It’s Time For A New Backing Track

What if Harvey Weinstein was just a regular guy holding interviews for an accounting job. A woman shows up at his office as planned and after a short while he says, “We’re going to move this meeting to my hotel room, ok?”

I know what my reaction would be: “What? I’m sorry, I’m not comfortable continuing in your hotel room no matter the reason. I think this is a good time for me to say goodbye.” That said, I’d leave. So why was it so difficult for women to say no to Harvey Weinstein? Because Harvey Weinstein isn’t just a regular guy:  He’s a movie mogul. He can make things happen, baby. Shake things up. Make you a star! “What’s it gonna be, doll?”

 “We’re going upstairs,” she said he told her.

This space, this space between these two red text sentences were presented exactly this way.  This transition is never spoken of in interviews. It’s never in the reports, tweets or other social media. In one interview, the host asks the victim to tell her side of what happened and the scenarios, sadly, are very similar. “We were having lunch at a restaurant and when we got to his hotel room, he wanted me to give him a massage.”

WAIT.

WHAT?

This is what needs to be asked next and never, ever is:

Ok, let’s back up a bit, you were at lunch in the hotel, a public place where you were safe, and he apparently asked you to go to his hotel room. What did he say to you? What was the exact conversation that took place, so we can better understand your position and why you decided to go to his room?”

In his suite, she said, he asked her for a massage.

From the moment the first knot begins twisting in your gut, and the sweat glistens on your brow and your thigh muscles tighten and twitch causing you to shift uncomfortably in your seat, to the moment you take your first step toward his hotel room, I imagine this:

I shouldn’t be doing this, everything about it feels wrong. But, if I don’t do it, I could blow my chance at the one big break I’ve been working for and dreaming of. Will I ever get this chance again? The other girls are doing it so maybe it isn’t so wrong. This is how it’s done, I mean it’s show business and look how many other famous women did it for their career. It’s now or never, I must do this. I need this break.”

You’ve weighed your options and a decision is made. In those few seconds, you decide the payoff of a potential shot at a part, meeting with a producer, SOMETHING, outweighed the admission price of humiliation and shame.

This isn’t ok.

Jennifer Lawrence: “During this time a female producer had me do a nude line-up with about five women who were much, much thinner than me. And we all stood side by side with only paste-ons covering our privates,” Lawrence added. “After that degrading and humiliating line-up, the female producer told me I should use the photos of myself as inspiration for my diet.”

Jenifer Lawrence’s words, ‘had me do’, carry no weight of implication of force or coercion. What was her silent conversation while weighing her options? She had one, but we’ll never hear it. Blank. Again, it’s never queried by interviewers or offered by her as to why she chose to move forward with the lineup. She is responsible for this decision. This is what is never spoken of: Our continual perpetuation of harassment by compliance.

She went on to say she felt “trapped” because she didn’t have any power in the situation as an unknown actress. “I let myself be treated a certain way because I felt I had to for my career,” Lawrence added.

She alone, or she and whoever was attending her at the time, accepted the terms. A decision was made in those moments between being told to strip for a nude line-up and removing her first article of clothing. She decided it was worth it: degradation, humiliation, powerlessness and feeling trapped all in the name of her career, her shot at stardom.

This isn’t ok.

THIS, this is the conversation we are NOT having. Without it, we can’t expect to change this insidious cycle of harassment.  Each time one of us accepts the terms of harassment we grant permission for it to remain the status quo. We leave it hanging heavy for the next woman to struggle with, we got ours. Good luck, baby girl, hope it goes well.

We need to take responsibility for our part of the problem if we ever hope to really put a stop to it. Like everything else, it’s supply and demand.

This isn’t ok.

I am not defending Harvey Weinstein’s actions, we’re very clear on his involvement because his words, his decision-making process has been and is continuing to be dissected extensively, as it should be. His reputation was no secret.

I am defending myself as a rape and sexual abuse survivor. I am not blaming the victims. I am saying they played an active part in perpetuating the very culture they rage against. The agreed to the terms. They met voluntarily with him to advance their careers but now: outraged, appalled, and shocked.

But are they?

“Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.” – Ashley Judd

It’s not ok to perpetuate rape culture by ‘talking about Harvey amongst ourselves’ and remaining silent ‘for a long time’ knowing your silence is allowing this despicable behavior and culture to flourish. Thanks for the quote, Ash, let’s do lunch.

This isn’t okay.

I don’t want girls growing up believing they’ve been granted carte blanche to behave recklessly without consequence because they have a vagina, anymore that I want them thinking their body is something to barter with. I don’t want them confused by the script these women have written: It’s ok for women to submit to harassment if they deem the prize worthy.

Worth repeating: It’s ok for women to submit to harassment if they deem the prize worthy.

This is the backing track playing in the hearts of our girls because of our silence and compliance. This is the legacy they inherit by those now extolling their own virtue and wearing the Superwoman Cape.

And, if something horrific should happen, it’s ok, it’s not our fault. We will not be queried, never held accountable, no one will expect you to explain what led you to make the decision you did. And God forbid we’d ever expect you to make it on your own!

This isn’t ok

I want girls empowered. I want her to rise up when weighing her options and say it loud and clear, with pride and conviction: “NO!”  I want her to know she can do it on her own, that she needn’t trade her soul for a damn thing! I want her to have a different dialogue playing in her brain when decision time comes:

I am worthy on my own. I have confidence in me, my talent, my gift to the world. It’s precious and I will not compromise or doubt myself. I will hold myself accountable to me and those to follow. I will stand up. I will report these actions and help those following in my footsteps.

I don’t want her having to choose between sexual harassment and success.

There are myriad reasons women can excuse and defend their decision: I was young, I was ignorant, I thought I had to. But the fact remains they met with Harvey Weinstein consensually and his reputation was well known. And if they didn’t know about his reputation, he wasn’t shy about making it abundantly clear very quickly. Many had more than one meeting with him, thereby approving, encouraging and participating in his harassment. Many went on and are huge megastars now.

This isn’t okay.

It isn’t okay to delete the conversation leading from a lunch meeting to a hotel room. It isn’t okay to settle in return for silence. It isn’t okay to perpetuate rape culture by claiming ignorance of what your compliance taught him. It isn’t ok for you to perpetuate sexual harassment for a shot at stardom and take no responsibility for your actions. Harvey Weinstein and those like him are predators, but we have been more-than-willing prey far too long.

This isn’t ok.

We as women need to understand our active participation in this cycle. To address the silent dialogue playing in our heads during those critical moments where insecurity and fear can easily conquer logic and self-confidence is to address the core of the problem. I am not speaking of rape or any forced action upon another human. I am speaking of voluntary consent to engage in and perpetuate sexual harassment strictly for personal gain and to then cast blame on others for consequences suffered, or worse, keep silent about it.

These women are NOT my heroes.

I’m sick of women being let off the hook. I’m sick of women in the entertainment industry, women our children look up to, emulate, consider heroes, taking a stand now, from their lavish, hypocrite-covered podiums, pontificating on the vile ways of Hollywood predators who must be brought forward and imprisoned so no more will suffer. This has to stop, they’ll exclaim, standing on the discarded clothing and shattered dreams strewn across the casting couch by those souls they could have saved but didn’t. They made their decision and got paid well for it. And guess what? They didn’t care about your cause back then. They cared when it was financially beneficial and politically correct to care.

And to those women, and men, and children, who did say no, did make it on their own, did care about this cause, did care about those following behind, did rise in the face of losing their dream: thank you. You are an example of what happens when you believe in yourself, your gift, your sisters.

My hero is the women who stands up and says no to giving her boss a blow job in exchange for a pay raise when she’s got 3 kids at home and is barely making ends meet. My hero is the woman who reports those who preys on the less fortunate and struggling. My hero is not complicit for any price.

Her actions and words empower us all. My hero is the one who has the hard conversations with her children. My heroes are the women willing to risk it all when they make their decision. They walk what they talk. Their daughters will too. She is who our daughters should be listening to, her words are far more valuable. I want girls to hear and learn her backing track.

I want her to wear the cape.

She is the conversation we should be having.

8 thoughts on “It’s Time For A New Backing Track

  1. Mary, I think you are going to get a lot of comments on this, and some will not be getting it. You have hit on the core of the problem in the presumed “terms of employment” for women, and the assumption that they cannot be changed or challenged, that “That’s just the way it is.” Predators will continue to do what they have been doing as long as it keeps working. The women who are willing to pay the price of saying “No” need all the support they can get, and more.

    A couple of quotes:

    “I decided it is better to scream. . . . Silence is the real crime against humanity.” Nadezhda Mandelstam

    “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Margaret Atwood

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Bob!! 🙂 I’ve missed you my friend. I hope to be opening my page back up soon. I had to retreat to a very small little core to reenergize. It’s been 3 months now so I think it will be soon. Yes, I agree and know full well what I am in store for me. However, my blog is very small with only about 300 followers and my big page closed right now so don’t think too many eyes will see it which is why I am so appreciative of your share. Thank you so much.

    Men will always be physically stronger than women, that’s a fact.It’s fact too that we deal with a lot of biology here. Women aren’t innocent bystanders when it comes to using our ‘gifts’ to attract and dare I say it, manipulate men into getting what we want. So, the more women perpetuating sexual harassment by acceptance and compliance, supply and demand as always, runs the marketplace. And I so agree with you, shine the light on the women who found the strength and courage to walk away from the harassment and say no.And while apparently Ashley Judd was one of those, she remained silent and now crows justice for those women who suffered his harassment. Um, no. I don’t want to hear from Ashley Judd, nor do I want to hear from those crusading for change only to choose money instead.Sickening.I just want women to pay attention to and admit that we play a role in this disgraceful cycle too and if we want real change, we have got to talk about the questions that aren’t asked of his accusers by reporters so those blanks can be filled in.Or, nothing will change.

    Thanks from this girl who admires a man who is a true crusader for women. I’m proud to call you friend. Truly.

    Your quotes are spot on. Thank you.

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    1. Another quote comes to mind: “Language commonly stresses only one side of any interaction.” [Gregory Bateson]

      That expresses what so often happens in any discussion and advocacy about victimization. Some see only the perpetrator’s part in it (from the victim’s point of view), and others see only the victim’s (from the perp’s point of view). The whole process of the interaction, the relationship, tends to be lost, even by the participants. In the context of powerful men and companies, the money settlements with non-disclosure clauses do more damage than just keeping the victims silent. They put the woman victim of a sexual offense in the position of being paid for her part in it, and perpetuate her shame, and confirms for the Perp (at least in his own mind) that she is exactly what he saw her as in the beginning, like “all the rest of them.”

      BTW: Its good to see you back.

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  3. Precisely!! This is why I intentionally use “the space” strategically in my fiction writing…. readers get to fill it in with their own personal take on how an internal dialogue went inside a character’s head leading to a specific action. It creates mystery. But real life interviews/reporting should not be allowed to “yada yada” the always significant “transition!” Love this, Mary!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never tackled fiction. You have such an intellect and great wit to say nothing of your imagination! What a combo. And you’re the most prolific writer I know. I stand in awe. But, yes, I so agree. It’s such an important part to leave out, it’s the crux of the story, really and sets the tone and mood and would give so much insight into their stories. But, we’ll never hear it and I get brutally attacked when trying to tackle this subject with some women. Hahaha. Gah. Thanks for reading, lovely. We have got to catch up after the holidays. I have so many questions. xoxoxoxox Love you to the moon and back ❤

    Like

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