Those who have been on the internet in the past few weeks have all heard about Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer who was apparently sexually abusing and harassing women for decades. Goliath has now fallen and the floodgates are opening. Women are telling their horror stories of encounters with Mr. Weinstein, and men are expressing their regret and shock. However, what has unnerved me about all of this are the pictures of these women who he did this or that to them, smiling in photos with him. They knew what he was, what he did to them, yet they still presented this image to the public of the happy life. Unnerving, I say ….unnerving. The men also knew, they knew, but it wasn’t their experience so……now, they express regret.
I personally know why some women don’t speak up about sexual abuse and harassment. In my case …(even as I write this I cringe, I won’t go into details…it wasn’t as bad as some other people) it is shameful. It is such a violation. There’s a part of you that is sacred, that is not meant for just anyone to see, and sexual harassment and abuse forces itself uninvited into that area. An area you yourself sometimes haven’t seen or explored. (I’m not talking about your body per se). You are not the one who should feel ashamed, but for some reason you do. The sense of helplessness that one feels, you couldn’t protect yourself; you didn’t even have time to react. The sure knowledge that some people will blame you, yes, they will blame you. “Why did you this……? Why did you that…….?” So you don’t talk, you keep quiet. Now I understand why people who speak out about sexual abuse are called brave. Once again I am reminded of the importance of speaking up, challenging the wrong behaviors of those in authority.
When I was younger, I used to empathize with some people who mistreated me. There were times when I knew, I knew, that I should report what had occurred, but I felt sorry for these people, I didn’t want to be responsible for them losing their jobs. I didn’t want that on my conscience. I was just tender-hearted, I believed of myself. A few years ago, I realized that I was actually not tender-hearted but an enabler. By not speaking up about the misbehavior of this person in authority, I enabled them to go and do the same thing to another innocent victim. If I really had a tender heart, I would feel for the next potential victim and do what I could to prevent another abuse from happening. Even if people didn’t listen to me, at least my conscience was clear in that I did what I could to speak out against injustice.
I wonder how many people who wanted to come forward about Weinstein heard this:
“It’s not that bad”
“He’s given you this opportunity, don’t be ungrateful”
“Now is not the time or the place, we have a movie to shoot”
“Oh come on, a few flirtations never hurt anybody”
“You’re suffering…. sure … if it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t have gotten that movie, that Oscar, that good review”
“If you don’t like working here, then maybe you should move to another studio”
This brings me to Colin Kaepernick and all who have joined him in kneeling when the American (or German) anthem is being sung. Kaepernick (Black Lives Matter, and others who have done different kinds of protest) started this to protest police brutality against black people. They have spoken out when people want them to be quiet. They’ve spoken out against the abuse of power, and what has happened to them? The same thing survivors of sexual harassment and abuse fear. Similar words like the ones I wrote above have been leveled at them. “Ungrateful”, “Not the time or place”, “Sure you’re suffering, with your million dollar contract” and other words. It takes courage to speak out about the abuses of power by those in power. Not everyone has that courage. I think a lot of non Americans know the last sentence of the American anthem due to movies and TV: The land of the free and the home of the brave.
Kaepernick, Black Lives Matter, you guys are in your home.
Don’t forget to check out my book Dealing with Your Implicit Racism (For black people and anti-racism activists) Available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes&Noble, ibooks, and Tolino.