George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 directs us to review our understanding of a dystopian world, to challenge our beliefs, and warns against the power of totalitarianism. He writes about the government controlling everything in the fictional country of Oceania, where the leadership abuses its power by controlling people’s thoughts and actions through fear and propaganda. The concept that the government, or “Big Brother” is always watching produced compliance for fear of punishment. Citizens were influenced to think and behave in certain ways, leaving them at the mercy of the controlling power to believe they had no option other than to obey. It is on this premise that I will be examining the concept of power and control in Orwell’s 1984 with respect to the prediction of current day feminism and women’s equality, specifically the recent “Me Too” movement originating from the sexual assault allegations against Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein.
The concept of feminism in Orwell’s 1984 is presented in the description of men and women in Oceania, where women do not wear make-up, have boyish haircuts and are dressed in the same shapeless, blue Party overalls. Women are not forced to beautify themselves may be seen as an ideal feminist image. Although women are portrayed as achieving sameness as men, it may not be interpreted as equal to men. The descriptive similarity of men and women is due to the imposed sexual oppression by Big Brother, since sexual instinct must be avoided and women are restricted from looking attractive. The responsibility to control oneself is placed on women instead of men whose sex instinct is considered to be natural.
The main female character in 1984 is Julia, a self-centered, rebellious, “do as she wants” kind of woman. Julia’s character is strong and persuasive, which is in contrast to the book’s other female characters introduced as Winston’s mother and wife, who are described as passive, and selfless. Even the male character of Winston Smith, shadows in her description, as he is described as being a weak, passive rule follower, whose only purpose is to serve society. (Orwell 30, 66) Julia is portrayed as an outward sexual being who slept with many Party members, including Winston. (Orwell 125) Julia’s sexual freedom was uncharacteristic of the time, but Orwell never suggested that she was dirty or worthless. She was portrayed as a confident woman, not a “slutty” character that deserved to be r**ed. Winston’s fantasy of raping and killing Julia was not sexually motivated but rather that he had a hatred towards her. (Orwell 15) Orwell understood that r**e was an act of violence not sexual.
What is the MeToo movement?
The MeToo movement was created in October 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano went to twitter tweeting: “suggested by a friend : “if all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”. Within a week the hashtag #metoo had been shared over half a million times by women all over the world. The movement was not only part of twitters platform but also facebook with over 8 million posts of people “talking” about it in less than a week. Thousands of personal stories of sexual assault from women flooded social media bringing awareness to the situation making the hashtag top news on multiple media platforms. The tweet was posted just after the article in The New Yorker was released about Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulting many Hollywood famous actors over many decades.
This can be interpreted as Julia’s character from Orwell’s 1984 because Julia was rebellious and went against all power of Big Brother. In 1984 Orwell predicted the modern day use of thoughtcrime, the restriction that no one was allowed to possess any opposing thoughts. The abuse demonstrated by Weinstein against the women extends beyond physically but mentally as well through the power of thoughtcrime. Many women affected by Weinstein feared speaking out about any previous experiences with him. One of Harvey’s previous employees said in an interview with journalist Ronan Farrow; “If Harvey were to discover my identity, I’m worried that he could ruin my life,”
The fall of Harvey Weinstein
In October 2017 two articles were posted all over the world. Two reporters from the New York Times, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey and Ronan Farrow from The New Yorker published articles exposing hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. Both articles dig deep into sexual assault allegations against Weinstein for decades. The power and control that Weinstein possessed blinded those in the industry and public from knowing of any misconduct towards women. The first women to come forward to the media making allegations against Harvey were Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan. Many other women to come forward include Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and many office coworkers.
Allegations against Harvey included him inviting young women to his hotel room for professional meetings where they would show up to Weinstein completely naked or in a robe demanding a massage or sexual favours in return for career advancement. In 1984, the ruling parties attempted to control not only the way the citizens spoke and behaved but also what they thought. It was considered a thoughtcrime to think of things that were against the party. The same concept goes for the actions of the women who refrained from speaking up and against Harvey Weinstein for decades.
Although Orwell’s 1984 would not be considered a feminist novel, the themes should be seen in the facts that the female characters are presented from a male-centered perspective that considers women to be less intelligent, passive, sexual objects, and easily manipulated. This view offers a justification for the male hero to gain control over women and treat them aggressively.
Through the comparison of Orwell’s depiction of a totalitarian Oceania with today’s Hollywood power dominance of Harvey Weinstein, I have been able to show the similarities of an abuse of power and the prediction of feminism and women’s equality in today’s culture.
I feel that my thesis was accurate because I was able to show through examples that Harvey Weinstein used the power of his corporation and influence in Hollywood to control the lives of others, taking advantage of women who may have felt helpless, and manipulating the media to discredit the truth of his accusers. Julia’s rebellion against the system to bring awareness to injustice is equal to the bravery of the multitude of women who banded together through the “me too” movement in order to strengthen their voice to rebel against the system that allowed for the continued acceptance of abuse of power in Hollywood.
I was able to access strong and reliable references relating to feminism, women’s rights, the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the “Me Too” movement. The most helpful and trustworthy research came from the New Yorker and New York Times articles exposing Harvey Weinstein because of the reporters commitment to collaborate evidence from their first hand sources. Once the story broke, the news media was flooded with all points of view, which provided sufficient and broad research sources to access for this paper. As a result, I was clearly able to demonstrate the similarity between the theme of abuse of power and control of citizens in 1984 and the current day abuse of power and intimidation of females harassed by Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood.
...(download the rest of the essay above)