A shockwave was sent to the rest of the world when Harvey Weinstein, who made himself popular as a notable director, became known as something completely different in Hollywood. In Hollywood, Weinstein was depressingly interconnected with actresses through sexual assault and coerced situations. So far, over fifty women have come forward claiming that Weinstein sexually assaulted them or made unwanted advances. Women that have come forward including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Lupita Nyong’o, Cara Delevingne, and many others. This trend of sexual harassment unfortunately went on for several decades. This happens consistently within American society; that privileged males with power treat women as objects for sexual pleasure.
Weinstein said in a statement released by the New York Times that he came of age in the 60s and 70s when “all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.” This statement alone is very telling of the patriarchal society we live in today and the normalization of rape culture.
Sadly, this is just one example of a larger issue that is taking place. Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump are other examples, and while the showing of O’Reilly’s true colors ultimately leads to his termination, Donald Trump went on to become the President of the United States. Although Trump has denied his sexual assault allegations, he was still very much caught on camera saying that he would grab a woman by her genitals. Surprisingly, there were a considerable amount of Americans rationalizing his words, and regurgitating his claim that it was just “locker room talk.” That it is normal to talk about women as if they were objects, that it is normal to just casually talk about sexual assault. It is because of these trends that women are constantly shamed into thinking that their experiences with sexual assault are not worthy of being talked about.
Watching the last few weeks unfold was like watching a tea kettle, where decades of abuse, outrage, oppression, the shameful complicity of employees, and unreasonable shame from victims finally boiled to the surface. This took the form of the movement known as “#MeToo” which shortly went viral after the accusations of Weinstein went public. In this hash tag, women across America shared their own experiences. This showed the prevalence of not only sexual assault, but also the normalcy of silence. It forced everyone to realize that many woman on Earth, and some men, have been victims of sexual assault and harassment in their lifetimes. In this campaign, women reclaimed their voices that were silenced for way too long. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Reese Witherspoon, America Ferrera, Jennifer Lawrence, and Molly Ringwald are just a few of the many notable faces that have opened up about their own experiences. While this is spreading awareness, there is still much to be done.
I want to make one thing clear: this is not a women’s issue. This is a people issue. It doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of women to somehow mend our broken society. It falls on the shoulders of men as well. Women coming together to combat this issue is progress, but it’s not enough. Men also need to realize that they play a crucial role in all of this as well. Women do not deserve equal treatment because we are daughters, sisters, and mothers. We deserve equal treatment because we are human, not because of our relations. Many people believe that fighting for women’s rights automatically comes with hating men. However, gender equality benefits men as well. Bringing both genders together can help break the expectations of both genders. That men and women do not always have to be what society expects them to be. If we bring both genders into the conversation, it will be a productive step forward. Before there can truly be change, and situations that occur like what happened with Weinstein can be stopped, there needs to be a willingness just to simply show up and sit at the table with open ears.
Sources: New York Times, The Washington Post