We Must Be Better
On October 6th, the New York Times broke the story that powerful and influential film producer Harvey Weinstein has been systematically sexually harassing and abusing women for decades. The allegations against him are thorough and wide-ranging. Celebrities as famous as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have come forward with their own stories about how Weinstein preyed on them. On it's own, the scandal is terrible, however it's worse than that, because Weinstein's sexual proclivities were a poorly kept secret in Hollywood for the past three decades. Think about that for a minute. A man in his position was able to continue this behavior for three decades without any repercussions until now.
Harvey Weinstein is not the first man to be found out as a serial sexual harasser. He is simply the latest one to come to light. These past few years have seen a wide variety of powerful and influential men to be revealed as abusers. Bill Cosby, Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, and Eric Bolling. Even President Donald Trump has been accused of sexual assault throughout the years.
It is important to remember that this is not a new thing. This is not endemic to a new culture. This has been a part of the American culture for at least the past century. The change is that now women feel secure enough to come forward and share their experiences.
This brings me to the core of the issue: We, men, need to do better. We need to stop things like this from happening and we need to make sure that sexual harassment is always shut down.
Women need to be able to keep coming forward with their stories. They need to be able to speak out against their abuses. In order to do that though men need to stop and listen to them. Men need to take their accusations seriously. In these situations, women have everything to lose and very little to gain. Speaking out against a powerful figure is almost always guaranteed to severely impact the woman's life. This is doubly true for women of color. The prime example of this came about during the Bill Cosby trial. 60 women have come forward with stories about how Cosby would drug and sexually abuse them. These brave women were attacked openly and had their names dragged through the mud. Bill Cosby was acquitted of all charges and had planned to go on a nationwide speaking tour.
It’s not only women who are affected by these predators. Shortly after the Weinstein story broke actor and former linebacker Terry Crews shared his story about being groped by an unnamed Hollywood executive. Terry Crews is 6 foot 3 inches and over 240 pounds. He can defend himself, yet the power dynamics were not in his favor. If Terry Crews has experienced sexual assault, how many more men have experienced it but are too ashamed to speak up? A survey in 2014 revealed that 38% of men reported being the victims of sexual assault. Many researchers believe that number could actually be higher, but men are often too embarrassed to speak out.
Celebrities and politicians are reacting now. Across the board, everyone is publicly shaming and dumping Harvey Weinstein. He has been fired from the company he founded with his brother. His wife left him. He family has even shunned him. The question is, why did this take so long? If everyone knew Weinstein was a predator, why did they allow it to go on? Specifically, why did the men that worked with him allow it? Why did it take this story breaking for Matt Damon to speak up? It is possible that he did not know of course, but all evidence points to the contrary. It is because there is something wrong and permissive with our culture. It is too easy for men in positions of power to abuse that power. It is even easier for other men to look the other way. We can’t allow that any longer. If you know there is an injustice going on, you should say something. You should stand up for what’s right, stand up for your fellow man or woman. In the face of injustice, we should show solidarity. We must be better. Not because we are all sons, or brothers, or boyfriends, or husbands. We must be better because every victim is another human being. Every victim has feelings. Every victim matters.