend rally.

While we’re hard at work suppressing the symptoms of social failure, we allow ourselves a self-righteous sigh of relief. After all, there’s hardly time to repair the widening cracks in our foundation when we’re hard at work applying fresh coats of gleaming paint.

More: Meaningful Takes on Sexuality


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6 years ago

This article struck a cord in me! Not only did the author’s ideas resonate with me, they even gave me food for thought. I found myself beginning to wonder what ramifications repression has on other aspects of my life…

6 years ago

Scary to think that worse problems lie beneath the surface. This made me think about the sort of culture we live in—how can it be that this sort of behavior came to be taken for granted in some circles? And how deep must we go to fix it?

1 year ago

you are right that the culture is creating these problems and just raging at individual men like my father and millions like him will not work. i am not for going after individuals like a hunter, but i do think they should be held accountable.

i have to have say that i cannot agree that the problem is just our society that is all about self gratification etc. i grew up orthodox and there was rampant sexual abuse. i don’t think it came from modern culture so much as deep sexism ie unequal treatment of women within our culture, a system of laws that women have no real role in creating, a religion where women have almost no public religious role, in which we are told that we are more spiritual and therefore excluded from public religious roles like that of rabbis and cantors. “Prayers” in which Jewish men thank God daily- and you all been doing this for at least a thousand maybe 2000 or more years. this creates contempt for women that all the weekly eyshet chayils cannot erase.

when are you men who are so sensitive and loving in so many ways going to stop this? when? when are you going to listen to the voices of your sisters and wives and daughters and mothers and bubbies and cousins and nieces and cousins and friends etc and stop the sexism?

i have lived with this abuse for 61 years and the time is now to end this unequal treatment of women. it is no surprise that the rates of abuse are so high in orthodox communities, the Catholic Church, among Mormons fundamentalist protestants and extremist Muslims.

combine repression with patriarchy and watch out, abuse.

yes, i know that abuse happens among the secular too, and since this a religious site, what are you going please to stop the abuse of women and to end the inequality of women in jewish law and life.

4000 years is way too much and this is good for no one, not women not men,


be one of the Orthodox who stands for equality for women.

The Meaningful Life Center