The Weinstein thing is wrenching my brain into shapes never meant for grey matter, so allow me to see if I can make sense of any of it in a way that someone outside my skull can digest my perspective.
Pause and consider for a moment two eerily similar conversations I've had in the last two weeks about this topic: one with an old friend from high school (male) and one with a stranger at my doctor's office (female). The female was drawing blood from my arm, but I'll get to that.
First -- the male friend. He came to visit for a few days, and we waxed poetic about a number of topics, hashing out potential solutions to many of the world's ills (and there are so so so many). As we sat around my desk one rainy Pacific Northwestern afternoon, the Weinstein abuse story came up, and my friend said, to paraphrase: "There's no doubt in my mind that Weinstein is a pig and a predator. But some of those women ..." -- brace yourself, this is where it goes off the rails in EveDestiny land -- "... some of those women weren't victims. They were willing to do whatever it took to be famous, and they made their choice."
HOLD UP. What choice was that? To be victimized? To pay a price as a part of a system they didn't set up or even agree to, that choice? To be asked to do invasive, demoralizing things, a tit (sad, tragic pun) for tat?
And did the MALE actors get asked to do similarly degrading, subservient things in their quest for fame, in their ambitious climb? Oh, they didn't? *** Quelle surprise. (*** Update: yes, some men are degraded and assaulted, too, often gay and bisexual men. I regret previously excluding these victims.)
NO. The dudes didn't. Why is that? Why is it we turn a collective blind eye to what ambitious women are required to do, who realize what will be demanded of them, when it's more than will be demanded of men, and they soldier on because we all have to make harsh choices in life, and we just shrug and say, "Well, they had it coming to them. They did sign up for being an actress after all (and everybody knows that's what directors do -- TO WOMEN)." That bit in the parentheses is the really important bit, so go back and read it again.
We are living in a culture where ambitious men are not forced to fellate ambitious directors or casting honchos. They are not asked to show their genitals in movies in order to prove their willingness or worthiness to be offered more serious parts. They are not groped or grabbed by the dick or any other assault on their person. Nope. It's just the WOMEN who endure those things, and apparently decent, respectful men like my friend ... don't get that fundamental difference. The problem is the PRICE, not the PERFORMANCE. The problem is in what is expected and acquiesced and that those who know about it enable and winkwinknudgenudge say no more. We blame the victim.
Image: Rape Consent PSA
Second conversation: the Female Phlebotomist. A stranger to me who I had never met before, but a very nice lady, who by her own admission is "quite a bit older than me," so we'll say she's in her 60s. She asked me about the tattoos on my left arm as she prepared the tourniquet on my bicep. (The tatts are in Greek, so it's a fair question. One reads, "Gnothi seauton" (translates to "Know yourself") and the other "Meden agan" ("Nothing in excess").) I mentioned that these phrases were inscribed in the hall of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi back in ancient Greece, at a place where a series of women held shocking power in a time when women had no power at all, when women were literally still property. And she said, "Kind of like now, you mean."
An interesting and perhaps informed comment from a woman who might be old enough to be my mother and is certainly of a later generation than my own, with wildly different values and experiences. I agreed with her; yes, we did not seem to have improved much as a species from 2,500 years ago, and she said, "Well, it's getting better." And I brought up Weinstein and said, "Is it?" And she said ... really, just sit down if you are a woman, because this is just too much.
She said: "Well, he didn't know any better. He's from that generation where he just could get away with it and so he probably just felt entitled."
(Oh. I see. Well, I feel entitled to wring the tiny little necks of screaming children in my favorite local pub. Can I just do that, since it seems it would be doing the world a favor to eliminate such ill-behaved cretins, especially in a place where the purported vices of alcohol and profanity are so proximate? It doesn't seem wrong, really, since they are just proto-people and hardly matter to anyone but their parents, and shouldn't the parents suffer the loss of the screaming eejit anyway since they are doing such a poor job of managing their parenting responsibilities? I believe I would be doing the world a favor! I digress.)
Okay, let's say I agree that perhaps Weinstein did come of age in a time when sexual harassment was much more widespread and condoned. Shame on us all. That's exposition, and history, it is not an excuse. Since even the United States' Navy brought sexual harassment and sexual assault on the job into the limelight and mainstream after the Tailhook Scandal (NYTimes Revisits Tailhook) in 1992. I'll do the math for you; that was 25 years ago. TWENTY-FIVE. Kids have had their own kids in this two and a half decade span of time. The Navy implemented mandatory awareness training for EVERYONE IN THE NAVY after that. Everyone, every sailor, every contractor, every general.
I guess Weinstein wasn't in the Navy. But what in the hell was Harvey Weinstein doing to have missed exposure (pun) to this idea, this news, this awareness, and did no company he worked for before founding his own require him to attend harassment awareness training, and did none of the staff he hired ever get exposed to training about this? I mean, if these people were truly of a generation (mayhap like the current US President, hmm, good ole Grab 'Em By the Pussy Trump) that thinks nothing of assaulting women because they are Things, they are Property ... well, there has been plenty of widely publicized contradiction to that world view. What camp in Antartica were each and every one of them residing at that that they missed the rising tide of awareness about It is No Longer Cool to Assault Women for Your Own Entertainment?
Female Phlebotomist didn't stop with that jaded, dismissive comment either. This older lady, who thinks things are getting better, then talked about the Cosby women, and "Who goes up to a hotel room for wine with a married man? They had to know what they were doing."
Might her next words have potentially been, "They deserved it. They had it coming." What!? Is there a word for SKID MARK SCREECH? Let's pop that in here (YouTube tire squeal) so that you and I are on the same visceral reaction page.
I countered that blind, blithe, blasé judgement of one woman by another with the same question I asked my friend. "But did males have to worry about going up to a hotel room to have wine with Cosby? I used to travel as an auditor, and there were plenty of nights where I went back to a coworker's room to finish working because they closed the hotel restaurant or business center."
In my head clanged a number of belated warning bells:
(1) would I have "deserved" to be molested by a male coworker because I had the naiveté to trust him to be moral and decent to me? Or was I
(2) just that arrogant and ambitious and confident that I thought work needed doing and I could hold my own if I were assaulted, or
(3) I'd just go along with the assault so I could get promoted?
(4) Would I have Had It Coming?
And so we are doomed. Our own grandmothers think nothing of voting for a man who proudly talked of assaulting women, who has been sued for assaulting women, who in his regular Twitter feed denigrates and devalues women, reducing them to the size of their dress or their breasts.
Those same grandmothers give Harvey Weinstein a pass "because he didn't know better." (Bullshit. I say BULLSHIT, Grannies. He knew better and DID IT ANYWAY, and a collective ton of people helped him do it.)
Those same grandmothers -- and apparently at least one of my good friends -- appear to think that victims deserve what they get, either because they were Too Ambitious or Dressed Too Slutty or Walked in the Wrong Part of Town or Went for a Run in the Dark or Didn't Think Their Coworker Might Be a Rapist or Should Have (Somehow) Known Better.
Is this because they have never been victims themselves? Or have we become so callous to these realities that we don't know how to feel sorry for the victims or how to feel indignation and vengeance for the predators anymore? I don't know. I just know we won't get better if we cannot recognize hurt and predation against each other and take action to prevent it, if we are incapable of putting ourselves in other people's shoes.
We continue to create a world I just don't want to live in. We could do better, and we have not. Will we ever?