The real news in the Harvey Weinstein story is not that it was kept a “secret” for so long. The real news is that the secret is finally out. And therein lies the hope.
By Knight Stivender
Co-founder and CEO of Girls To The Moon
I’m reading my mother’s Facebook page and she – like so many of my friends and colleagues and relative strangers and total strangers – has shared the hashtag women are using to indicate they, too, have experienced sexual harassment or abuse. My own mother, so sweet and nurturing – a public educator who spent a career taking care of other people’s children… How someone could put her in a position like this makes me feel sick to my stomach, but I’m not at all surprised.
Me too, Mom. Me, too.
In the wake of public revelations that wealthy, revered, celebrated film producer Harvey Weinstein abused perhaps hundreds of women during his career – women are taking to social media to respond to a sadly predictable backlash against those who’ve so bravely rolled the boulder off these creepy crawlies burrowing in the dark.
“Why didn’t anyone say anything before now?”
Any woman who has ever been in this spot knows exactly the reasons for not speaking up.
I’m protecting my career.
I’m protecting my dignity.
I’m protecting my family.
Believe it or not, I may also be protecting his career.
I suspect people will challenge me. That they’ll blame me for what he did.
He propositioned me and wouldn’t stop when I deflected him. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. He put his hands or other body parts on me even though my body language indicated I’d rather be cuddling a porcupine. Perhaps I should have punched him in the face. He emailed and called relentlessly. Perhaps I should have stopped answering the phone. He clearly had or at least insinuated some control or influence over my job, salary, and future promotions. Perhaps I should have told someone in HR, even though I worried that all of them were his friends.
She doesn’t tell anyone, and I don’t tell anyone, because we suspect people will ask what we did to put ourselves in such a position in the first place.
We know how the culture aids and abets men like him, telling boys early on that sex is a metric of one’s power and success. And meanwhile, we’ve spent a lifetime sifting through confusing mixed messages about our own bodies and sexuality.
We’re told to be pretty so men will desire us.
We’re told men will desire us, so don’t be too pretty.
We can’t get it right because the culture doesn’t want us to get it right. The culture doesn’t want us to truly live, work, love, and lead from a position of equality because – if it did – that might mean the tilt of power in the culture would go from this…
In order to create equality, our power goes up and his power goes down. It is this transactional – and cynical – view of life’s opportunities in which those in a position of power instinctively feel threatened.
And that is why they fight so hard to keep the fulcrum positioned to their benefit, either wittingly or subconsciously. That is why they subjugate women. Not because of sex or sexiness or desire or prettiness or testosterone. Because of power. Or, more precisely, a perceived threat to power.
There’s another way to imagine things
But there’s another way to look at this, and it isn’t in the shape of a seesaw. Like most things shaped by time and nature, it is round and yielding. It is optimistic, hopeful, and functions much the same way as parents with more than one child.
It isn’t that this …
… suddenly transitions to the following as soon as a second child is born:
Good parents don’t maintain a finite supply of love, and redistribute it among their children as new people enter the family.
Instead, they expand their circle to allow for something that looks more like this…
Can we press pause on this?
Can we see the opportunity for change in this moment? Because it’s there.
It truly is.
The real news in the Harvey Weinstein story is not that it was kept a “secret” for so long. The real news is that the secret is finally out. As awful as it is to look underneath this big boulder, it’s an unimaginable privilege that we’re now doing so. There’s genuine optimism to be found in #metoo, because, together in the sunshine, we can work on fixing things.
And it isn’t – as some would have us believe – on us women to be the change agents. It’s on men to rethink how they view success, opportunity and partnership. It’s on the culture to challenge our presumptions about masculinity. It’s on all of us to think carefully about how we influence our next generations, especially – in this case – our boys.
We need to show our boys that the world is not a seesaw, but rather a circle, and it is plenty big enough for all of us.
We need to show them they aren’t entitled to all of it, but nor does the entire burden of running it and protecting it fall to them either. We need to explain to our boys that there is a perfect little piece of the world for each of them to tend and build if they do so in harmony with others.
We need to show them that, in fact, those pieces they tend with others are the best parts.
We need to raise boys who are whole.
We need to raise boys to show them that their emotions are valid and complex – that if they’re hurt, to express it rather than “shake it off”.
We need to raise boys to show them love is transcendent of sex. It is about bringing a casserole to a friend who is sick, doing yard work for a neighbor too busy at the office to make it home before dark, to sit quietly holding the hand of someone faced with bad news.
We have to raise boys to show them it is okay to fail. Many times in life, they will not get the promotion, or win the game, and many times the girl will not share their interest. We have to teach them not to take rejection personally, that they are good boys when they lose gracefully, that they are strong when they walk away.
We need to raise boys who know how to ask earnestly for things – for help, for guidance, for sex. We have to teach boys to expect less, and to talk things through more with their partners. We need to teach boys how much bravery is inherent in giving and listening and taking a back seat.
I believe God is present in how we live together on this planet, in acts of service and in moments of courage, in the dawning awakening of how we’ve failed, and in the faithful determination to be better.
I do. For all of us, #Metoo
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