For some reason, the world feels a little bit different after 30 women came forward to tell their tales of sexual assault at the hands of powerful producer and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. It feels different than it did several years ago, after Bill Cosby was finally outed and punished for sexually assaulting nearly 60 women over the span of 50 years.
Whether this is partly in backlash to our current president’s attempts at taking away access to birth control and abortion and healthcare simultaneously, or whether this time around we are better united with strong, powerful voices leading the vanguard (Rose McGowan, Alyssa Milano, and more), is difficult to say. Probably a little of each.
But this time around, it feels like things can finally change. Like we’ve got momentum. Like we’ve grabbed this little fringe of the blanket that is the faltering patriarchy, that same patriarchy that is unraveling every so slightly in the wake of Hugh Hefner’s death, Bill Cosby’s damnation, Harvey Weinstein’s demise, and our collective tugging is managing to shred it.
Of course, it is important to keep that momentum going. Unless we keep actively fighting and shouting our unwillingness to stand the fuck down any longer, the status quo will remain.
Disgusting is the failure of the New York D.A.’s office to prosecutor Weinstein after damning audio has him admitting to groping model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez and demanding she follow him to his hotel room.
Disgusting is the general media coverage of his actions after the fact; His beastly behavior diminished to terms like “sexual misconduct scandal” and “sexual harassment” and “mistreatment of women” and “indiscretions.” Actress and director Asia Argento revealed in Ronan Farrow’s groundbreaking expose how Weinstein insisted on “forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex.” Does that sound like mere mistreatment to you? An indiscretion?
This is a felony. This is rape.
Disgusting is the fact that our criminal justice system is inexplicably protecting Weinstein.
Well, no. Not inexplicably. That same DA– Cyrus Vance– who neglected to pursue criminal charges against Weinstein after Asia Argento risked her safety with a hidden microphone to collect the damning audio– was gifted $10,000 for his reelection campaign by one of Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers.
Disgusting is the fact that those in power refuse to push Harvey Weinstein’s actions into the realm of the criminal. In both New York and California, forcing someone to submit to oral sex, Argento alleged of Weinstein, is a felony. In both states, rape has no statute of limitations. Victims can file charges at any time.
Disgusting is the fact that these laws considered, the justice system allowed Weinstein to fly off to a $2,000/night “sex rehab” in Arizona instead of forbidding him to leave the state and condemning him to a prison cell where he belongs.
Disgusting. But shocking? Donald Trump was actually elected president after he boasted that his power allows him to simply grab women “by the pussy.” He was subsequently awarded the highest power in the land.
And yet while it seems as though nothing is changing, there is an undeniable force at work in the eruption of testimony from Harvey Weinstein’s victims. I firmly believe that anonymity for victims is not an advantage, a little reward you get when you come forward to damn your accuser. Anonymity is an enabler of rape culture, encouraging women to believe their shame is at least partly justified, theirs is the burden of blame, of silence, of suffering.
The louder we call our abusers out, the less places they will have to hide.
This is not meant to blame those who have kept quiet in any way. Their reasons for doing so are completely understandable and so obvious you’d need only half a brain to truly understand them. The Patriarchy is a centuries-old, deeply engrained foundation. The reasons women keep silent about abuse are often the same: Women have been trained to ask what they did to bring violence and assault onto themselves. What they did to deserve it.
Did she dress like a slut? What are her motivations for calling her abuser out now? Is she getting revenge? Is she a scorned lover? Is she a crazy bitch? A “bad” girl? A home-wrecker? Which term is the most applicable to slap on this bitch?
Before social media it was nearly impossible to speak out. Isolation and shame were inherent to the victim’s experience, an engrained part of the abuse perpetrated against them. Punishment was inevitable. I am not saying this is no longer the case. I am merely saying that social media allows us to see the immensity of sexual assault in our country. To see it as the epidemic it is rather than some gross thing perpetrated by a few gross guys.
With social media, we start to see a system. We begin to notice how all women have a similar story to tell, we piece together how the abusers hide, coerce, blame, and silence, and we start to believe in the ways our collective voice can function to help tear these systems apart.
Alyssa Milano took to Twitter on Sunday with a call to action. “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” she wrote.
Twitter and Facebook have since been blowing up with tweets and statuses, some of stories describing their sexual assault, others in solidarity of the movement.
#MeToo When I served in the military. More than a few times. I stayed silent for self preservation. I regret it daily.
— Rita Abraham (@Rockabilly_Rita) October 15, 2017
3 years ago I went to the police & was told it was my word against his. They talked me out of making a report. Id never felt so alone #MeToo
— Samara Redway (@samararedway) October 16, 2017
— Gerema (@becauseImust) October 15, 2017
These stories are important. Tossing aside the cloak of shame and silence weighing so heavily on so many for so long is the first step in a long, uphill battle. But while using social media in this way is a critical move towards spreading awareness, we as women and as victims need to transfer the online emotional outrage into the sphere of the criminal.
It is time for women to point fingers, record conversations, file police reports, speak to lawyers, out their abusers on social media, and ultimately hold them accountable for their actions. It is time for women to give them nowhere to hide, to flip the power dynamic so that these creeps are the ones metaphorically naked and in the spotlight. It is time to ruin their lives.
It is not an easy step, but a necessary one if we expect to change the fundamental way in which the power dynamic in our country functions.
Weinstein is not an enigma and our cause does not rest on whether or not he will face criminal charges for his despicable crimes. Our cause rests on every single victim of sexual abuse understanding the burden of blame and shame rests on their perpetrator and not on themselves. Our cause rests on every single victim of sexual assault reporting their experience to the police and loudly outing their abuser. Our cause rests on hounding the justice system to hold these creeps accountable for their actions, even if it means filing reports and calling their offices over and over again.
Our cause rests on unity and support for one another, and the knowledge that our strength will prevent future predators from getting away with sexually terrorizing a single individual, even if it’s only because they are terrified of the social and criminal repercussions.