She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement by New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey probably needs no introduction. However for those who aren’t in the know, She Said recounts in real-time how the reporters came to work on, write and publish their expose on Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
It feels wrong to say that I ‘enjoyed’ reading this memoir as the accounts of so many women’s experience of sexual harassment from such a powerful figure are extremely repugnant. Although the content is shocking, the reading experience was enjoyable as the writing is very accessible and the clear timeline of events is easy to follow. While it is evident that the reporters and editors involved in breaking this story did not approve of Weinstein’s actions, there is no malicious intent in their conduct nor do they resort to name-calling or petty accusations. Kantor & Twohey were tasked with investigating rumours that Weinstein had historically sexually harassed women in his employ and actresses looking to be cast in his movies. From interviewing past employees they soon uncovered a much larger pattern of events from 30 years previous right up to 2015. It was clear how meticulously they approached their research and the extent they went to in order to ensure they had evidence of the huge settlements regularly paid out to silence Weinstein’s victims. In the end, they had accounts from over 80 women, many of which were eerily similar despite the distance of years and thousands of miles between them.
By quoting their sources it was easy for me to see the parallels and pattern of the abuse which was really engaging as it made me feel like I was right there alongside them, piecing together the timelines and events. As someone who knew very little about the Weinstein case before reading I felt the amount of context given was perfect. It was provided as when new people entered the investigation and allowed me to understand their reluctance to speak on the record, if at all, their motives and betrayals.
There is also plenty about Kantor & Twohey’s experience in piecing together their article in the NYT office and their colleagues who advised, helped and took ultimate responsibility of the story going out to the public. It was fascinating to see the way Weinstein and his representatives tried to outmanoeuvre, intimidate and unnerve both the reporters and the paper in general. It’s easy to forget what reporters face in these situations, especially against big names like Weinstein and Trump – we briefly learn about Twohey’s experience in reporting against the latter at the beginning which is also very interesting. I found this portion of the book to be very well paced and was eagerly turning the pages to find out what would happen. It was ultimately very gratifying. The story was published and many more women felt empowered to speak out and go on record, even those with settlements prohibiting them from doing so. That Weinstein did not retaliate against those women and is now undergoing trial is telling.
There were a couple of chapters at the end that were not as strong. These dealt with Christine Blasey Ford and her case against Brett Kavanaugh. I felt that the narrative approach shifted in these chapters and it was less compelling than the build up to exposing Weinstein. Instead of a focus on the reporters, it followed Ford’s thought process and path to speaking out against Kavanaugh. I am not saying that this story is not worth exploring, it just felt a little out of place. If it had been included as an epilogue or as a more distinct case to illustrate how many more cases and discussions have been brought to light after the Weinstein story was published, I think the book would have been stronger.