Voices of the Resistance has typically been a strictly political site. However, when a topic of great importance begins to dominate the national conversation, I feel it's important to chime in even if said topic doesn't revolve around Donald Trump or the U.S. Congress. And for the last three weeks, the most meaningful subject of discussion in our nation has revolved around sexual assault.
The harassment and abuse claims against Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein have kicked off a wave of brave women coming forward to speak out about sexual assault in the workplace and in everyday life. In the three weeks since the Weinstein news broke, accusations against numerous men who carry influence in the public sphere have become a regular occurrence. And not just in Hollywood; the scandal has touched on politicians like George H.W. Bush and journalists like Mark Halperin. It seems like every day someone famous is being accused of the basest kind of deplorable behavior.
Of course, this isn't new, and it shouldn't be shocking to anyone. For as long as there have been people in positions of power, some of those people have been abusing that power for sexual gratification. This type of thing, horrific as it is, would have been seen in the past as "old news" doomed to fade from the public consciousness in a news cycle or two. If you don't believe that, just look at the White House, where an admitted sex offender holds the most powerful office on the planet.
A news story revealing crimes of a sexual nature by Harvey Weinstein, a guy most Americans may have heard of but certainly couldn't pick out of a lineup a month ago, should not have set off this kind of firestorm.
But it did.
I don't know why that's the case. Maybe seeing so many well-known public figures coming forward to speak about their encounters with a scumbag gave other women courage to do the same. Or maybe this was just the last pebble to set off an avalanche. But regardless of the reason, what has become perfectly clear to all Americans is something that was all too clear to half of them for their entire lives: sexual harassment is a real problem that every woman has had to endure countless times in one form or another.
Before I delve further into this, I want to make one thing clear: I'm a male who has never been sexually harassed or assaulted. I fully understand that I don't have the slightest grasp of what life for your average American woman is like. I can hear the women in my life talk about their experiences and read the countless "Me Too" posts on Facebook, and that still only gives me the tiniest inkling of what it does to your psyche to be treated the way women are treated all the time in this country (not to mention the rest of the world).
The fact that anyone has to put up with sexual harassment is disgusting. And that so many women deal with it every day and still work, live, and love is a testament to a level of bravery and strength that I could never hope to achieve. To the women reading this: I honestly don't know how you do it.
Here's what I do know. Every single man in this country can do a better job of helping to shut down this behavior. Every. Single. One.
Because we have all, intentionally or not, done something at some point to make a woman feel like she is somehow lesser. For most of us, that wasn't done by grabbing a woman without her consent or using our influence in the office as a way to force someone into a sexual act. But what about that time you told a female acquaintance that you loved how her ass looked in those jeans? Or when you saw a buddy making a girl uncomfortable with his advances and didn't step in because it would be too awkward? Or that one night at the bar when you had a few too many drinks and were slow to understand what she meant when she said she wasn't interested in that shot you wanted to buy her?
I'm embarrassed to say that I can recall moments along those lines in my past. And I'm sure each guy reading this can easily do the same without too much effort. That is not an acceptable status quo.
Also not acceptable: blaming the victim. I'm sorry, bro, but the fact that she was wearing booty shorts does not give you permission to grab said booty. The fact that you bought her a drink does not entitle you to a handshake, much less anything else. And the fact that she flirted with you at the bar does not mean you have a right to be pissed if she doesn't want to go home with you. The amount of "if she wasn't dressed like a slut it wouldn't have happened" and "a few uptight prudes are ruining the fun for everyone" that has come out in the wake of these stories has literally made me sick to my stomach.
We are way too eager to say, "it's [that oppressed group]'s problem and they should deal with it," only to cry foul when they try to deal with it in a way that has the slightest impact on us (see also: NFL protests, Black Lives Matter). An issue this systematic involves every single one of us, and if you're not a part of the solution, chances are you're a part of the problem.
So let's recap:
- Sexual harassment and assault are problems that women have to deal with every single day. This includes women you know and care about. If you don't believe that, ask some of them; they can probably direct you to their "Me Too" post for details.
- You can't claim to be innocent just because you've never "grabbed her by the pussy." If you have ever made a woman feel like you expect sex, degraded her because of her clothes/appearance, said "she deserved it," or stood by silently while someone else has done the same, your hands are dirty too.
- This is not just "their problem." This is our problem as a people. Any society that treats half of its people as inferior sex objects is not a society worth celebrating.
Is this a problem that will go away in a day, a week, or a year? Unfortunately not. The way women are treated in this society continues to improve at the slowest of paces, and that's even more true for women of color. As a guy, it's not my job to tell women how to fix said problem, claim it's not really a problem, allege that the problem is actually their fault, or cry that "all problems matter." My job is to take steps every day to make sure I'm not a part of the problem and to not be afraid to call out deplorable behavior when I see it.
If we all do that, maybe one day there won't be a need to say "Me Too."