Are we shocked, or have we already moved on? ... Again.
‘Almost Every Woman I Know Has Been the Victim of
[ Image from: https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/10/12/almost-every-single-woman-i-know-has-been-the-victim-of-sexual-assault/ ]
Are we shocked by the Harvey Weinstein story, really? I'm not. This isn't a Hollywood problem, this isn't an elite problem. Let's be clear, this is a pervasive societal problem. The sacrifice of the feminine, of the daughter in society, is a common tale that has been handed down for thousands of years. See one of the oldest "accepted" stories, that of Lot and his daughters in the Bible. It is a story that is repeated daily, whether it is in the tabloids, or trending on Facebook. It is one that is well overdue to be talked about, and laid out bare in the open. Please do not simply move on. Don't brush it back under the rug, don't go back to sleep.
I wrote about this dynamic at length in my dissertation, and I have to wonder if all those years of painful, diligent research (350 pages worth) will make any difference at all, or just grow dust. In my research I discuss the relationship between fathers and daughters, I look at the foundation, how it shows up in our popular stories, fairy tales and myths, forming a bedrock for the dysfunction still playing out today, despite how far we have seemingly come. I am not simply referring to the literal relationship between a man and his daughter, because there are a lot of good fathers out there, but in more general terms I am talking about the roles men (the masculine) play in relationship to women (the feminine) in our society, specifically involving younger women under the masculine realm of power.
Rather than having father figures as role models and mentors, young women are often and repeatedly seen as sexual objects for gratification. So the Harvey Weinstein story is not only the story of thirty women in Hollywood, this was MY story, this might be YOUR story, this is MANY women's story, and I for one am not ashamed to admit it, I just never knew how to talk about it as a young female. It is a common yet taboo story. And it is still hard to talk about it. But speak we must, or pack it away for another thousand years.
I experienced sexual objectification long before I consciously knew what it was, so it became a part of the way I viewed the world. It was NORMALIZED, all around me (by men AND women, by family members, family friends, by society, by television, movies, music, commercials, billboards, magazines, churches, pastors, you name it). Girls become women who often grew up never knowing, "Is this the right time to speak up about it?" The answer seems to be, "No, this isn't the right time, because this bad behavior is considered normal. Look around you, it's everywhere. So, shhhh, don't rock the boat, little girl. You just bury it. Let the man keep his reputation."
The most deplorable part is when the onus of responsibility is shifted to the woman, and in this case we may hear, "You asked for it. You're at fault. You wanted it. You're guilty." This plays out OFTEN in fairy tales, myths, and, yes, even Bible stories. It's everywhere. So when is the right time to speak up?? It's time, RIGHT NOW, we call bullshit on this state of normalcy. But IT IS NOT ENOUGH to read tabloids and get fired up about celebrities. It is time WE speak up in our daily lives, you know in those moments when we experience blatant sexism that will never make it into the tabloids. For example, when our family members, in response to typical bad behavior, might say things like, "He'll never change. He doesn't mean anything by it. That's just the way he is. That's his generation. ... Boys will be boys." ETC.
How do any of these excuses justify sexism? How does it make perversion okay? How does it make targeting women as "lesser-than" okay? How does this model any kind of self-worth for our daughters and granddaughters? It doesn't. IT IS NOT OKAY. IT IS NO LONGER NORMAL. We have to stop being complicit. Or at least I will speak up for myself and say that I no longer accept this as normal! Will you stand up and say it with me, finally?
I no longer accept this as normal.
Can we stop passing down this shhhhitty story to our daughters, and our daughters' daughters? You know, the "shhhhh" story. Most of our daughters will not end up an Emma Thompson or a Meryl Streep, for that I'm glad though (there are plenty of other needed roles in society), but it also means they may not have the microphone, or the stage. We have to instill in them their voice, now. We instill it by speaking our voice, by modeling this behavior, by not playing small, and by not cowering to the old paradigm of women "simply taking it." As little girls we are taught to respect elders, particularly male elders, even when they do not remotely deserve it, even when they say and do cruel things, we're taught to be quiet and not talk back.
I can't count the times I was put down for my gender, I can't count the times I was groped as a young girl and woman, I can't count the times I had my physical attributes singled out with no mention of my other capabilities, I can't count the times I've seen men (who speak ill of women) idolized and made into heroes, I can't count the times I've had to bite my tongue around "alpha males" like the man currently in the spotlight. Don't get me wrong, I fully realize and am grateful that NOT ALL MEN are Harvey Weinstein, BUT there are still plenty of them, because, let's be clear:
This is a culture that raises and promotes them.
It is easy for men like Harvey Weinstein to climb the ranks, while women often have to fight tooth and nail to attain positions of respect. And as you can see, it's not easy to take out a Harvey Weinstein. It takes a grotesque number of violations.
The truth is that Harvey Weinstein isn't the lone wolf in this situation, this isn't some horrific moment of injustice that hasn't happened a million times before Harvey Weinstein, he is simply one man who is actually being held accountable (let's hope) for his actions. What a novel idea, being held accountable. But he is only in the spotlight, for now, because he is a celebrity impacting celebrities, and that is what our media feeds on.
But again, let me repeat: This isn't a Hollywood problem, this isn't a problem of the elite, this is a pervasive societal problem, it is a story that is repeated daily, one that is well overdue to be talked about, and laid out bare in the open. Now this may not be my usual inspirational message, but it is a needed message, and I feel compelled to speak it. I hope it inspires someone. I hope you will speak up too, even if you do so alone amidst a sea of crickets.
Dr. Karina McGovern Chace
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