Last week I read up on the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal. Disturbing doesn’t even describe it.
The New York Times ran a bombshell piece on Weinstein’s alleged (I say alleged because it hasn’t been proven in court. However, if it walks like a duck….) abusive behavior towards multiple women in the movie industry. Soon after, The New Yorker ran an expose interviewing some of Weinstein’s accusers. Since the story broke, approximately 30 women have come out and made accusations that Weinstein sexually assaulted or, in some cases, raped them. From budding actresses to female assistants, Weinstein did not discriminate.
I was left in total shock of how disgusting a man could be. Essentially, Weinstein is one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. As a co-founder of Miramax and The Weinstein Company, Weinstein has churned out hit after hit (i.e. Pulp Fiction, Bridget Jones Diary, etc…). He used power and status to coerce, force, and slander women. The women he assaulted were young, at the beginning of their careers in the film industry, or just making their big break. I read several times where these women said they felt pressured. They knew Weinstein could make or break their career, and Weinstein was well aware of this. It’s almost as if he thought he was untouchable.
The stories these women told literally turned my stomach.
I saw a video clip of Weinstein saying he had made some mistakes. Weinstein’s lawyers released an official statement denying all accusations against him. Nonetheless, repeated behavior like this is not a mistake. Not even close. It’s predatory. Weinstein is just a figurehead for a problem that has existed for centuries. Sexual assault is nothing new, but it’s largely glossed over because harassment has been normalized in American culture. That needs to change.
This weekend the hash tag #MeToo began trending on Twitter as a means for women (and men), to give voice to those who wanted to share their stories. Too many victims remain silent, feeling afraid to speak out for fear of repercussions. Often times, society will be quick to blame the accuser instead of looking at the accused. Weinstein’s scandal (along with Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly has shed some major light on sexual harassment and assault. Especially via social media. The #MeToo trend made it to Facebook. I read some statuses, and that’s when it hit me.
I know several women who have been either sexually harassed or assaulted.
Post after post of former school mates or co-workers simply said “me too.” One post went in-depth telling a horrifying story of a friend being stalked on her way to take the metro in D.C. The perp grabbed a handful of her backside so hard she fell into a packed train car as the door closed. She turned around and looked him. What was his reaction? He smirked and walked away. Unscathed. In all of his faux glory. He got away. That makes me sick!!
I know the realization of how prevalent sexual assault is has not fully hit me. I mean I’m a 6’4 330 pound male that doesn’t deal with women grabbing, groping, or catcalling nonsense to me, or incessantly asking for my number. I don’t walk to my car in fear that some random is going to pop up and try to assault me. My world can be pretty oblivious to these actions. That being said, the more I read these stories, the older I get, the more I grasp the complexity of these situations, the more alarmed I become at how callous and dismissive we can be. Sexual harassment and assault are very real. Sometimes it takes having a very uncomfortable conversation to really understand the issue.
It is way past time for us to get uncomfortable about sexual assault.
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Years ago the stat was 1 in 5 woman. I believe it’s 1 in 4 now. I don’t know if that means it’s getting worse or more women are ready to talk about it. I started a local photo series here “Together We Rise”. To give people the opportunity to “talk” about it. I’m glad people are starting to open up about their experiences regardless of the backlash they might receive.
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Reading what I’ve read the past few days is very eye opening. I think most men don’t consider themselves to have predatory behavior. I certainly don’t. However, reflection on how we treat women is needed.
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